Presentations have always been a part of business meetings, but for quite a few years now, PowerPoint has been the most common presentation medium. Oh, the more traditional whiteboard and the venerable easel, pad and marker are still around, and probably will be for a long time to come. But PPT, for now, reigns supreme.
Creating a Custom Look
Microsoft Office, just as you buy it on a disk or download it, has a big library of slide show templates, suitable for most any type of report or presentation. These see a lot of use, though; since they’re already on an MS Office-equipped computer, there are many, many people who use them, and then pass them on to their associates, who use them and pass them on further… You get the idea. If you want a fresh, custom look – one that isn’t likely to get people thinking “been there; seen that” within the first few slides – downloading PowerPoint slide themes from a provider other than Microsoft is a smart move.
How to Find, Choose and Use PowerPoint Slide Themes
A simple online search for “PowerPoint slide themes,” “ppt background” or something similar will net you literally a million results or more. Just because they’re so simple to find, though, doesn’t meant that you can just click on a site at random and expect to find the perfect theme – the one that’s going to make your next presentation an out-of-the-park success. Here are a few fast tips on how to select and use ppt backgrounds and themes effectively:
▪ Use color sparingly, use white space well
Color is great and can be used very effectively to create or contribute to a mood, emphasize important points and so on. It can be badly over-used, though – making a slide or whole presentation look cheap, gaudy and unprofessional (if not just plain ridiculous).
Another aspect of color use is actually its reverse: white space use. A slide with plenty of white space looks “open.” It’s easy to look at. It makes the words and images on the screen stand out and helps focus attention where you want it focused.
Using contrasting colors (in graphic elements and text, for example) can be very effective. If you plan to print out your presentation as a handout, or for later quick reference, be careful about the colors you choose. Some colors look great and stand out well against each other on the screen, but turn to mud or worse when printed (especially when printed in black and white). And for printing purposes, dark-color backgrounds can be a real disaster to try to read, as well as very expensive in terms of ink/toner use!
▪ Keep background images to a minimum
Used wisely, background images can enrich a presentation and forward its message quite effectively. However, if they’re too “loud,” they can also be a major distraction – exactly what you don’t want. To avoid this, use a subtle background, such as one that is translucent or a “watermark.” It’s also usually best to choose a stationary background image instead of one that’s animated. Though animated backgrounds do have their uses, motion easily catches the eye and pulls attention, stealing focus from the message you’re working so hard to convey.
▪ Avoid file-heavy backgrounds
Although most PowerPoint slide themes are compacted for easy loading, an elaborate and “heavy” (large file size) template, when used in a slide that also contains large-file graphics, photos, video, animation or other hefty elements, could end up slowing your whole presentation as the computer struggles to load the big slides. Unless you enjoy the sensation of embarrassment, or have some great jokes to keep people entertained when your presentation freezes up, fat files should be avoided! And remember – even if your own hot new computer can handle the load, there’s always the chance that you’ll end up having to use someone else’s not-so-hot machine, come presentation day.