- Use large fonts. The beamer will probably have a low resolution (you might still come across a 800×600!) and people need to read at a glance. 30 points minimum.
- Don’t use Serif fonts. (Like Times: the fonts with the small hooks at the ends.) They were designed for legibility and space saving in print. Print is very high resolution, you want to save paper and ink because they cost money. In PowerPoint, paper and ink are free: go for a Sans Serif!
- To sum it up: 30 points or larger Sans Serif. E.g., Helvetica, Arial, Verdana, Lucida.
…but sometimes, to make an impact, you have to break the rules. Sometimes, much larger, frivolous or very stern fonts can set the tone. Just be very sure why you would break the rules, understand the drawbacks, and please… don’t ever use more than two different fonts!
I have seen presentations in Courier and Mistral where it worked very well. Usually, though, it’s a terrible idea.
If your bullets don’t fit with the 30 point minimum, by the way, that’s a major clue there’s too much text on your slide.
FAIL #1: Using the same deck for in-person presentations and for email
Garr Reynolds was one of Steve Jobs’ presentation trainers. On his bookPresentation Zen, he introduces the term presdoc. A presdoc is a hybrid between a presentation and a text document that serves neither purpose well… it has too much text to be a proper presentation, and to few text to be a readable, understandable document.
If you are standing in front of your slides there’s no need to type everything you are about to say. It distracts your audience, because they can’t hear you and read at the same time. If you intend to present, make sure that your slides simply complement and reinforce your point.
You can’t always present in person, in these cases an alternative may be an email-presentation. These decks contain much more data than an actual presentation, but shouldn’t be a replacement to an actual text doc.
A couple rules to keep in mind are:
- Make sure that the font size doesn’t go below 12pts.
- Stick to one idea per slide. More slides is not necessarily bad, as long as you don’t go over 50 or so.
The most important thing here is, don’t use the same presentation to email and to present, make (at least) two separate documents.
by Garr Reynolds
1. Keep it Simple
PowerPoint uses slides with a horizontal or “Landscape” orientation. The software was designed as a convenient way to display graphical information that would support the speaker and supplement the presentation. The slides themselves were never meant to be the “star of the show” (the star, of course, is your audience). People came to hear you and be moved or informed (or both) by you and your message. Don’t let your message and your ability to tell a story get derailed by slides that are unnecessarily complicated, busy, or full of what Edward Tufte calls “chart junk.” Nothing in your slide should be superfluous, ever.
Your slides should have plenty of “white space” or “negative space.” Do not feel compelled to fill empty areas on your slide with your logo or other unnecessary graphics or text boxes that do not contribute to better understanding. The less clutter you have on your slide, the more powerful your visual message will become.