PowerPoint Formatting:
Design Issues

Title: Jan's Illustrated Computer Literacy 101

Did you want: Working with Presentations: PowerPoint 2007,2010,2013,2016 or español

It is easy enough to create a presentation, but it is trickier to create a good presentation. Now that we are about to add colors and backgrounds, we need to look at some goals and some common errors. So many ways to mess things up!

Design Goals

  • Readable text

  • Readable, relevant graphics

  • Slides show main points, not all the details

Presenting Goals

Once you have a well-designed presentation, you must work with it during your speech.

  • What speaker says matches slides

  • Slides change in sync with speaker

  • Slides do not distract from speaker

  • No technical difficulties!

  • Keep audience engaged with speaker

Where you are:
JegsWorks > Lessons > Presentations

Before you start...

Project 1: PowerPoint BasicsTo subtopics

Project 2: PowerPoint Formatting
    Design Issues
    TemplatesTo subtopics
    Transitions & AnimationsTo subtopics
    ExercisesTo subtopics

Project 3: Advanced PowerPointTo subtopics


Design Errors

Design mistakes come in degrees, from serious to irritating.


  • Text too small to read
  • Too much text on slide
  • Text hard to read against the background
  • Too much revealed at once

It can be difficult to decide whether your slides have design errors. Exactly how much text is too much? Have you reduced the words so much that it makes no sense?? Is an image merely eye candy that should be deleted or does it keep things interesting?

The frame below shows examples of the errors listed above.
Icon: MouseClick on the Button: Slide Show in frame right arrow button to advance the slides, or click on Button: Slide Show for IFrame presentation the Slide Show button to show the presentation full screen. For slides 8 & 9, you must view full screen to see the animation effect.


  • Spelling errors!
  • Too many moving things
        (animated images, slide transitions, animation of slide text)
  • Inconsistent backgrounds and colors
  • Inconsistent use of upper case and lower case and punctuation
        Example:  Slide titles -
         Our Goals
         Monthly sales.
  • Images that waste space and don't add anything

Design Tips

So how do your avoid those design errors? What works well?


  • Keep it simple!
  • Design for primary purpose- screen, print, overheads, etc.
  • Design alternate version for secondary purpose, if necessary.
        (What works well on the screen may not print well at all.)
  • Minimize your use of tables and keep them simple.
        (They are usually hard to read on screen. Include details in Notes print-out or a separate document.)
  • Minimize use of clipart and photos.
        (They enlarge the file size. Too many distract from the text and take a lot of screen space.)
  • Insert blank slide for discussion period or manually blank the screen.
        (White slide lightens the room so people can see each other.)
  • Do not put ALL of your speech on the slides.
  • It takes 30% longer in front of an audience than when you practice alone.
  • Be aware that some templates do not follow all of these design tips!


  • Keep it simple!
  • Maximum number of words:
    • 6 words per bullet item
    • 6 bullets per slide
    • 6 word slides in a row
          (then a section title slide or image slide)
  • Line up and match your text and bullets between similar slides.
  • Be consistent:
        slide background, bullets, fonts, footers, color scheme, graphs, diagrams, photos, spelling, phrasing, margins, capitalization, etc.
  • Summarize at the beginning and again at the end.
  • 1 concept, idea, or topic per slide
  • Use builds (custom animation) for your lists and for multiple series on a graph.

Text Fonts & Formatting

  • Keep it simple!
  • 1 or 2 fonts in the whole presentation.
        (Vary when necessary with size, bold, italics, color.)
  • Font sizes:
    • Minimum = 18 pts. 
    • Title font = 36 pts. at least
    • Bullet list = 24, 32, or 38 pts.
  • Font type:
    • Use sans-serif fonts, like This.
    • Text in a serif font must be in a larger font size to be readable than a sans-serif font.
    • Use fancy fonts only for titles.
          (Be sure they are readable! Be sure to transport the font with the presentation.)
  • PowerPoint Formatting:
    • ALL CAPS is hard to read. Use only in titles, if then.
    • Avoid underlines.
          (That indicates a link.)
    • Shadow titles or terms, but be careful with text. Often makes normal text muddy.
          (Templates often shadow everything.)

Backgrounds & Text Color

  • For screen: light text on dark background
  • For print:   dark text on light background
  • Mixed background: Avoid backgrounds where text falls across both light and dark areas. (It is hard to format text to show up well over both.)
  • Text Color:
    • Use only a few colors.
    • High contrast with background.
    • Avoid red on green and green on red.
          (Color-blind people will see just one color.)
    • For print: Avoid light colors for text to be printed on plain white background. (It cannot be read!)
    • For grayscale print: Avoid colors for text and background that print as similar shades of gray.

Errors in Delivery

Even with a great presentation, the speaker can cause confusion and misery for the audience! Practice, practice, practice!


  • Reading the slides to the audience (Boring!)
  • Not changing slide when speaking on the next topic
  • Blocking the screen
  • Not talking loudly enough
  • Taking too long
  • Fonts used are not on the computer showing the presentation.
        (Can change line-up and fit of text, even running text off the slide!)
  • Broken links
  • Too fast
         = Switching slides before audience can read the slide


  • Too slow
         = Same slide up too long
  • Wandering away from the topic
  • Not making eye contact with audience
  • Using a light pointer that is too small or dim to show well on the screen

Delivery Tips

  • Back-up plan: Equipment fails (think batteries and light bulbs!) and presentations corrupt on your way to the event. Have a backup copy of the presentation with you and an alternate plan if all fails and you must do without it.
  • Verify ahead of time:
    • Equipment: What equipment will be used? Computer? Overhead projector? What are its features? Who is responsible for getting it all to the site and set up?
    • Software: What software (and its version number!) will run the presentation? Does it match what you used to create it? If not, does it matter?
    • Media: How will you transport the presentation to the site? Will your presentation fit on the media you plan to use to transport it?  Can the computer that will run the presentation use that type of media?
          (floppy disk, zip disk, USB drive, CD, DVD?)
    • Handouts: Who is bringing? How to distribute and when and by whom?
  • Before the audience arrives:
    • Check equipment: Turn on all equipment and make sure it all works, especially the hand controller. Batteries good?
    • Practice:  Use the actual equipment before the audience arrives.
    • Adjust the room: Lighting. Arrange podium and seating for best viewing.
          (Not too dark  - Makes it hard to take notes.) Lay out any handouts.
  • Fonts: If using unusual fonts, embed the fonts in the presentation (Tools | Options... | Save tab) or bring copies with you to install temporarily or pack the presentation with the wizard, Pack and Go or Package for CD.
  • PowerPoint Viewer: If you cannot confirm that the right version of PowerPoint is installed, use Pack and Go or Package for CD to include the PowerPoint Viewer. (Adds over 3 MB to file size.)
  • Practice, practice, practice.

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Copyright 1997-2012 Jan Smith   <jegs1@jegsworks.com>
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Last updated: 30 Apr 2012