How can I make beautiful Powerpoint Slides like this?
August 25, 2015 4:53 AM   Subscribe

How can I make beautiful Powerpoint slides like those in this example presentation, titled "Steal this Presentation"? I can't download the presentation as a powerpoint file, only as a pdf. I have no graphic design skills, so I was hoping to find a template or powerpoint file somewhere, so I can just borrow the fonts, layouts, etc. Thank you for any help or example presentations you can link me to!
posted by surenoproblem to Computers & Internet (21 answers total) 73 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not a graphic designer either, but I have sat through a lot of presentations, and had positive feedback about the ones that I've produced. I think the advice in the presentation you've linked is solid. A few things I've noticed, but the author didn't make explicit:
- Use sans-serif fonts (The fonts which don't have little "feet" eg, Arial, Calibri, Verdana. Not Times New Roman). They are boring, but that's fine because they will fade into the background behind whatever you're saying.
- Use a large font size (20+). This will a) make it more visible to the person at the back of the room who is squinting, and b) prevent you from trying to force too much on the page.
- Try not to read the text verbatim. Put the main points on the screen and talk your way around them. Otherwise people get lost reading while you're talking.
- Turn on the Ruler and Gridlines. Ensure that everything is aligned, and consistent. Page 24 of that presentation wouldn't look as good if everything wasn't aligned vertically and horizontally.
- Powerpoint is surprisingly flexible if you get to know your way around the Drawing and Rotation tools.

If you can just manage to make your presentation look clean, consistent, and easy to read, you are head and shoulders above 90% of the presentations out there.
posted by roshy at 5:10 AM on August 25, 2015 [7 favorites]

Check out - you can make presentations as well as a lot of other things, and it's quite easy.
posted by Cheese Monster at 5:14 AM on August 25, 2015 [2 favorites]

The problem with templates is that as soon as you try to adapt them to your actual content, you'll discover the limitations of the template. I would suggest instead putting together a little toolkit for yourself--maybe go to something like fontsquirrel and download a couple nice, sans serif fonts like Roshy mentions. And maybe go somewhere like Color Lovers to find a few nice colour schemes that strike your fancy. A big part of good design is just consistency, so if you use one good font and a tight colour scheme (instead of the atrocious built-in schemes that come with PowerPoint), you're already off to a good start. You can collect attractive, high-resolution images for your backgrounds, or just use plain ol' big, bold colours. The key is to use as little text per slide as you can while still getting your point across (assuming these are meant for actually presenting, instead of printing, but that's a bugbear for another day...).

The biggest tip I can give for laying out the slides is to consciously ignore the content hierarchy that bores into your mind from viewing 1,000s of bad Powerpoints (i.e., title at the top, box of text bullets below, etc.). Think of the slide as an open canvas! You can put anything anywhere, so long as it makes sense for your audience to view/read.
posted by Mrs. Rattery at 5:25 AM on August 25, 2015 [3 favorites]

Doesn't the presentation you link to explain the answer to your question?
posted by benbenson at 5:28 AM on August 25, 2015 [13 favorites]

Looks to me like your linked presentation follows a lot of the principles of 'presentation zen' (a term which gives me a case of the screaming willies, but nevertheless). I believe Garr Reynolds was the person who coined the phrase, and he's published a LOT of information about this concept. I can't make a specific recommendation for a template site, but searching for 'presentation zen' should get you somewhere. Good luck!
posted by DingoMutt at 5:41 AM on August 25, 2015

- Try not to read the text verbatim. Put the main points on the screen and talk your way around them. Otherwise people get lost reading while you're talking.

This. This. And This.

Most of the PP presentations I've sat through could have been more easily simply sent as an email and the meeting skipped entirely, largely because the PP was the entire text of the report. A great PP presentation should serve to focus attention on what YOU are saying. Use slides to simply highlight your main point only, and fill in the details verbally.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:42 AM on August 25, 2015 [4 favorites]

Does it have to be PowerPoint? Everybody at work that's younger than I am prefers to use Prezi.
posted by box at 6:11 AM on August 25, 2015 [3 favorites]

A friend's advice, one of the best presenters I know: Nothing smaller than 36 point, No more than seven words per line, No bullet points, So you can actually read it, So people actually have to think about it.
posted by migurski at 8:11 AM on August 25, 2015 [3 favorites]

Personally, I find Prezi gimmicky for a live presentation. I think it fixes none of the standard problems (too much text, etc.) and introduces an unnecessary zooming around. But I'm also coming to the realization that I'm now an old person.

The absolute number one piece of advice that I give (and others have given here) is that fewer words are better. People just don't read paragraphs (or, often, even full sentences) in live Powerpoint presentations. Moreover, they almost certainly can't listen to you talk while they read, so on the rare case where someone does read the text on the slide, they aren't going to hear what you have to say.

As others have said, I don't think there is a layout you can borrow. The whole point of the presentation you linked to is that you can't just use templates or standard cliché images. You're lucky, though. The solution to the problem with bad templates is not something more complex; it's something simpler.

Don't expect your presentation to look as visually good as the linked presentation on the first try. However, that doesn't really matter. As long as you follow at least some of the basic principles it promotes, your presentation will be a bazillion times better than most of the boring, repetitive, too-many-words, template-based PowerPoints out there.
posted by Betelgeuse at 8:31 AM on August 25, 2015 [3 favorites]

1 Keynote.
2. Avoid templates (as others have noted).
3 Begin with an image.
4 No bullet points. Ever.
posted by standardasparagus at 8:39 AM on August 25, 2015 [4 favorites]

YMMV - especially based on your audience.

The following advice pertains to academic and professional presentations (outside of startup culture):

Roshy above has it; look at their suggestions

Prezi sucks I've seen high-stakes talks fail - be unable to be presented - with it. It requires an internet connection; its transitions are cool for the sake of it; i've seen it crash and stutter; if your machine doesnt work someone else wont likely have it. No one needs to fly around a landscape for a talk. Prezi needs to die in a fire.

Stop obsessing over design unless you are a designer or presenting to a graphically savvy crowd (e.g. marketing dept). No one cares if your presentation color schemes have been honed to within an inch of their life. Giant dumb fonts and (too much) pizzaz for the sake of it will make you less serious and credible in my (and others) eyes.

INTRO: Why we should care about the talk, tailored to audience's interest and level.
CONTENT : your story delivered clearly and concisely, tailored to audience's interest and level
RECAPPED: what people should 'take home' tailored to audience's audience's interest and level.

posted by lalochezia at 8:56 AM on August 25, 2015 [9 favorites]

Just one note, having glanced at that presentation - it's to be read, not for live presentation. So if you want slides for a live presentation, reduce the words.

I'm not sure how familiar you are with Powerpoint so the following may be too basic. But, it looks like most of those slides are just a background, faded/increased transparency, with words centered, in one or two different sizes. That's pretty easy to in Powerpoint.

Faded background - right-click on blank part of the slide (make sure you're not in the content box), pick Format Background, Picture or Texture Fill, then pick your file. Set the transparency to like 50%. You can do this for each slide. Alternately, insert a picture, make it as big as the slide and then change the transparency or add a black/white semi-transparent box over top (this is the dumb way to do it but sometimes it's the easiest).

Better font - go to View --> Slide Master, under Edit Theme, pick a nice sans serif font as mentioned above. You can do general manipulation of slides here but I think you're okay with just the regular layouts. Pick a neat colour scheme too while your here. There are lots of interesting ones online that you can set using the Themes, Colors, Create New Theme Colors.

Layout - pick the Title slide layout to start. That will give you the basic layout the presentation used. Then they just varied the layout of the words a lot - sometimes on bold words up top, sometimes on smaller words on the bottom, sometimes put them over a picture, sometimes over a just a coloured gradient, move the content boxes up and down the slide. They used some angled text boxes but I hate those so I'm not going to tell you how to do it (it's not hard, it uses the little green dot on the content boxes).

Some other thoughts on good presentations (having sat through a lot of bad ones)
-as above, minimum of words (and minimum here is like 7 words/slide not like two sentences) and make them big
- I prefer white or yellow text on dark backgrounds because it's easier on the eyes in a dark room
-figures (graphs, illustrations) for print are rarely/never suitable for presentation figures
-never put something up and say, "Well you can't really see this but..."
-bullet points are the best
-I hate shadows around pictures because they look cheesy, the presentation seems to disagree but they are wrong
-Prezi makes me seasick
-most of the problems with bad presentations are with the presenter not the program

N.B. I'm in science so some of this may be field specific but I always think my presentations look great.
posted by hydrobatidae at 9:01 AM on August 25, 2015 [6 favorites]

I'm biased because one of my responsibilities is to maintain a huge collection of 35mm teaching slides (yes, actual physical slides) for three departments, but I think that presentations should:

have a black background
have no words except perhaps a title slide with my name and contact information
have one image per slide

that's it.

I've sat through so many mind-numbing bullet point list readings and vertigo-inducing Prezi monstrosities that I may err on the side of simplicity, but really, all you need are single images. The information comes out of your mouth.
posted by gyusan at 9:17 AM on August 25, 2015 [4 favorites]

I've seen Prezi work well but in those cases it was because the different "slides" had some amount of natural spartial relationship to them which meant that the Prezi swooping, camera move of transitions actually helped reinforce the message. Most decks of information isn't like that or has minimal amounts of that so the Prezi stuff generally comes off as a gimmick (like the machine gun fire letters and typewriter noises of Powerpoint days gone past).
posted by mmascolino at 9:17 AM on August 25, 2015

MeFi's own waxpancake has written a helpful guide.
posted by buriednexttoyou at 2:49 PM on August 25, 2015

I make slide decks like that.

I use a mixture of Slide Carnival and HaikuDeck to make pretty slides. Then I import those into Google Slides in order to put them together.
posted by guster4lovers at 6:20 PM on August 25, 2015 [3 favorites]

I came to suggest HaikuDeck, too. Easy & quick to use and the results look a lot like the slides in your example.
posted by Nosey Mrs. Rat at 8:45 PM on August 25, 2015

My cardinal rule is: Power Point is for PRESENTATIONS. Not. For. PRINTING.

I don't know if you have seen this, but 90% of the presentations I have seen come with a boring-as-hell printout of every freaking slide.

When people plan to give out a printout of the slides, they create huge limitations for themselves, by which I mean, the horribly boring slide printout people give out is exactly the reason why they have to write complete sentences, cannot use smooth transitions, and generally design the presentation like it's a textbook. A printout will not work if you have superimposed text, or if you have timed different items of the presentation to show up at different stages of your speech.

If you want to provide the audience with printed material, work on that separately. Then you will have all the freedom in the world to use PowerPoint for its actual purpose.
posted by Tarumba at 5:52 AM on August 26, 2015 [2 favorites]

PS I work in Public Health training so I really do need to add text and specific information to my presentations - it's hard to discuss new regulations with just a picture on the screen, but I also make an effort to write the minimum amount of text necessary to make new directives memorable.

I guess what I am trying to say is the "no words" rule might work in some fields, but not in all of them.
posted by Tarumba at 5:59 AM on August 26, 2015

Some words, please, for the people in your audience who have hearing loss, so they can at least sort of keep track of where you are and what you're saying.

And never, ever say "I'll let you read what's on this slide". Don't put info on a slide that you don't also share verbally. Yes, it might be a long quote, but if it's important for your audience to understand it, read it all out. For the people with sight loss.

Never assume that everyone in your audience can see and hear what you are doing.
posted by Helga-woo at 5:42 AM on August 27, 2015

I like to think I'm pretty good at making good looking presentations and I would say it's easier than you think with Keynote on any Mac. Looking at that entire presentation you can replicate it with just a few steps:

1. Create a new blank presentation (the default black/white theme is fine).

2. Download an image from Flickr's CC search for each of your slides, plop it onto the deck, resize so it's full screen.

3. Draw a box filled with black, tweak the settings to give it 50% opacity or so, then put a few words of text on top in white.

4. Move the text and opaque box around the slide to what looks best. Repeat.

I wrote a bit more in my Medium piece on giving presentations, the part on visuals covers this ground.
posted by mathowie at 1:45 PM on August 27, 2015 [3 favorites]

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