A woman stands in front of a whitewashed brick wall on which is mounted a flat screen TV. The TV shows two graphs -- an orange-and-red circle graph and a blue-and-orange bar graph. In the foreground, another woman sits at a table and watches the presentation. A camera on a tripod is pointed at the presenter.
Before your presentation, make sure you do a test run through your PowerPoint slides. This allows you to make sure the technology works while also practicing what you'll say. — Getty Images/FluxFactory

If you need to create visuals to go along with a pitch or speaking engagement, PowerPoint is an excellent tool you can use. Here are eight ways you can use PowerPoint to create more effective presentations.

[Read more: How to Give a Successful TED Talk]

Think about your message first

Some people open PowerPoint and start setting up their slides before thinking through their presentation. This rush to action is almost always a mistake and can make your presentation confusing and seem poorly thought out.

Instead, you want to plan your content before creating your slides. Don’t start putting your slide deck together until you’ve honed in on your message and outlined your main talking points. Once you do begin working on your slide deck, it will come together much quicker.

Use a template

PowerPoint offers ready-made templates for beginners or anyone who doesn’t have a background in design. If your slides look professional and put-together, you’ll be more confident during your presentation. Plus, the slides templates can provide inspiration as you’re planning out your content.

Use more images and less text

Use lots of eye-catching images in your presentation, and keep the text to a minimum. Too much text will distract your audience from your presentation since, instead of listening to what you’re saying, they’ll be trying to read the slide deck.

Use images that illustrate your talking points, and if you have to use text, try to use short sentences and lots of bullet points. You can find free stock photos on sites like Pexels or Unsplash.

Choose your fonts carefully

Don’t make the mistake of overlooking the fonts used because they will set the tone for your PowerPoint presentation. Keep it to a maximum of two fonts for the whole presentation — one for the heading and one for the body.

Choose a header font between 26 and 42 points and a body font between 18 and 24 points. Pick a standard font that is easy to read and will appear the same across all devices. Avoid using script fonts, as these tend to be difficult to read.

Don’t start putting your slide deck together until you’ve honed in on your message and outlined your main talking points.

Choose the colors wisely

Along with the fonts you use, your color scheme will significantly impact your presentation. Choose color combinations that deliver the emotional impact you’re looking for.

Ideally, you want to use high contrast colors, like a dark background with light-colored fonts or vice versa. And avoid color pairings like red and green, which tend to cause eye strain.

Embed videos wherever appropriate

Another way you can enhance your presentation is by embedding a video in one of your slides. Video and audio clips can help break up the presentation and help your audience absorb the information. You can embed a video without ever leaving the PowerPoint application.

Edit your slides

An occasional typo is okay, but it could distract the audience if your slide deck is full of obvious mistakes. Plus, spelling and grammar errors can make your presentation seem less credible.

After you’re finished creating your slide deck, give it a day or two, then come back to edit your slides. When you have fresh eyes, you’ll spot mistakes you might have missed otherwise. And since it’s challenging to edit your own work, you might consider having a coworker look through it as well.

Practice your presentation

Finally, you’ll want to give your presentation a run-through before the big day. If your presentation is supposed to be a certain length, make sure it doesn’t run too long or too short. Rehearsing your presentation will help you get a feel for the material and figure out what works and what doesn’t.

Try to test out the tech ahead of time if you're able. Ensure you have updated versions of the software and that the projector’s resolution matches the resolution on your computer.

[Read more: 7 Ways to Improve Your Public Speaking Skills]

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Published February 10, 2022