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6 Reasons Why Your PowerPoint Presentations (Still) Look Boring

Wednesday, September 28, 2016
posted by Geetesh on 9:30 AM IST

You must have something important to present. Otherwise; why bother giving the presentation in the first place? And as such, you probably have prepared the content of your message well. And you might have even prepared a PowerPoint presentation to accompany your talk. But does it stand out? Does it do justice to the point you want to bring across?

Or do your PowerPoint slides bring your talk down by being dull and boring?

Whenever you are in doubt about the visual impact of your slides, and there is this lingering thought somewhere “Hmm… these slides don't excite me… Could I have done better?”, please read on. I might have some clear pointers for you that your slides suffer from the most common pitfalls of boring slides. But don't worry, there are some easy ways even seasoned presenters use to fix these problems!

Why Do PowerPoint Presentations Look Boring?

If you yourself feel that your PowerPoint slides look boring, then don’t expect the audience to be too thrilled! Let us start by guessing why your presentation looks a lot less interesting than what you wanted.

For starters, are the backgrounds of your PowerPoint slides just plain white with black or even dark blue text? Is the typeface used either Arial, Verdana or Calibri? OK, there’s a predictable title on the top, and most of the slides have around 4 to 8 bullet points.

Sure, it could have been much worse, with unreadable yellow text on white backgrounds, but your slides are probably not really inspiring.

Your PowerPoint slides should help to hold the attention of your audience, keep them engaged, and on-track.

Let’s face the facts. Your presentation looks boring because 9 out of 10 PowerPoint presentations look eerily similar to the ones you are presenting. You do realize that this is a sad state of affairs for your audience, and they will not be delighted. They will be bored, again!

Well, now that you have consciousness of problems in your deck, here are six ways that show how you can fix these problems:

Fix 1: Don’t Use Default Fonts

Guess what, probably 95% of all PowerPoint presentations use either Arial, Verdana or Calibri typefaces. No, these are not survey findings but you will soon find it true if you look closely at the slides being created by others.

The solution, of course, is to use a different font.

You may get the best visual impact by using a non-default font on your computer. But you may run into problems if you share your presentation on other computers. Fortunately, you can find plenty of fonts that are installed on most computers, and are still not so widely used as Arial, Verdana or Calibri—think Corbel, Candara, Gill Sans MT, Georgia, and more.

Safe fonts
Surely you’ve seen a lot of these fonts before?
Image: Arnout Drenthel

Fix 2: Use Colored Slide Backgrounds

A white background with black or dark blue text is one of the best solutions for readability and a clean, ‘corporate’ look. But that’s exactly why everyone uses it!

The solution: One easy solution is to switch your backgrounds: make them dark (or use one of your corporate colors)—and then make your text white. That will give your slides extra visual impact since the dark background will allow your text to stand out.

Another advantage: Your slide won’t radiate as much white light. So it will be easier for your audience to look at you, instead of staring at your slide.

Colored slide backgrounds
Note that it is harder to let the white background can pop as much as the original red one!
Image: Arnout Drenthel

Fix 3: Use Original Slide Layouts

Most PowerPoint slides put a title on top and have one or two aligned blocks of content (usually text) below it.

The solution: Are those bullet points just there for your convenience, or do they really help the audience? Isn’t a good, short, clear title enough by itself? What if you just use a title, and place it at the bottom left, leaving a lot of empty space... wouldn’t that look better and clearer? Do experiment, and you will end up with more original slide layouts.

Use Original Slide Layouts
Why should titles be on the top of a slide?
Image: Arnout Drenthel

Fix 4: Don’t Use Too Many Words (and Bullet Points)

Slide after slide is filled with bullet points and text. So much so that PowerPoint automatically reduces the size of the text to fit all those words in.

Do you really think your audience wants to read all that text, while they’re also trying to listen to you?

The solution: There’s nothing wrong with a bulleted list where they help, but not on every slide!

Your slides shouldn’t just be a summary of your presentation. And you really don’t need to present 30 slides filled with lists!

Don’s Use Too Many Words
Use bulleted lists sparingly
Image: Arnout Drenthel

Fix 5: Don’t Use Mediocre Imagery

Poor-quality pictures won’t help your presentation.

The solution: Be critical of the quality of your photos. Choose high-resolution images, or opt for a different kind of slide.

And watch out for pictures that scream about their “we’ve seen you before” look. Clichéd photos that aren’t authentic (most stock photo sites are full of them) are a sure way to bore your audience. Do you really want to use another handshake or light bulb image? So if you use any images, make sure they’re high quality, fresh and attractive!

And you could consider making your own pictures. Most smartphones are capable of making high-quality photos and apply a nice filter. And I don’t mean you should just use your photos to fill in the blanks, but you can use them for all your photo slides. If you do that, it will also help you to get a more consistent style right through your presentation.

Fix 6: Don’t Add Footer Text on Every Slide

Although they don’t add anything to your compelling story, people often think that footer text on slides is a good idea. Well, everyone does it, don’t they? And we’re overloaded with unreadable small print. This takes up space!

The solution: Drop everything that has nothing to do with the main content of your presentation. Leave out all the footer text. For example, do slide numbers really add anything to your story? Think.

Just delete them or switch them off (Insert > Header & Footer). They’re barely readable (just like any other small text). And while you’re at it – and for the same reason – do you really need a logo on every slide…?

Does Your Presentation Look Similar To Your Colleague’s?

If you tend to wear your best suit for a presentation, making sure your hair and shoes are all looking good, you really should also take a good look at your slides. Don’t let them bring down your appearance and dull your audience.

So make sure your PowerPoint presentation doesn’t have that tired, ‘ordinary’ look. Dare to be different!

This blog post by Arnout Drenthel was first written in Dutch on the company blog of Bento Presentations. Arnout is a Dutch presentation consultant specializing in visual communication, and co-founder of Dutch presentation company, Bento Presentations. Bento creates professional presentations and coach and train public speakers in making and delivering powerful presentations themselves.

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