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Microsoft PowerPoint

This guide covers the basic tools in PowerPoint and offers some information about designing good PowerPoint slides.

General PowerPoint and Presenting Tips

General PowerPoint Tips

  • Don't change things like bullets on each slide - use the Slide Master!
  • Try not to read exactly what's on the slide, but expand on each point.
  • Print the Speaker's Notes to keep track of what you want to say on each slide.
  • Check your spelling!
  • Know how to move back and forth between slides without exiting the show (right-click on the slide to bring up the navigator, use Alt+Tab to move between the show and a web browser).
  • Use hidden slides to have information ready “just in case”.
  • Know what your last slide is – blank, “Questions?”, contact info, etc. – and when it’s coming!
  • If you see a presentation you like, figure out how they did it.
  • Break your presentation into recognizable sections (use a visual trigger to help people know you are moving on).

Resources for General Tips

General Presentation Tips

  • Know your equipment if possible; arrive early and test it.
  • Bring back ups (flash drive, printout, etc.).
  • PRACTICE out loud!!
  • Speak loudly and clearly with enthusiasm and make eye contact with the audience.
  • Ask audience questions to make sure they are with you (if appropriate).

Resources for General Presentation Tips


Design Principles

There are several basic design principles when creating a PowerPoint presentation. Remember, the most important important thing is readability and content, not flair!

Backgrounds and Colors

  • Have a consistent color scheme throughout your presentation.
  • Contrast text color with background color -
    • Test colors on projected screen if possible, as it may look different than your monitor.
    • Lighting in the presentation room may effect how much contrast is displayed.
  • If the background has lines (such as a legal pad background), make sure the text lines up - otherwise, don't use it!
  • Negative space (space without content) is a good thing!

Bullets, Fonts, and Text

  • Limit text to 5 or 6 words per line, 3-4 bullets per slide.
    • Use concise wording, and elaborate as you speak.
    • Depending on your content, you may want a different slide for each main point.
  • Try to stick with 22 point fonts or larger.
  • People often use serif fonts for titles and san-serif for the bullets.
  • Use fonts that are easy to read – avoid script fonts or ALL CAPS!
  • Be consistent in your use of headline or sentence capitalization for the titles and bullets.
  • If you want to center the text, don’t use bullets.
  • Some fonts exist on Mac but not on Windows and visa versa. This can affect your text/bullets. 
  • When at all possible, use the text boxes that come with the layouts. The Master Slide controls these, not text boxes you add manually.


  • Media should have a purpose; don’t put it on if it doesn’t have a place.
  • Balance text and graphics; pay attention to placement of the image.
  • There is limited editing capability within PowerPoint; you may need to adjust your images in Photoshop or some other editor.
  • To quickly create several slides with images, use the Photo Album (Insert Ribbon).
  • Make sure your chart is legible and displays the right type of information.
  • If you have the data in Excel, copy and paste the chart from there.

Principles Adapted from Mayer and Moreno

Principle of Weeding:  Eliminate interesting but extraneous material so people can focus on what is important.

Principle of Aligning: Put corresponding words and images near each other, so people don’t have to scan all over the slide to make the connections

Principle of Synchronizing: Put up the words (spoken or written) at the same time as the corresponding images/animations, rather than have all the text first, then all of the images second. Similar to the idea of aligning, people need to see/hear the words simultaneously with the images/animations.

Principle of Redundancy: Images, narration, and on-screen text all at the same time is too much for people to absorb. Show pictures while you talk, or give them text to read (while you take a drink of water and just let them read by themselves).

Principle of Segmenting: People need time to pass information from short-term to long term memory. Allow pauses, and if providing multimedia examples, be sure that you (or the student) can pause it as needed.

Principle of Signaling: Provide cues to help people focus on the most important information  (without having to figure out what is important)

(Mayer, R. E. and R. Moreno (2003). "Nine Ways to Reduce Cognitive Load in Multimedia Learning." Educational Psychologist 38(1): 43-52.)