When you've got to give a big presentation, it can be a bit daunting to get started. You might already be feeling nervous about speaking in front of a crowd and be running short on preparation time.
And don't forget to prepare those speaking aids or slides! Having a visual to go along with your presentation is usually required or expected by an audience. That's why we use Microsoft PowerPoint to build out slide decks easily.
In this tutorial, we're going to talk about what makes up a PowerPoint slide deck. We'll also cover tips and tricks to create great looking slide decks that'll help the audience follow your message.
Download Our Free PDF eBook on Making Great Presentations
Before you read on, we want to make sure you
know about this resource, which will help you write, design, and deliver
the perfect presentation. Download our Free eBook: The Complete Guide toMaking Great Presentations.
Now, let's dive into the tutorial.
What Is a PowerPoint Slide Deck?
A PowerPoint slide deck is simply a collection of slides put together in the same presentation. You'll hear "slide deck" used somewhat interchangeably with "presentation." Like a deck of cards, each slide is a key part of the overall package.
Even though "slide deck" and "presentation" are sometimes interchangeably, you'll frequently see the term "deck" used when it comes to pitching your company or startup for example.
Presentations can be supported with a slide deck. You'll approach building that PowerPoint deck differently based on the type of presentation, but the fact remains that slides are a helpful supporting tool when presenting.
PowerPoint sometimes has a bad reputation for being a tool that presenters lean on. While a presentation should use slides to enhance what the presenter is saying, the slide deck isn't the presentation itself. It's just a tool that backs what you're already presenting.
Tips for Better PowerPoint Slide Decks
If you want to avoid beleaguering your audience with too many details and make slide decks engaging, consider these tips that'll keep your audience interested.
1. Reduce the Content on Each Slide
One of the best tips that I ever received was to start by opening up the slide deck I had prepared, and then find ways to reduce the content by half. That could mean removing entire slides, reducing the number of text bullet points, or removing multimedia from each slide.
The reason for this is that we've got the tendency to overburden slide decks with content. We too often are trying to write a presentation while preparing the slide deck at the same time. In doing so, we run the risk of basically using the presentation file as our scratch pad where we're developing ideas and writing every idea on them.
Instead, a PowerPoint slide deck should simply be the points that the audience should see while you're presenting. Why show the points that you'll be speaking aloud in writing as well? In short, there's no need for redundancy: reserve your precious slide space for points and visuals that are better made that way.
2. Build Each Slide in Phased Introductions
When you cut to a new slide, it can be a mistake to show everything all at once. The same idea as the prior tip applies: the less you show at a time, the better chance that your audience has of actually digesting the information.
Cutting to a slide with everything already showing is the fastest way to lose the audience's attention. As soon as you cut to a slide that has a wall of text or many graphs and charts to interpret, you'll lose the audience's attention. It'll instantly divert from what you're saying to the slide's contents.
In the example below, there are basically four content blocks surrounding the center. Instead of showing them all at once, I'll use animations to bring them on in groups.
Building a slide should be equal parts culling the content and introducing it in stages. You can use PowerPoint animations to bring parts of the slide on in stages. Instead of showing the entire slide contents as soon as you cut to it, imagine phasing in various parts of it using animations. Don't show an entire text box; instead, bring each bullet point on with a single mouse click to hold the audience's attention.
If you want to learn more about animating elements of your PowerPoint slides, check out the tutorial below. You don't have to use eye-popping and sophisticated animations to simply introduce slide components in stages.
3. Content First, Style Later
PowerPoint slide decks can't be the tail that wags the dog. When you're preparing a presentation, the biggest mistake is to think that production should start inside of Microsoft PowerPoint.
Instead of starting off in PowerPoint, start off with pen and paper. Sketch those ideas that you've got for making meaningful points to the audience and set those before you ever open an app like PowerPoint. Write the content and structure of the PowerPoint presentation deck first, and add the supportive visuals and slides later.
There's plenty more to learn when it comes to building supportive PowerPoint presentation decks. Make sure to check out Cassie McDaniel's tutorial that features 22 tips for building out great decks:
What Types of Presentation Can You Give?
Every presentation is different. There are many types of presentations that you can give to make an impact on an audience. Here are the categories that I tend to think of presentations as spanning:
- Persuasive. Presentations that are designed to change the mind of the audience or impart your perspective, such as persuading them about the importance of Net Neutrality.
- Decision-driven. Often found in the corporate world, the purpose of these is to provide a recommendation or path forward in a situation or project.
- Introductory. An introductory presentation is designed to be the first point of contact, basically showcasing your business and work to potential clientele.
- informative (educational). With no ulterior motive, informative presentations are really geared around showing knowledge or new ideas to an audience.
Before you even open PowerPoint, you should understand what type of presentation that you're giving. The writing and production phase never goes smoothly when your goals for the presentation aren't clear. Many mistakes have been made when presenters think they're giving an informative presentation, but wind up introducing persuasive points, for example.
How to Build a Slide Deck Quickly
For any creative project, you can cut many hours out of your work if you avoid recreating the wheel. Instead of drawing each slide design from scratch, you can use a premium PowerPoint template to get ahead in the process.
That's why I like to use a service called Envato Elements. Elements is a subscription-based service that is truly tailor-made for creatives. Elements includes more than 500 PowerPoint slide deck templates that you can use to skip the hard work of designing a slide from scratch.
That's not all that Elements has to offer. You also have access to stock photos, graphics, and more. These types of creative assets are the perfect complement to a presentation. You don't have to buy these files one at a time; instead, grab them all with a single subscription to Elements.
Even if all you use are the PowerPoint presentation templates, it's enough to justify a subscription to it. Best of all, you can keep using the files even if you decide to stop subscribing to Elements thanks to the licensing agreements.
Here's how I think about it: when you've got to give a presentation, you've got a limited amount of time to prepare. You need to perform research, write the presentation, and put together visual aids. You might not be able to invest as much time into designing slides without cutting into your research and prep time. So, outsource the design of your slides to another designer (via templates from Elements) and re-allocate your time to building the PowerPoint presentation deck itself.
You use these templates when you don't know where to start. Instead of opening PowerPoint and starting at a blank canvas, you can download an Elements PowerPoint slide deck and be immediately inspired by the themes and slide designs.
Check out these 20 PowerPoint slide deck themes that you can use for a headstart on designing your presentation:
- Microsoft PowerPoint20 Best Pitch Deck Templates: For Business Plan PowerPoint PresentationsSean Hodge
Examples of Using PowerPoint Slide Templates
Many people hesitate to use pre-built slides because they don't understand how they can be used. Presentations from Elements come with content already on the slides, so how can
The key is to approach that pre-built content as placeholders. Each slide has elements that are worth using, but that doesn't mean that you've got to use it as-is. Instead, start with one of these placeholder slides and add your own content to use it to its potential.
Below, you can see an example of modifying a slide from a template that I grabbed from Elements. It started as a slide with too many points and text boxes. With a simple modification to add my own app image and reduce the content on the slide, it's now ready to be shared with an audience.
Use these starting slides as a major advantage over designing from scratch. Templates from Elements help you strike that balance between customization and professional design.
Recap & Keep Learning
This PowerPoint presentation deck tutorial showcased some of my favorite resources and tips for building a PowerPoint slide deck. There's still plenty more to learn to help you rapidly build out a slide deck that you feel confident showing to an audience.
Check out these other tutorials and template round-ups to help you learn PowerPoint:
- Microsoft PowerPoint17+ Best PowerPoint Template Designs for 2017Sean Hodge
- Microsoft PowerPointHow to Quickly Customize a PowerPoint Template DesignAndrew Childress
- Microsoft PowerPointPowerPoint Online vs Full PowerPoint 2016 on Your DesktopAndrew Childress
- Microsoft PowerPointHow to Make an Educational PowerPoint Presentation - QuicklyAndrew Childress
Grab This New eBook on Making Great Presentations (Free Download)
We have the perfect complement to a professional
PowerPoint template, that will help you learn how to write, design, and deliver
Download The Complete Guide to Making Great Presentations now for FREE with a subscription to the Tuts+ Business Newsletter. Get your ideas formed into a powerful presentation that will move your audience.
We've just answered the question: what is a PowerPoint slide deck? Using custom PowerPoint templates as you create your PowerPoint presentation deck can save you a lot of time.
How do you build your slide decks? What are your favorite tips for helping reduce the time you spend in PowerPoint? Let me know in the comments section below this tutorial.