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Creating better PowerPoints

I use PPTs quite a lot because they make lessons visually stimulating.

They are hit and  miss though. My best presentations usually take quite a bit of time to put together. I try to use more images than text, and I keep the texts very short. I would love to exchange thoughts about the use of PPTs in lessons; what are your experiences, how do your students respond do them? How do you use them effectively?

  • Tip: Use this Google technique to find PPTs online and then adapt them to suit your own needs:

Nice site:

Tips for making better PPTs


  • Select sans-serif fonts such as Arial or Helvetica.  Avoid serif fonts such as Times New Roman or Palatino as they are sometimes more difficult to read.
  • Use no font size smaller than 24 point.
  • Clearly label each screen.  Use a larger font (35-45 points) or different color for the title.
  • Use a single sans-serif font for most of the presentation.  Use different colors, sizes and styles (bold, underline) for impact.
  • Avoid italicized fonts as they are difficult to read quickly.
  • No more than 6-8 words per line
  • For bullet points, use the 6 x 6 Rule:  One thought per line with no more than 6 words per line and no more than 6 lines per slide
  • Use dark text on light background or light text on dark background.  However, dark backgrounds sometimes make it difficult for some people to read the text.
  • Do not use all caps except for titles.
  • To test the font, stand back six feet from the monitor and see if you can read the slide.

Graphics and Design

  • Keep the background consistent and subtle.
  • Use only enough text when using charts or graphs to explain clearly label the graphic.
  • Keep the design clean and uncluttered.  Leave empty space around the text and graphics
  • Use quality clipart and use it sparingly.  The graphic should relate to and enhance the topic of the slide.
  • Try to use the same style graphics throughout the presentation (e.g. cartoon, photographs)
  • Limit the number of graphics on each slide.
  • Check all graphics on a projection screen before the actual presentation.
  • Avoid flashy graphics and noisy animation effects unless they relate directly to the slide.
  • Limit the number of transitions used.  It is often better to use only one so the audience knows what to expect.


  • Limit the number of colors on a single screen.
  • Bright colors make small objects and thin lines stand out.  However, some vibrant colors are difficult to read when projected.
  • Use no more than four colors on one chart.
  • Check all colors on a projection screen before the actual presentation.  They may project differently than what appears on the monitor.

General Presentation

  • Check the spelling and grammar.
  • Do not read the presentation.  Practice the presentation so you can speak from bullet points.  The text should be a cue for the presenter rather than a message for the viewer.
  • Give a brief overview at the start.  Then present the information.  Finally review important points.
  • It is often more effective to have bulleted points appear one at a time so the audience listens to the presenter rather than reading the screen.
  • Use a wireless mouse or pick up the wired mouse so you can move around as you speak.
  • If sound effects are used, wait until the sound has finished to speak.
  • If the content is complex, print out the slides so the audience can take notes.
  • Do not turn your back on the audience.  Try to position the monitor so you can speak from it.
Adapted from:
  • Bankerd, Kathy.  “How to Optimize Projection Technology: Using Fonts, Graphics, and Color to Maximize the Effectiveness of Your Presentation”.  Syllabus.  November/December 1997.
  • Bird, Linda.  “Avoid the Mistakes of PowerPoint Rookies.”  Smart Computing.  January 2001.
  • Brown, David G.  “PowerPoint-Induced Sleep.”  Syllabus.  January 2001.