Don’t feed the chameleons

Sometimes (I am sure that my colleagues at work would even say often) crafting a business presentation is considered a last-minute job. And when there’s little time left for being creative yourself, it’s tempting to rely upon material that others have created before you. Nothing as easy as making a slide deck by cutting and pasting slides from existing PowerPoints into yours.

Should it be a surprise that 99% of these cut‘n’paste slideshows look like chameleons, that change colors, fonts and layout with every slide transition?


Read my words: look and feel do matter! If you want your audience to perceive you as a professional, then never compromise on the layout of your visuals.

  • Real estate: Don’t overdo. Beware of creating slideuments. Apply the same template to all slides. Use plenty of white space. Limit the amount of bulleted slides as well as bullets per page.
  • Colors should contrast with the background. Don’t put together too many colors on one screen. Avoid using red text on a white or black background. Use tools such as Shyam Pillai’s add-in to select and customize your PowerPoint color schemes.
  • Fonts must be readable from the back of the room. Be consistent in style throughout the whole deck. Don’t mix too many typefaces. Avoid script fonts. Bold and italic are good to emphasize text, underline isn’t.
  • Images are there to complement or emphasize your message. Don’t insert standard clip art that adds no extra value (we all know the man climbing a bar chart, don’t we?) Avoid mixing line art and photos.
  • Vocabulary: Consequently use the same terminology everywhere. Beware of acronyms and abbreviations. Don’t use jargon or slang.

So next time you need to build a business presentation, start well in advance and take your time to tune each slide. Don’t take existing material for granted. Be creative. Be consistent. Be professional.

And if you have some time left, take a look at the blog posts below:


4 thoughts on “Don’t feed the chameleons

  1. Great points, Marc.

    On the subject of fonts, I came across this deck by Ethos3 that says all the right things, but then doesn’t actually do them itself, so I’d be interested to know your thoughts on it. (Please see my comment below it on SlideShare.)

    And on the subject of vocabulary, even a word as innocent (and as vital in a talk) as “you” can often be misused. Please see the 2nd callout quote here:

    • Craig. Yes, sometimes it’s more difficult to apply the rules than to invent or present them ;-) We all have to make compromises on content and style.
      As an example, when I am delivering speaker training, some of my slides are a bit overloaded with text too. So, at the beginning of the session I show a painting by my compatriot René Magritte, displaying a pipe and the text “ceci n’est pas une pipe” — my training slides are not equal to public presentation slides..

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