How to create a consistent look when many sources are contributing slides to a presentation; Issue #210 May 18, 2010

PowerPoint Tip: How to create a consistent look when many sources are contributing slides to a presentation

In a recent workshop, one of the participants raised the challenge they have when assembling slides from different sources in the organization into one presentation. They said that often you can immediately tell that the presentation has been drawn from different sources just by the look of the slides, even though they are all using the corporate template.

I asked them what tips them off when they look at the slides and we came up with a list of items I want to share in this article. Look for these formatting and content aspects of your slides to make sure you create a presentation that looks consistent and not like it has been thrown together from different presentations.

Length of bullet points: When some slides use a few words and other slides use full sentences, it is easy to tell that the source is different. Aim for an average of six words per bullet point and make sure that it is just a key idea, not a transcript of what you will say.

Punctuation on bullet points: If some slides have bullet points that end with a period and other slides have no punctuation at the end of bullet points, it is a clear sign of an assembled presentation. I don’t think that periods are necessary at the end of bullet points because they aren’t supposed to be full sentences or paragraphs.

Capitalization: When some slides use Sentence case (only the first letter is capitalized) and some slide use Title Case (the first letter of every word is capitalized), it is a giveaway. I suggest using sentence case for headlines and body text because it is easier to read.

Titles vs. Headlines: Having some slides with a two or three word title and some slides with a proper headline of six to ten words gives it away. I suggest you write headlines for each slide that summarizes the key point you want the audience to get from this slide (that is why writing a headline is the first step in the five-step KWICK method in my book The Visual Slide Revolution).

Look of the graphics: Some contributors will use simple graphics and others will use fancy graphics with shading, edges, and other effects. Standardize on one look and make it as nice as possible without it looking gaudy.

Pictures vs. ClipArt: When some slides still contain outdated clip art and others use high impact photographs, the difference is apparent. Replace the clip art that screams “outdated information here” with current photographs that make an emotional impact.

By paying attention to these aspects of the visuals in your presentation that is assembled from different sources, you can work towards having one consistent look for the slides. Some organizations have taken this further and created a style guide that sets organizational standards for these and other elements that give visual consistency to all presentations.