How do I make a kickass powerpoint for college
October 20, 2013 10:54 AM   Subscribe

I have never made a powerpoint before. I have to make 6 slides for class. How to I get a nice background and make charts- pie charts, etc? Either explain like your are teaching your mom, or links to a sites that will literally walk me through it! Thanks!!!
posted by TRUELOTUS to Education (9 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Does it have to be powerpoint?

If not, and if you have access to an ipad, I highly recommend using haiku deck instead. It is much more beautiful, and much more user-friendly. Here's how to get started, and here's how to create and edit your presentation. Haiku Deck also makes adding charts or graphs incredibly simple. Even if you don't own an ipad, if you can borrow one from somebody for an hour to create your presentation, that would work perfectly (after you create it, you can 'publish' it online, such that in class you could just pull it up online).

If it does have to be powerpoint, here are a few resources:
-How to create your first powerpoint or here for pics or here for video
-Here's how to create charts for powerpoint
-A few quick tips:
Less is more (powerpoint slides should have as few words as humanly possible)
One picture, not three
Anchor pictures are often better than background pics (which can distract from text or vice-versa)
Keep it simple (no crazy fonts, jumping objects, crazy transitions, etc.)
posted by leitmotif at 11:12 AM on October 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

1. Keep your background plain white.
2. Font size should be 14 points or (preferably) higher and consistent throughout the document - the default size for your headers and text will probably work fine.
3. Text should be brief points in bullet format - about which you are prepared to talk (if you are presenting).
4. Without knowing what sort of charts you are making and how complicated your data is it's hard to advise you on charts. But if you try it a few times - use the chart wizard - you'll probably figure it out much more quickly than I could explain it.
posted by bunderful at 11:16 AM on October 20, 2013

This has been my go-to for a while. Quite a few good tips there.

Also, it's not just your presentation, but what you do with it. Make sure you don't look at the screen, instead focus on making eye-contact and talking to the room. One way to do this is to mentally split the room into a number of sections and move your attention from section to section every so often.

Hope that helps.
posted by mukade at 11:26 AM on October 20, 2013 [3 favorites]

If possible, make your presentation with Keynote instead of PowerPoint. The default settings (fonts, templates) are much better looking, and you can export the result as a .ppt if you need to.
posted by zippy at 11:54 AM on October 20, 2013

Are you turning in six slides or giving a presentation?

As others have said, keep it simple and don't go crazy with effects or transitions. I've found Garr Reynolds's Presentation Zen approach to be extremely helpful when creating presentations.

Pie charts are bad for communicating information: don't use them.
posted by JackBurden at 11:56 AM on October 20, 2013

As a prof, I would recommend that you just go with one of the basic templates and use less text than you think you need. Keep it simple. I'm assuming here that the content and delivery of the presentation is the main focus; if you're being graded on how amazing the slides are, then of course spend more time on it.

If you use something other than PowerPoint, I'd recommend going to the room early and making sure things work the way you mean for them to before you present.
posted by bizzyb at 12:08 PM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

The presentation should be tailored to the audience and the format - are you turning this in as something to be reviewed only by a teacher or professor? Or are you presenting to the class as a whole? If this is something to stand alone without a verbal presentation, you'll probably need a bit more text, and you can get away with a smaller font size. But if you're going to be presenting to a class, you can pare down the text, as that is just the overview / highlight of what you'll be talking about.

And you can go with a plain white background and spend a few minutes laying out a color palate for the text: headers a bolder color, the body text a different shade or other less strong color, and maybe a 3rd color to underline the header text.

My pro tip: lay out one slide the way that you like, then copy that slide and replace the text as necessary. I get distracted when repeating elements move from slide to slide. Also, copying the format of a single slide for later slides saves you time of formatting the text.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:35 PM on October 20, 2013

As others have said, black on white is fine for a basic presentation. If you expect the room to be very dark you could use white on black. You can also use color, but keep it subtle -- make your background more pale than you think it should be, and your text darker than seems necessary. The color will look much more intense on a projection than it does on your screen, and the contrast will also be lower.

Font choice is a subject of perennial debate, but for my money you can't go far wrong with Verdana, or if you really want a serif font (sans-serifs are usually preferred) the Garamond. Not that those are the only good choices, but they're both commonly available, look good, and are very readable on a screen. I would recommend not using the default fonts as they will look too cookie-cutter, and stay away from the old standards of Arial, Times New Roman, and Comic Sans because they are ugly. I like to try to keep my body text in bullet point format, at least 28 point. Don't go lower than 18 (14 is much too small if you ask me) because if it's small then nobody will read it and you'll be too tempted to put too much text on the slide. I like somewhere around 54 point for slide titles.

Use the absolute minimum of text. Sentence fragments are fine if they convey the idea. The default for text on a slide should be bullet points, and you should shoot for 3-4 points per slide, no more than five. If you need more than that, put them on a second slide. Your text should just serve as notes -- the bulk of the words and explanation in your presentation should come out of your mouth, generally about a minute of talking per slide as a rough guideline. Of course, if you have a figure or something that needs a lot of explaining then you can take longer. The time-per-slide will be guided by content and the overall length of your presentation, but a minute per slide is a nice default.

Make your images as large as possible, try to use high-res pictures, and try to include at least one per slide in order to help keep your audience's attention. Don't put them behind the text -- if you need a fullscreen image give it its own slide and just talk about it. If you have a figure or chart or photo that is important, consider having it as an anchor photo (a smallish photo alongside the text) and then expand it to full screen on the next slide, so that the audience can get a good look at it while you explain it. Try to keep your figures very very basic and easy to understand, with minimal text, clear legends, and large print. Also consider putting a simple solid-line border around images. This often makes a presentation look more polished.

As far as making your charts, there are so many ways to do this that it's hard to know how to help without knowing more about your specific situation. Look at charts and figures people have used in similar settings (google around a bit) and then do a bit of online research about how to make them. MS Office has its own chart making tools (Powerpoint and also Excel are often used for this). They are not the greatest, but they're there and you can probably figure out the basics through trial and error and googling.

My basic (scientific research) presentation in outline looks like this: Title slide with large graphic, my name, and the presentation title. Introduction slide where I give a summary of what I am about to present, in the order it will be presented. Body slides which present that information, the title of which changes with the subject of the talk as it progresses. Summary slide where I remind everyone of the key points of the presentation. Acknowledgements slide where I thank all the people and institutions that contributed to my research. Questions slide which has just a large, pretty or funny photo relevant somehow to the topic (for me this is usually a nice picture of Phrynobatrachus auritus and the word "Questions?" front and center.

My actual presentations vary a lot, but that's my generic outline that I usually start from. I am often complimented on the clarity and polish of my presentations, though your needs may be different so it might not work for you. In any case, don't be afraid to just keep it dead simple. As long as the information is conveyed clearly and you are able to give a good oral presentation on top of it (practice it beforehand!) you will already be ahead of the pack.
posted by Scientist at 12:47 PM on October 20, 2013

Don't read your slides.

Don't put so much text on your slides that you're tempted to read them.

Stick to one font. Make it big.

Avoid fancy transitions. Stick to one transition unless there's a reason do something different. I like dissolve, personally.

"Striptease" (show bits of the slide at a time) is fine, but moderation is key.

I like keynote instead of PowerPoint, on a mac.
posted by leahwrenn at 2:03 PM on October 20, 2013

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