by Adam Noar
PowerPoint is awesome, but here’s the truth:
Some of the default features of PowerPoint can lead you down a path of creating horrible slides.
When it comes to presentation design, CUSTOMIZATION IS KEY.
You want to inspire and motivate your audience. But, unfortunately, if your PowerPoint looks awful and “cookie cutter” then you will do the opposite.
That’s why today we’re going to go through six ways you can design your slides beyond the standard offerings of PowerPoint and finally stand out in front of a crowd.
Let’s get started:
#1.) Your shapes don’t have to be the “default blue” that PowerPoint gives you
There are certain things in your PowerPoint that will just scream “amateur,” and the standard, default PowerPoint blue is one of those things.
Everyone and their dog have been using this default blue in their presentation since the start of time (because obviously, time began when PowerPoint was invented), and it has to stop. After all, there is such a thing called a color wheel:
There are a bazillion other colors out there to choose from!
This default blue appears in almost every single PowerPoint presentation.
If I had to guess why … people are either:
- too lazy to change it
- they don’t think it matters
- they don’t know how
Well, let me tell you, it matters a lot, you absolutely should change it, and we’ll tell you how right now:
Go to the Format tab, and select Shape Fill. Choose to your heart’s desire!
Before you change the color, you should have a plan on what color to change it to. This is the perfect opportunity to come up with a color scheme. A color scheme will do amazing things for the look of your presentation: it will make it look more professional, more consistent, and can even change the feel to invoke different emotions in your audience.
If you aren’t making a presentation for an organization that already has a color palette, you’ll want to create your own. This is great news – this is one of the most fun parts of making a presentation! For a quick overview, you want to think about the emotions associated with colors. What is your presentation about? Is it an exciting new business idea, or a professional earnings report to the board? This kind of focus on the topic will guide you in your color selection. For a younger feel, choose more modern colors (orange, teal), for a more mature look, go for calming and traditional (blue, green). In general, you should have about three to five colors total, and we recommend only one or two accent colors mixed in with the neutrals.
There are so many great things to learn about color schemes and everything else that goes into making a kickass PowerPoint. For more info on all that stuff, check out Slides Made Simple!
#2.) You can do better than the “Double tap to add a title” box
What makes an awful PowerPoint presentation?
Diving into creating a slide without thinking!
When you fire up PowerPoint, the first thing you see is a slide that says, “Double tap to add title.” That probably doesn’t seem too bad, right? Your presentation needs a title, might as well come up with one now and put it in the box.
This is the worst way to get the creative juices flowing! It allows for no inspiration, no out of the box thinking (see what I did there). Simply enter your text for instant boring. It’s almost as if PowerPoint is training you to not think creatively!
We understand why they do it – you do need a title, and they want to make it easy and simple for everyone to use. But easy and simple is boring, and you’re better than that. So, show PowerPoint whose boss and delete that whole slide. Yep, just delete it altogether and start fresh.
What you want to do is design a title slide that rocks, and the first step to doing that is finding some inspiration. Go to wherever or whatever inspires you – for us, it’s looking at all the incredible designs by amazing designers all over the web. We like browsing through designs and images on sites like Canva and Dribbble, and photos within our color scheme. Definitely, don’t copy other people’s designs – that would be really uncool – but using them as inspiration is great.
In particular, pay attention to what exactly you like about it. Do you like the use of negative space? Does the color scheme jump out at you? Did their font catch your eye? Make notes about everything you like and want to incorporate into your own design, and before you know it you’ll have the ingredients for your perfect title slide.
Still feeling a little overwhelmed? Check out a great list we compiled of examples of title slides that rock.
#3.) Expand your design toolbox and make it accessible
We do have kind of a crush on PowerPoint (can you tell?) but we can also admit its flaws. One of those is that it’s not easy to figure out how to use their design tools. They aren’t easily accessible, so most people don’t even know they exist. That’s a huge disservice! The design tools are what help you knock the presentation out of the park.
Do yourself a favor and learn what the design tools are. Slides Made Simple is a great place to start! You’ll learn what your best design tools are, and how to use them effectively, that way you can build your master toolbox with all the tools you’ll ever need.
Once you know what all the tools are, how to use them, and which one you’ll use, customize your PowerPoint Ribbon so that you can get to them easily whenever you need them. Instead of having to memorize exactly which menus to click in what order, you’ll have them all lined up for you and easy to get to. This is one of the best things you can do to organize PowerPoint so that it works for you, instead of the other way around.
#4.) Make sure that preset PPT themes complement your needs before you adopt them. Better yet … don’t use them at all
PowerPoint has a default template theme that appears when you start a new presentation. It’s, well…fine. I guess. It’s boring but simple and good for someone who doesn’t need to impress anyone with their PowerPoint design.
But come on. Do you really not want to impress anyone with your design?
Chances are, their default theme is not what you need at all. You basically have two options: make your own or buy one. We’ll go through both.
To make your own, you’ll need to do some brainstorming. Lay out your presentation and the type of slides you’ll need – intro, transition, main, etc. You’ll want to make sure you’re telling the right story, and that your slides support that. We have tons of advice on how to make a great PowerPoint all over our blog, which we’re assuming is why you’re here, so read up! Knowing the layout of your presentation and the story you’re trying to tell will set you on the right track to creating a kickass design.
If you don’t have time for that, that’s totally fine. Your other option is to purchase a template from a site like Graphic River. It’s a great resource for super professional looking templates, and you can browse through and find exactly what you need. We still recommend doing the above step, laying out what your presentation is going to be and what kind of slides you’ll need because it will help you narrow in on the template you want to purchase.
The great thing about this is that it will save you time, and it’s guaranteed to look amazing. In fact, we even made our own award-winning professional PowerPoint template. You can download it right now from Graphic River and instantly make your presentation look awesome. We made it for people like you: professionals who want to save time and not sacrifice the quality of their presentation. If you don’t have the time, skills, or both, to create a design that’s up to your standards, we highly recommend checking it out.
#5.) PowerPoint makes bulleting automatic, but ask yourself: Are bullets actually appropriate for what you need to do? Sometimes they are, but not always.
If you haven’t noticed, the theme of this blog post is “don’t let anyone tell you what to do!”
Except us. Because we’re always right :D
Anyway, one of the things PowerPoint has built-in automatically is bullets. Sometimes, bullet points are okay, but our general opinion is that they generally suck. Ideally, you should be finding more engaging ways to present your information. Because bullet points are automatic, it means everyone uses them, even though, paradoxically, almost everyone hates them.
Think back to every hideously boring presentation you’ve sat through – chances are, it was full of huge long bullet points that you had to sit and read while the presenter read them out loud. Yuck.
Skip all that nonsense and give your presentation the bullet-free boost it deserves. Use keywords, images, graphs, infographics, anything to present the same information in a unique way that keeps your audience engaged. By the way: if you’re making a single point, you should never be using a bullet point.
This is our rule: use bullet points when nothing else will work. That way you know it’s truly the best option and not just the lazy option. Really think hard about what the best way is to give your audience the information, and if nothing else works, then go ahead and use bullets.
#6.) Go beyond the standard icons that PowerPoint provides
Again, and finally, don’t settle for the standard stuff! PowerPoint has standard icons that have replaced their clip art, which has been an improvement, to be honest. They aren’t that bad, but that means they aren’t awesome!
You can insert an icon into your slide by going to the Insert tab and selecting Icons. Some icons can actually look great on your slide and are easy to customize. You can change the color to fit your theme, size to fit what you need, outline or no outline, etc. But you shouldn’t rely solely on PowerPoint to provide your icons.
We love custom icons and the unique boost they can give your presentation. Check out these cool websites that are dedicated to providing great icons:
- The Noun Project: There are a bazillion to choose from, and you can customize the color to exactly match your color scheme.
- Flat Icon: All vector icons and tons of free options. Icon paradise!
If you can’t find what you’re looking for, you can always create your own icons using shapes in PowerPoint. This is actually one of our favorite hacks because a lot of people don’t even know it can be done. By inserting shapes, layering them on top of each other, and then modifying them, you have quite a bit of freedom to make your own custom icons. Once they’re grouped together, make them all the same color and there you go: your own custom shape. It’s easy to duplicate from there!
This is the best option for when you know you want a very specific type of image, that is fairly simple, and you can’t find it anywhere. Google is no help, you’ve checked every stock library we’ve suggested, and you’re convinced it just isn’t out there. If that’s the case, see what you can do with some humble ovals, triangles, and rectangles. You’d be surprised! If you want some guidance, check out how we did it.
The goal of this article was to point out that you shouldn’t assume that PowerPoint’s default options are going to fit your needs.
Go outside the box to figure out how you can make your presentation go beyond the standard settings and features.
Do you have any hacks for thinking outside the default PowerPoint offerings?
Let us know in the comments.