I can’t remember the last time I gave a PowerPoint presentation, so when a client requested a slide deck for a webinar, I thought I’d do a quick search on the latest and greatest PowerPoint presentation design tips.

Here’s what I found.

Microsoft PowerPoint launched on May 22, 1990 as part of its Microsoft Office suite.  And even after 27 years, you still groan whenever you see a presentation that looks like this:

ugly powerpoint presentation design

Maybe your presentations aren’t quite this bad – perhaps this is a bit closer to home:

But this isn’t really what you want your presentation slide to look like either. You’d think that after nearly 30 years that we would have figured out this PowerPoint presentation thing.

After all, giving updates, persuading and educating a group of people aren’t going away anytime soon.

How to Build a Killer PowerPoint Presentation Even Though You’re Not a Designer

You can do this!

It’s true, you don’t have to be a designer (although that certainly helps). Just follow these basic design principles and you’ll get your message across to your audience.

[pullquote align=”normal” cite=”Ivana Taylor”]Great communication is all about getting the message from YOUR head to THEIR head.[/pullquote]

Don’t use a built-in theme

When you open PowerPoint, choose the “blank presentation” option! These themes have gotten much better over the years, but for some reason — they still suck.   You are better off using a plain white background with simple black lettering than using their themes.

how to layout powerpoint slides

Another benefit of using the blank theme is that it frees you up to follow the rest of these recommendations.

Use a thin, sans-serif font

presentation design tips for smart phones

Thin fonts are popular now.

You’ve probably seen the change on websites and on your phone. There’s a reason that you’re seeing thinner fonts on your phone. With the increased use of mobile phones, which have small screens, all aspects of design need to take up as little space as possible. Unfortunately, this sometimes comes at the cost of legibility. For a presentation, test your font at the back of the room and consider the needs of people who are older.

Use thin borders and lines

The “thin” principle applies to borders and lines, too. If you have a border around an image, make it thin. If you use a rectangle, make its outline thin. This will appear more elegant–and modern.

Use a flat design

Flat design was popularized partly by the Microsoft Windows desktop, which features a grid of icon, the grid look is an example of flat design. Basically, flat means no reflections, highlights, or shadows, which give a 3D look.

powerpoint design showing flat design

Use richer, mid-range colors

Faded colors are less likely to look modern. They look great in some cases, but you’ll see more of the richer, saturated, complex colors plus grays and taupes.

Use lots of white space

White space means unused space. Of course, if your slide background is black, the unused space won’t be white, but you get the point.

Filling up your slides with lots of stuff won’t look modern. Less is more. Think minimalist. Remember that the more you put on your slides, the less people pay attention to you.

presentation slide design transition headline

Use large images

Small images tend to look old-fashioned and larger images are more bold and powerful. Images should be relevant to your point and not just for decoration. Their point is to help the audience understand and remember what you’ve said– and sometimes to be persuasive.

Not sure which images to use? Here are some tips:

Place some images against the edges of the slides

Putting images against the edges of the slides makes them look more modern. I think it’s because when you put an image in the middle of a slide, that creates 4 edges but when you put an image against the edges of a slide, you don’t see those image edges as an extra element.

Use clean icons 

Remember the ugly clip art of the 1980s? Not modern! But a new trend is icons, but they’re clearer and cleaner. By clean, I mean they don’t have a lot of extraneous lines in them.

using good images for presentation design

Select Real-Life Images

Have you noticed that some images on websites, blogs and presentations have gotten more beautiful and some have gotten uglier.  That’s because the trend has moved toward more realistic images.   In fact, using your mobile phone’s camera and a few simple filters is actually preferred to stock photography.

The good news is that even stock photos have gone in this direction. So, if you’re like me and don’t consider yourself a great photographer, you’ll have lots of options.

For great free photos check out:


presentation design images from pixel


powerpoint presentation background image


images you can use in your presentation

Minimize text and select a focal point

When you have a lot of text on your PowerPoint slides, people read the slides. While they’re reading, they can’t easily listen to you. In fact, your voice is annoying because it’s interfering with them reading. People hate this. It’s not hard to divide up one text-heavy slide into multiple slides.

But it isn’t only text. You don’t want your slides to be full of charts either. Put one chart on a slide as a focal point (unless you need to compare data) and simplify charts as much as possible so that the point leaps out at the audience.

These days are are so many data visualization options and template designs. My favorite choices are Canva or Visme.  Both are simple drag and drop image creators that offer lots of professionally designed templates to help you tell your story.

Use the Tell ‘n’ Show Method to Connect with the Audience

Your audience wants to be told what’s happening.  Use a visual hierarchy to tell your story and then tell your audience exactly what you want them to get out of the presentation or slide you are showing.Then support your point with an image, chart, or diagram.

It’s just like the boy’s picture book–one side tells the story and the other shows it with a BIG picture. The slide itself follows the Tell ‘n’ ShowSM method, too, with a title that tells the point and an image that shows it.

No Bullets!

I know that you sometimes need some text on a slide, but after removing as much as possible (remember that you don’t need to put everything you say on the slide), try to find a way to remove bullet points. Bullets look boring and old-fashioned.

Sometimes, you can just select the text and click the Bullets button on the Home tab to get rid of them, but if that’s too confusing, use SmartArt. Click the Convert to SmartArt button and choose a layout that is simple and makes your text clear. It will look more modern! (source: EllenFinkelstein.com)

Use Animations and interactivity to Communicate

Stop with the layering and the distracting transitions.  Instead, use interactivity features to bring engagement to your visual presentation.

This is one area where PowerPoint presentations fail.

If you’d like to add animations or interactivity to your presentation, I’d recommend a tool like Visme.

visme presentation designs offer animation

Visme.co  now offers artificial intelligence features that make adding interactivity even easier.

You can point and click to add features like mouse-overs, have sections of charts pop up so that your audience can take the time to process the information and slide by clicking.


When it comes to good PowerPoint design, it’s no longer an all or nothing proposition.  You don’t have to default to the standard PowerPoint templates or slide layout for your next pitch deck.

Instead, focus on your audience, keep your PowerPoint presentation designs simple and stay on message.

For a killer presentation outline, check out this article on how to create a winning sales presentation.