17 PowerPoint Presentation Tips to Make More Creative Slideshows [+ Templates]

Is there anything more dreadful than a dull, ugly PowerPoint presentation? You know the kind – crammed with cheesy clip art, walls of text in garish colors, and corny transitions that leave the audience cringing. It‘s no wonder people joke about "death by PowerPoint"!

But it doesn‘t have to be this way. Well-designed slides are a powerful tool for engaging your audience, communicating your message memorably, and achieving your presentation goals. Consider these statistics:

  • Over 500 million users rely on PowerPoint for their presentations, from classrooms to boardrooms
  • 91% of presenters feel more confident when they believe their PowerPoint slidedeck looks attractive
  • Presentations with visual aids are 43% more persuasive than those without

As presentation expert Nancy Duarte says, "Design isn‘t an afterthought for your presentation – it IS your presentation." A bad visual experience can lose your audience, while great design enhances your credibility and authority from the moment you start speaking.

The good news is, anyone can create more creative, captivating PowerPoints by applying a few simple design tips and tricks. You don‘t have to be a professional designer – just follow the proven techniques below and take advantage of the many tools PowerPoint provides to level-up your slide decks.

Your audiences will thank you – and you might even start looking forward to creating presentations! Let‘s dive in.

1. Keep slides simple and minimalistic

One of the most common PowerPoint mistakes is trying to cram too much information onto each slide. Cluttered, busy slides overload your audience and make it hard for them to identify your key points.

Instead, embrace simplicity and minimalism. Apply the 5/5/5 rule: No more than 5 words per line of text, 5 lines of text per slide, or 5 text-heavy slides in a row.

Here‘s a dramatic example of transforming a cluttered slide into a clean, minimalist design:

Example of a cluttered slide transformed into a minimalist design

See how much easier the streamlined version on the right is to process? Aim for ample white space, large text, and only 1-2 ideas per slide max. If you need to communicate more details, use subsequent slides to build on your main point.

2. Use a consistent theme, colors and fonts

Random colors, clashing fonts, and disconnected styles from slide to slide are another big distraction for audiences. Rein things in by establishing a cohesive theme across your entire PowerPoint deck.

Start by selecting just 2-3 key colors for backgrounds, text, and accents. Use a tool like Adobe Color or Coolors to find a professional palette that reflects your presentation‘s tone and topic.

Limit yourself to 2-3 fonts max as well, assigning specific roles like headers or body text. Sans-serif fonts tend to be easiest to read on screens. Avoid the default PowerPoint themes and aim for a unique but clean aesthetic, like this example:

Slides with consistent color and font theme

Notice how much more polished and professional the right slides look compared to the mismatched mess on the left? Presenters who use a consistent template are rated as 36% more professional than those who don‘t.

3. Incorporate impactful images and visuals

Powerful visuals are the fastest way to capture attention, communicate abstract ideas, and make your PowerPoint more memorable. In fact, people remember 55% more of a presentation when it contains striking images compared to one that‘s only text.

Look for relevant photos, illustrations, charts, diagrams, and even GIFs or videos that enhance your key points. Ensure all visuals are high-resolution so they appear crisp on a large screen.

Arrange images thoughtfully on your slides – try full-bleed background photos with text overlay boxes for titles. Icons are another great way to make your slides visually interesting while keeping them clean, as seen in this example:

Slides using icons to visualize concepts

When selecting images, avoid cheesy stock photos and overused clip art – they cheapen your presentation. If you‘re on a budget, source professional-looking visuals from free stock sites like Unsplash, Pexels, and Flaticon.

4. Maximize use of tools and features in PowerPoint

Don‘t ignore PowerPoint‘s built-in design tools – they‘ve come a long way! A few key ones to utilize:

Slide Masters: Edit the master to set the background, color scheme, fonts, and positioning for all your slides at once. Then just add content to each slide while maintaining a consistent look.

Alignment Tools: Nothing makes a slide look sloppier than elements that aren‘t lined up. Use PowerPoint‘s alignment guides and distribution tools to perfectly position text boxes, images, and more.

Design Ideas: If you‘re short on inspiration, this feature auto-generates multiple layout options for the content on your slide. Browse through the suggestions and customize one you like.

Animations: When used strategically, animations can draw attention to important points and inject visual interest. Stick to simple fades and wipes to avoid cheesiness.

Advanced users can explore even more tools like Merge Shapes to create custom graphics and icons right within PowerPoint. SmartArt is another handy feature for making infographics and stylized lists.

5. Explore templates for inspiration or a starting point

Still feeling stuck? Luckily you don‘t have to start from a blank slate. There are thousands of creative PowerPoint templates out there – both free and premium – that you can use for inspiration or as a jumping off point.

Some of the best resources for high-quality PowerPoint templates include:

  • SlideModel – Huge selection of modern templates for every industry
  • Envato Elements – Unlimited downloads of professional templates with a subscription
  • Canva – Fun, eye-catching free presentation templates
  • HubSpot – Minimalist templates in several categories

The key is to make templates your own rather than using them as-is. Customize the colors, fonts, and images to match your brand. Add in your content and change up the slide layouts to fit your flow.

Here‘s an example of how one simple template can be adapted for two very different topics:

Same PowerPoint template customized for 2 different topics

By starting with a professionally designed foundation and then personalizing it, you can create a totally unique presentation without spending hours pushing pixels around.

Bonus: Advanced PowerPoint Design Tips

Ready to take your PowerPoint designs even further? Try these pro tips:

Apply classic design principles – Use contrast, repetition, alignment, and proximity to guide the layout of your slides. A strong composition makes your message easier to follow.

Get creative with shapes – PowerPoint‘s shape tools have a lot of untapped potential for creating unique illustrations, diagrams, timelines, and more. Combine basic shapes into custom designs right within the app.

Experiment with aspect ratios – Break out of the standard size and try a wider 16:9 presentation layout. You‘ll have more room for compelling visuals and the unique format will make you stand out.

Visualize data effectively – Charts and graphs are only impactful if they‘re easy to interpret quickly. Avoid 3D effects, overly complicated charts, and decimal-place overload. Label data clearly and highlight key takeaways.

Create interactive elements – Add internal links to let users jump to different sections. Embed web pages for live demos. Use PowerPoint‘s zoom and morph transitions to create a prezi-style infinite canvas effect.

Conclusion

Creative PowerPoint design isn‘t about packing in the most animations, images, and colors. It‘s about strategically using design to amplify your message and make it stick in your audience‘s minds.

The tips in this post will help you do exactly that. By keeping your slides simple, consistent, visual, and well-laid out, you‘ll win the battle for your audience‘s attention – which is half the struggle of any presentation.

Best of all, these techniques don‘t require you to be a creative genius. Take advantage of the tools and templates PowerPoint provides, then customize them to infuse your own personality and flair.

The more you flex your PowerPoint design muscles, the more intuitive it will become, and the more you‘ll be able to focus on knocking your presentation itself out of the park.

So open up a new slide deck and start experimenting! With a little effort and these strategies in your back pocket, you‘ll be the presenter everyone else wants to emulate.

Your move, PowerPoint.