PowerPoint presentation basics
A little thought before you start creating your presentation can go a long way in keeping your frustration level low and will end up saving you a ton of time. You need to ask yourself a few key questions before you put 'pen to paper'.
Look here first to determine if you should be using a dark background with light text, or a light background with dark text.
After you've decided that, you should decide which font type to use. As you are primarily writing headers and/or bullet points in a large text you will find that a sans-serif font will usually be the easiest to read.
You are not writing a novel! The whole idea of a presentation is to highlight your main ideas, not write them down in excruciating detail. Get your bullet points down in the presentation, then put the details that you will talk about in the comment section of the presentation or on a separate document.
Use some images! That doesn't mean you should go nuts with filling each slide with multiple images, but a presentation is a visual form of communication. You're trying to keep your audience engaged, a presentation that is nothing but text can be, well, boring. A few strategically placed images or graphs can go a long way to getting your point across.
Use a large enough text. If you find yourself needing to reduce the font size to 18 points or less in order to fit everything you need to say on the screen you need to re-think what you're trying to get across. Remember, you're not writing down every word you're going to say. If you've got so many bullet points that you find yourself reducing the font size then you should try to break up the content into more slides. You're going to have people with a less than perfect vision looking at the screen, in a less than ideal environment. Overhead projectors sometimes aren't as clear and crisp as they should be, and background and ambient light levels can create additional problems. Make it easy for your audience!
Less is more. A cluttered slide is very distracting. A good presentation is a finely tuned balance between what your trying to show, and what you're trying to say. If you've got a slide that's completely cluttered with images and text you're going to start loosing your audience. They may just 'zone out' on you, or they may focus so much energy trying to figure out your slide that they stop listening to you.
Don't use animated gifs! Now, just in case you stopped paying attention there for a second, let me say one more time don't use animated gifs! OK, this might just be a personal peeve of mine, but animated gifs are usually really, really, really stupid. If you're trying to be funny, or find one that really helps you get your point across, well, I guess it would be all right. But trust me, you're going to drive your audience right out the door if you start including all kinds of moving characters that jump around all over the screen. There's nothing more distracting than a bunch of dancing bunnies, horse-riding-cowboys and singing fish going nuts on the screen while someone's trying to talk. Do yourself a favor and don't do it.
Watch out for multi-media inserts. Don't get me wrong, inserting an audio file or a movie into your presentation can actually be pretty cool. The problem is that I've seen these kinds of things not work correctly more often than they do. If you're going to use it make sure you know what kind of equipment you've got access to when your giving your presentation. Trying it out in advance is the best, if it's for an in-house presentation where you work set it up the day before and go through it to make sure you don't have any surprises.