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15 Pro Tips to Design a Good (Vs Bad) PowerPoint (That Doesn't Suck)

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Read Time: 19 mins

Over the years, PowerPoint has gained a bad reputation. There's even a trending hashtag #DeathbyPowerPoint on Twitter and Instagram. Why? There are hundreds of bad PowerPoint presentation examples that went a little like this presentation:

Don't let your next PowerPoint presentation fall victim to one of several missteps. This collection of tips from experts will set you on the right path. Learn how to avoid death by PowerPoint by following the good PowerPoint design tips in this article. 

Good PowerPoint presentations can be a great way to connect with your target audience and improve your bottom line. Bad PowerPoint slides are easier to avoid than you might think.

In this article, we’ll share what makes a bad PowerPoint presentation. You'll also learn why you should avoid making people sit through one at all costs. Then, we'll give you a handful of tips from the presentation pros that'll help you design a good PowerPoint. Best of all, you'll learn how to avoid death by PowerPoint.

What Makes a "Bad" PowerPoint Presentation?

As rude as it might sound, in most cases, PowerPoint isn't the main reason behind a bad presentation. After all, PowerPoint is just a tool. It's used to create great slides, and it's also used to create bad PowerPoint slides.

Our Envato authors have designed hundreds of PowerPoint templates. According to their expertise, the main reason for bad PowerPoint presentations is design-related.

Slide design with poor layout that uses fonts and colors that detract from the message on the slide is one of the main reasons why PowerPoint gets such a bad reputation

A classic mistake in PowerPoint slideshow design is to include too much information on a single slide. Take a look at this presentation on Lung Cancer from SlideShare. Not only will you find information overwhelm, but they also decided to add 100 charts on one slide!

A couple of other reasons that lead to bad PowerPoint presentations include:

  • a topic that's got nothing to do with your audience’s interest
  • failing to make a connection with your audience
  • reading directly from the slides

Envato author, Celsius Designs, recommends paying extra attention to the layout and sketching out the presentation on the paper before going into PowerPoint and creating the final presentation. They also suggest studying successful presentations online.

Bad backgrounds, for instance, make it hard to read the text. (Lynnylu, SlideShare)

Another team of our Envato authors, AQR Studio, says that every bad presentation they witnessed had the same thing in common:

"...too much text on individual slides and bad layout." 

Their advice is to take a look at presentation templates created by professionals and study them to find common elements that make for an attractive presentation. They also suggest adding in your own style instead of copying someone else’s.

Too much text on a slide is distracting. (Anil Kumar, SlideShare)

Lastly, don’t forget that nerves and knowing your audience plays an important role in your presentation delivery as well. According to David Beckett, a TEDx speech coach,

“[...]two major reasons for poor presentations: nerves, and not paying enough attention to the audience.”

Now that you know what makes a bad PowerPoint presentation, let’s discuss why you should avoid making your audience sit through it.

Why a Bad PowerPoint Presentation Hurts Your Message

A bad presentation will not only leave a sour taste in your mouth, but it'll also bore your audience. Once your audience gets bored, chances are they'll disengage from the presentation. They'll stop paying attention to what you've got to say (also known sarcastically as death by PowerPoint).

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Death by PowerPoint: by careful not to bore your audience. (Graphic source: Envato Elements.)

Also, once your audience becomes disengaged, chances are they won’t remember the topic, much less the content of your presentation. If you’re presenting in front of potential business partners or investors, you run the risk of not closing the deal or getting the necessary funding.

Ultimately, a bad presentation will result in a bad impression of your brand and business. Luckily, we’ve gathered the best PowerPoint design tips from the experts that'll help you create good PowerPoint presentations and avoid death by PowerPoint.

15 Tips from Professionals for Creating Good PowerPoint Presentations

No matter how experienced you are, the truth is, bad PowerPoint presentations can happen to anyone. Even successful speech coaches aren’t immune to delivering bad presentations.

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Michelle Mazur, professional speech coach. (Image source: Communication Rebel)

Consider this story from Michelle Mazur, speech coach from Communication Rebel:

“Once I was invited to give a presentation on cultural trends. I worked closely with the meeting planner. In fact, she approved every slide I was going to present. This was an executive-level audience and she wanted the content to be perfect. I researched, I prepped, I practiced, I had great examples.  
Five minutes into my presentation, one executive raised his hand and asked “Are these trends based on quantitative research?” My reply was, “No, they are qualitative cultural trends.” He and half the room tuned out. The presentation flopped. My mistake was basing my whole speech on information from one person. That question killed me and there was no way to save the presentation in the moment...
I recovered. You can too when your presentation sucks. The most important point is: Keep Speaking. Learn from your mistakes and don't let them hold you back.”

As Dr. Mazur says, the good news is that you can recover from a bad presentation and go on to successfully create good PowerPoints that don’t suck. Below, you’ll find 15 tips from the experts that'll help you rock your PowerPoint design and your presentation skills.

1. Graphics for Visual Aid

Bad PowerPoint slides are cluttered, wordy, and boring. They lose sight of the focus of a PowerPoint presentation. Remember, your goal is to present information in clear, understandable ways. By adding graphics for visual aid, you can do exactly that. For example, consider infographics. These are illustrations built to share ideas.

Infographic bad PowerPoint SlidesInfographic bad PowerPoint SlidesInfographic bad PowerPoint Slides
The Infographic PowerPoint Template is full of beautiful data visuals to design your slides around.

Rather than packing a slide with words to explain a concept, map it out with an infographic. This might be a process flow chart, or a 3D hierarchy diagram. In fact, premium infographic templates from Envato Elements offer thousands of options. Choose one that works well for your topic, then drop in your details.

2. Stick to Readable Fonts

Top examples of bad PowerPoint slides often share something in common: strange fonts. Sure, unique fonts can be fun and amusing. But they don’t have a place in a professional slide deck. It’s bad PowerPoint form to use these fonts.

Instead, you need to choose a clear, stylish font that’s easy to read. Remember, audiences might be reading your slides from the back of a large room.

Envato Elements custom fontsEnvato Elements custom fontsEnvato Elements custom fonts
Stick to readable fonts, including many options from Envato Elements.

This doesn’t mean fonts have to be boring. Far from it - and again, Envato Elements is here to help. As a member, you've got access to thousands of custom font designs with unlimited downloads.

Each one will work in your PowerPoint. Avoid becoming an example of bad PowerPoint form and choose a premium custom font today! They look great and help you succeed.

3. Consistency Is Key

The number one tip for your PowerPoint design is to be consistent. This simply refers to using the same fonts and colors throughout your presentation instead of changing them up every other slide.

It’s a good idea to use the same fonts and colors used in the rest of your brand assets. But if you aren’t sure which colors and fonts are a part of your brand identity, you can’t go wrong with keeping it simple.

Speaker and author Hugh Culver is proof that simplicity works:

“A consistent theme pulls together the variety in your images and message, as you move from problem to solution. You could use the baked-in themes supplied in PowerPoint or Keynote – I don’t because I want a simpler, more unique look.
I create a custom theme simply with my titles, a consistent white background, and sometimes with my logo or my client’s logo.”

4. When It Comes to Text, Less Is Always More

As mentioned earlier, too much text will overwhelm your audience. Another downside of using too much text is that your audience will read the content of the slide before you’re done talking about it and then tune you out.

TEDx in-house presentation expert, Aaron Weyenberg, makes an excellent argument for using less text in your PowerPoints:

“With text, less is almost always more. One thing to avoid—slides with a lot of text, especially if it’s a repeat of what you’re saying out loud. It’s like if you give a paper handout in a meeting—everyone’s head goes down and they read, rather than staying heads-up and listening. If there are a lot of words on your slide, you’re asking your audience to split their attention between what they’re reading and what they’re hearing. That’s really hard for a brain to do, and it compromises the effectiveness of both your slide text and your spoken words. If you can’t avoid having text-y slides, try to progressively reveal text (like unveiling bullet points one by one) as you need it.”

5. Use the Presentation as an Aid, Not the Main Tool

Seth Godin, Photo by Joi Ito via Wikimedia CC BY-SA 2.0

Don’t forget that you, the presenter, are the star of the presentation. Your presentation is there to reinforce your ideas and help you sell your point. Take advice from Seth Godin:

“[...]make slides that reinforce your words, not repeat them. Create slides that demonstrate, with emotional proof, that what you’re saying is true not just accurate.”

6. Use Guides to Make Sure Everything Aligns Properly

PowerPoint experts from Nuts and Bolts Speedtraining firmly believe you should add guides to your slides.

“When creating a template in PowerPoint, add guides around the placeholders of the parent slide layout.
That way if you accidentally made a mistake or if you want to make things easier to align in the normal view, then you can just turn those on again and see where everything is supposed to be placed.”

7. Contrast Always Wins

Bad PowerPoint presentation examples don’t stand out. They’re hard to follow, both in style and delivery. You need your slides to stand out to succeed.

Contrast is your best design bet to do exactly that. By styling with contrast, your key ideas will be instantly recognizable.

Karbon not bad PowerPointKarbon not bad PowerPointKarbon not bad PowerPoint
Karbon avoids the pitfalls of bad PowerPoint slides by delivering tons of stylish contrast throughout the deck.

They’ll never fade into the background. This keeps your audience focused and engaged. Plus, it looks great. This is crucial to remember.

Your slides go beyond real-time viewing while you’re presenting. They need to be stylish and understandable for later too.

8. Memorize the Concepts & the Scripts

Inc.500 entrepreneur and speaker, Kevin Daum says you should memorize both your presentation content and script. Memorizing your script and the concept also helps in case there are technical difficulties with your presentation.

“Audiences know an amateur the second the notes come out or the presenter looks at the screen as a reminder. This is your material. If you don't own it, you can't expect the audience to respect you as an expert.”

9. Use Relevant Imagery

There is no doubt that images and visual elements can enhance your presentation and make it even more impactful. But those images and other visuals need to be relevant. According to visual communications expert, Curtis Newbold:

“You may, for instance, need to give a presentation on dairy production in your community.[...]What I need to see are images that tell a story about the dying industry and its challenges, and infographics that explain processes for overcoming the hurdles. You need a lot of visual information, yes. But it also needs to be relevant.”
Be selective in the graphics you choose for each slide. Less is more! (Lynnylu, SlideShare)

10. One Message Per Slide

Your presentation needs to pique curiosity in your audience and get them interested in the topic. Once you've got their attention, you need to keep it and the best way to do that is to stick to one message per slide.

Professional training and coaching expert David JP Phillips even goes so far to state presenters should focus on one key message per slide and include no more than six objects (or lines) on each.

11. Use Animation Carefully

Animation can certainly make a good PowerPoint design more dynamic, but only when used correctly. Otherwise, it’s a distraction that can ruin the impression of your presentation. Learn from Konrad Schroth, PowerPoint expert:

“Like a lot of other PowerPoint features, animation can be distracting if used badly. However, if used rationally, animation can grab your audience's attention at strategic points, allow you to "chunk" information for better comprehension, and help explain complex systems and relationships. After all, we are "wired" to pay attention to movement.”

Learn the basics of using animation:

12. Pay Attention to the Structure

Your presentation needs to have a good flow. It’s important to include all the necessary elements if you want your presentation to be compelling. More specifically, a good presentation resembles a stage production, according to leadership development and executive coaching expert Jeff Black.

“You have to have all the elements: You’ve got to have a great opening act, you’ve got to have something in the middle to pull it through and you’ve got to have a great curtain’s finale at the end.”

13. Practice Is the Key to Success

Don’t forget to practice, practice, and then practice some more the delivery of your presentation. Nancy Duarte, the author of Resonate, shares this as her best advice for new presenters:

“Nothing worthwhile is easy, and the best communicators aren’t always born that way. Many of them saw the importance of improving their skills and put the work in. It will be work. But if you become a golden communicator, your life is in your hands.”

Learn some valuable tips for practicing your presentation:

14. Build for Online Sharing

In 2022, you may be sharing slides online with a global team. The last thing you want are bad PowerPoint examples that look bad on other screens. This means it’s key to maintain a mobile focus as you build slides.
 
Slides made for online sharing embrace a worldwide audience. They’re not overloaded with content, and they’re amply illustrated.
 
Remember, some may view slides on their mobile phones! Keep this in mind as you choose design features that look great in any size.
 

Learn about online-focused slide decks, and look at some of the best templates now:

15. Build Presentations to Engage

Examples of bad PowerPoint slides may take many forms. But they all tend to bore an audience. Maybe they’re overloaded with content, hard to understand, or just aren’t interesting. That’s why you should always engage with your audience.

This can take many forms. If nothing else, always include a Q&A slide at the end of your deck. This gives your audience the chance to clarify anything they might’ve missed.

Zap example of bad PowerPointZap example of bad PowerPointZap example of bad PowerPoint
Zap is an interactive quiz PowerPoint to help you avoid making bad, boring PowerPoint slides.

An even better option is to be engaging and interactive throughout. By using a game or quiz, you can make presentations fun! And a happy audience is always a more engaged audience.

Learn more about interactive quiz game PowerPoints with the help of this tutorial:

How to Quickly Customize Good PowerPoint Designs (With Premium Templates)

Want to know the ultimate way to avoid bad PowerPoint slides? Two words: premium templates.

By using a premium Envato Elements PowerPoint template, you can impress any audience. Elements has thousands of stunning options available now.

Premium templates offer stunning styles, unlike free templates. Plus, they save you time thanks to their ease of use. In fact, you can customize one in just five quick steps. Let’s look at how.

Virtually PowerPoint templateVirtually PowerPoint templateVirtually PowerPoint template
Virtually PowerPoint is a surefire way to build a good PPT deck to impress an audience.

Want to follow along and learn more? Download the great Virtually PowerPoint template from Envato Elements now.

This tutorial was written using a macOS and Office 365. If you’ve got a different operating system or a different version of PowerPoint, your steps may be slightly different.

1. Select Your Key Slides

Bad PowerPoint examples are often overloaded with dozens of slides in a row. Even the most fascinating topics will eventually lose an audience if they drag on too long. That’s why you should choose only a few key slides to get your points across.

Bad PowerPoint slidesBad PowerPoint slidesBad PowerPoint slides
Avoid running too long by choosing slides with the Slide Sorter view.

This is easy with a premium template in PowerPoint. Find the View tab, then click on Slide Sorter. Here, you’ll see a thumbnail for every slide in the deck. You can remove unwanted slides by right-clicking on them and choosing Delete Slide. Once you’re finished, click Normal on the View tab to start editing.

2. Edit Text Features

Words are the backbone of winning PowerPoint decks. And thanks to premium templates, they’re easy to add. Notice how slide layouts have text already in place. To change it out, click into one of the text boxes. Select the contents, then type over them using your keyboard. Repeat throughout your slide deck.

Bad PowerPointBad PowerPointBad PowerPoint
Use text sparingly to avoid bad PowerPoint layouts packed with content.

Keep in mind: bad PowerPoint presentation examples are often too wordy. Avoid this by deleting any unwanted text boxes to free up some space on your slides.

3. Explore Font Effects

Once you’ve added text, you can customize it. Go to the Home tab on PowerPoint’s ribbon and find the Font section on the left. Here, you’ll see many buttons and dropdowns.

Bad PowerPoint examplesBad PowerPoint examplesBad PowerPoint examples
Use clear, readable font designs as you style your PowerPoint slides.

The dropdowns control the size and style of your font. The buttons drive custom effects like underlines, italics, and more. Click through them and watch your choices apply to the text that you have selected.

4. Customize Photos

Another example of bad PowerPoint technique: a lack of images. Don’t forget to add illustrations at regular intervals. These boost visual interest and keep viewers and readers focused on you.

Premium templates, once again, make this easy. On many slides, you’ll see shaped image placeholders. Browse to a stored image file on your computer, then drag it over your slide.

Example of bad PowerPointExample of bad PowerPointExample of bad PowerPoint
Adding photos helps you stay away from boring, bad PowerPoint slides. (Image source: Envato Elements)

Drop it into place, and watch PowerPoint import it. Notice it'll scale to fit perfectly. It’s an effortless way to build a good PowerPoint slide.

5. Style Shapes with Color

A bad PowerPoint deck often will lack in color and style. A bland aesthetic is a quick way to lose an audience. That’s why the use of color is so important. And a premium template like Virtually makes creative use of color.

Bad PowerPoint presentation examplesBad PowerPoint presentation examplesBad PowerPoint presentation examples
Use color to steer clear of bad PowerPoint slides with no style or contrast.

You can also change shape colors in PPT to fit your own style. Click on a shape, then find the Shape Format tab on the ribbon. On it, you’ll see the Shape Fill dropdown color chooser. Explore the countless options and click one to apply it. This is one of the top ways to build a great slide layout with plenty of cool colors. 

Find Even More Good PowerPoint Examples

If you're trying to make a PowerPoint that doesn't suck, you'll want plenty of good PowerPoint examples for inspiration. Here are some good PowerPoint designs to inspire you:

The Top Source for Great PowerPoint Templates (To Build Good Presentations)

Want the best source for great PowerPoint templates? Envato Elements is your answer. For a flat monthly rate, you’ll have access to unlimited downloads of the world’s best PowerPoint templates. These help you make great slides every day. Plus, you’ll find other resources like stock photos, custom fonts, and much more.

Unlimited PowerPoint templatesUnlimited PowerPoint templatesUnlimited PowerPoint templates
Great PowerPoint templates from Envato Elements - with unlimited downloads.

Elements is the top creative value today. The unlimited downloads included give you unlimited possibilities. You can try out as many stunning PowerPoint designs as you want to find the one that’s right for you.

Elements example of PowerPointElements example of PowerPointElements example of PowerPoint
Explore thousands of great PowerPoint templates available now on Envato Elements.

Envato Elements helps you build great PowerPoint slides. It avoids the pitfalls of bad PowerPoint designs. That’s because every template is designed by creative experts. You’ll benefit from:

  • pre-built text placeholders
  • room for images and illustrations
  • custom infographics to illustrate data
  • unique fonts used throughout
  • animated options for smooth transitions

As you can see, Elements templates save you from building bad PowerPoint slides. In moments, you can build amazing layouts that audiences will adore.

Check Out Our Free Online Presentation Guide

Do you want to learn even more about making great PowerPoint presentations? We've got the resource for you! We'll take you through the complete process to get you ready for your next business presentation—from start to finish.

Updated eBook Promo for Making Great Business PresentationsUpdated eBook Promo for Making Great Business PresentationsUpdated eBook Promo for Making Great Business Presentations

Don't miss our free online presentation guide, The Complete Guide to Making Great Business Presentations. It's chock full of powerful business presentation advice to help you make your next business presentation your best yet.

Avoid Making PowerPoints That Suck By Applying These Pro Tips

Death by PowerPoint is a real thing that can happen to anyone. If you want to make sure that your presentations leave a positive impact, keep these tips in mind. Great content and stellar design pair together to help you avoid bad PowerPoint presentation examples. Follow the PowerPoint design tips and good PowerPoint examples in this article.

If you need a good PowerPoint design template for your presentation, make sure to check out our sites. Grab PowerPoint templates and design away today. Both are sure to help you avoid the curse of bad PowerPoint slides!

Editorial Note: This post has been updated with contributions from Andrew Childress. Andrew is a freelance instructor for Envato Tuts+.

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