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Nov 01 2008

PowerPoint Design Principle #1: Consistency

Category: Design Tipspptninja @ 7:27 pm

Are your slides consistent like clockwork? (c)iStockphoto/Sabrina Dei Nobili

Too frequently business presentations resemble a rough mishmash of different colors, fonts, and formats. If these slides were a meal, the variety of options on your plate would leave you with some level of indigestion. If you want to enhance the professional look and feel of your slides, you should ensure they are consistent.

The famous playwright Oscar Wilde once said, “Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative”. By saying that your slides need to need to be consistent, I do not mean limiting creativity. Instead, it is about reducing the unnecessary noise in your PowerPoint slides. The inconsistency that I recommend eliminating from your business presentations is the unintentional oversights in your PowerPoint design, not deliberate ones that are designed to emphasize a key point or concept. I have identified five areas of presentation design that can benefit from greater consistency.

  1. Colors: You don’t want to use every color in the rainbow in your slides. Your presentation will look more professional if you limit yourself to only using a subset of colors consistently throughout your slides. If your PowerPoint template is well-designed, you can leverage its built-in theme colors.
  2. Fonts: There are more than 200 fonts in Microsoft Office 2007, but your presentation slides shouldn’t include more than three of them in one slide deck. If too many fonts are used in one PowerPoint presentation, they can become a distraction and dilute the effectiveness of your message. If you’re using multiple fonts, try to use them the same way throughout your slides (e.g., body text, text boxes, slide titles, etc.).
  3. Images: Some business presentations can end up looking like misguided elementary school collages. When you’re looking to use several images throughout your business presentation, you can improve its professional look and feel by choosing pictures and clip art that are similar in style. You may also want to consider repeating a particular graphic throughout a presentation rather than using multiple images to represent the same point or concept.

    Only the fourth image matches the same style of the first image.

    If you were already using the image on the left and needed another business person image, only the far-right image matches its style.

  4. Formatting: Consistent formatting can be a real problem when you’re incorporating slides from someone else at your company. A business presentation can look disjointed and less professional when a presenter doesn’t take the necessary time to clean up the formatting. In order to improve the professional polish of your presentation design, you need to invest some time in making sure that the formatting of fonts, images, bullet points, animations, backgrounds, etc. is consistent.
  5. Content: As you build out your content, you may want to consider using a consistent approach or structure. For example, if you’re examining several problems at your company, you may want to follow a uniform approach as you present your findings (e.g., problem description, analysis, recommendations). In terms of content consistency, I am not advocating that all slide content look the same. As an example, what I am encouraging is using bullet points in a consistent manner on the slides where that approach is used.

By diligently focusing on the consistency of your PowerPoint slides in these key areas, you can vastly improve the professional image and polish of your business presentations. Rather than distracting audiences with unwanted noise, being mindful of the consistency principle will enable you to create presentations that communicate more clearly and effectively.

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