In the right hands it can be a great tool for sharing insights and compelling stories
Much maligned but hugely successful
It’s been called everything from ‘Lazy’ to ‘Evil’, has a reputation for instilling dread and mind-numbing boredom on its audiences, and is felt by many to be the antithesis of a creative output. But some 30 years after it first appeared, this ubiquitous tool of research agency life not only refuses to die, it remains an essential part of our creative portfolio.
But PowerPoint is often slated by clients who call for more creative and engaging outputs. As a willing and creative bunch we showcase of our best examples of video outputs, websites, infographics, posters and more in our proposals and pitches. But in reality rarely is there the time or the willingness from clients to invest in these more engaging outputs that clients demand.
And so we return to PowerPoint – it’s fast, low-cost, easily shareable and sitting right in front of us. At TMc we don’t see this as curtailing our imagination – the challenge of designing a compelling and impactful deck in PowerPoint is a challenge many of us relish. But can a PPT deck be truly creative and engaging?
A bad workman blames his…
From Microsoft’s built-in templates to the shocking state of most of the content on Slideshare, it’s easy to see why PowerPoint has a bad reputation. So are these eyesores really the fault of Microsoft’s humble presentation tool? Of course, the answer is mostly no. Years of bad habits, crappy design skills and limited vision of its users are most at fault. The capabilities of PowerPoint are far greater than many clients appreciate and it should be our job to show our clients not only what we can do apart from PowerPoint, but just how good we can make the humble slide deck.
Our top 10 tips for changing views of PPT
Here are our top 10 tips for making your clients and stakeholders re-evaluate the impact PowerPoint can have:
1. Start with a blank canvas and story to tell.
PowerPoint is not a form to complete where you have to fill in the appropriate number of bullet points, data charts, headings, etc to fill up a page. Know the key points you want to get across and come up with your ideal way of communicating them – in most cases PowerPoint can help you achieve your vision.
2. Don’t default.
Unless you want your deck to look like every other PowerPoint output then stay away from Microsoft’s own templates, default charts, fonts, bullet formats, speech bubbles and SmartArt. Be original if you want your message to be fresh
3. Build a fresh library of consistent assets.
Source photos, fonts and icons from outside of PowerPoint. Using assets from outside of PowerPoint will stop your decks looking like every other PPT. Sourcing content from the same designer or library will help you create a consistent look and an identifiable visual identity.
4. Out with the old.
And whilst you’re creating your library of assets, ditch all the old clipart, 3D bubble men images and dated photography (pebbles on a beach, office workers high-fiving, cork pinboards, etc) that you’ve collected over the years. You don’t want those bad habits of old to make their way to the next generation of outputs
5. More slides less noise.
More slides with less content on each is better at telling a story with a clear message than setting arbitrary slide limits which result in slides crammed with content and noise. This runs counter to the ‘just give me the 10 slide summary’ that many call for but it’s a better way to tell a story
6. A picture can tell…
Your deck shouldn’t be a transcript of your presentation written in bullet point form with supporting charts. Use photos, videos, icons and infographic elements to support your story, it will make your story more intuitive and memorable
7. Go non-linear.
The rigid and monotonous flow of PowerPoint presentations has often been a criticism. The new Zoom (Insert>Zoom) feature is a great option for adapting to the flow of your presentation to your audiences’ needs on the day. Jump to the most relevant sections of your presentation with nice dynamic animations
8. Go off-piste with client templates.
Despite creating a great looking toolkit we don’t always get to use it in full as clients often insist we use their templates. Client templates are typically the worst examples of PowerPoint (4:3 resolution, Arial font throughout, small font-size, default chart formats, etc) but many clients will be open to you improving what they do as long as you keep it on-brand. It will only look good for them if they have a fresh new presentation that looks better than other departments
9. Try out the new features and hack away.
PowerPoint is a lot more versatile than many people realise and is launching new features regularly. Dashboards, animated videos, slick infographics and interactive stories - PowerPoint can do all this and more
10. Build a library of the best.
Whilst its best to avoid rigid templates it’s still good to learn from best practice. At TMc we have built a PPT ‘toolkit’ that numbers over 100 different design formats to ensure we have variety and we add to this regularly, encouraging the team to share their latest creative examples
In the right hands right hands PowerPoint can be a truly creative, versatile and engaging tool for sharing stories, inspiring audiences and having an impact within a business. If you can’t achieve this you should be looking beyond PowerPoint as the problem.
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