An attorney asks you to create PowerPoint slides to use in mediation or trial. Or you offer to teach a lunch and learn at a law firm or a topic at a conference. Here’s how to make your slides shine.
1. Learn how to use the slide master to create a uniform format for the slides. This feature allows you to pick a font, center titles on a slide, select fonts for headers, and set up a footer with page numbers. This one tip will save you hours of editing.
2. Use readable fonts such as Arial, Tahoma or Verdana. They should be readable at a distance of about 20 feet. Use one font throughout the slides. Avoid script fonts or other non-standard fonts. You may think they look artistic but your audience will find them hard to read.
3. Color combinations are crucial for visibility. Use one of these combinations: black or dark letters on white background, black letters on yellow background, or white letters on black or dark blue background. Consider the room where the PowerPoint will be shown. Will it be darkened or light? That knowledge directs your color combination.
4. Warm colors draw attention to an important point. Red, orange, green and yellow are effective but use them sparingly. Cool colors, such as violet, blue or green are useful for backgrounds.
5. Avoid slides filled with bullet points. Instead, use images, diagrams, charts, or graphs to convey concepts. You can find many sources of free images or low cost images on the internet. This is my go to site, which I use all the time for a huge variety of images. *
6. Never download images from a Google search without verifying that the image is not copyrighted. You will be VERY sorry if you get caught.
7. Avoid clip art, which looks dated. Use modern icons.
8. Crop images to allow the viewer to see the important part of the image. Use the free tool on your computer or download Paint.net for a simple editing program.
Read the Paint.net download page carefully and make sure you are downloading the program and not something else on the page. This page is a little confusing unless you are careful.
9. Keep the slide layout simple. Avoid busy designs with too many images on the slide, which will overwhelm your audience.
10. Align words and images. Avoid centering an image, with a title over it. (This is visually uninteresting.)
11. Observe the direction of the image when placing words next to it. For example, if the image has a photograph of a person turned to one side, the direction of the image should lead to the text instead of to a blank area. Look at the slide at the top of this blog post and see how the hand points towards the words.
12. Use a variety of slide layouts. These are some choices:
a. Place the title at the top of the slide and fill the rest with an image.
b. Use a full slide image and superimpose words onto the image.
c. Fill one side of the slide, top to bottom, with an image, and use the other part for words.
d. Place text in the upper left and an image in the lower right of the slide.
13. Avoid using anything but conservative animations. Words that appear on a click are fine. Words that bounce on the screen, drop from the top, twirl around or explode into pixels may not be acceptable to the judge who reviews the PowerPoint in advance of a trial. And they will make you look like a teenager.
14. Add polish to the slides with semitransparent boxes to draw attention to words or hold the content of a slide together.
15. Format photographs to add subtle shadows.
16. Create a slide library so that you can reuse slides in future presentations.
17. Proofread your presentation. Ask another person to proofread it also. Nothing like seeing an embarrassing typo in big letters.
* Affiliate link, because I love it. I may earn a small commission if you sign up for this site.
Pat Iyer has created thousands of slides over the years. Her early slides make her cringe and she constantly works to improve her slides. She’s found Ellen Finkelstein to be a great resource for slide design concepts and appreciates the knowledge she shared in Slide Design for Non-Designers, available on changetheworldmarketing.com. Pat drew on some of Ellen’s recommendations to create this post.