40 Ways to Screw Up a PowerPoint Slide

Bad PowerPoint design may be just as detrimental to your presentation as smelling like a horse. When you have poorly designed slides, a few things happen: your professionalism is questioned (because you essentially tell the people looking at your PowerPoint that you don’t know how to create professional work); your audience members get distracted as they toggle between looking at your bad design and listen to what you’re actually saying (and, in the end, they don’t really ingest either); and your audience just gets bored or annoyed–which is about the worst possible outcome when presenting.

Obviously, there are a number of great ways to design PowerPoint slides. Keep them simple, use lots of pictures, and pick an effective typeface. But there are dozens of ways to screw up a PowerPoint slide. Avoid the “screw up” list below and you should feel much more comfortable knowing that your slides don’t fall under the bad design umbrella.

40 Ways to Screw Up a PowerPoint Slide (Infographic)

7 thoughts on “40 Ways to Screw Up a PowerPoint Slide

  • September 11, 2014 at 10:02 am

    Great tips and nice presentation!
    Intelligent and humorous!

  • September 20, 2014 at 5:15 am

    Nice ideas but…. what’s wrong with Comic Sans? 🙁

  • September 25, 2014 at 10:25 am

    Love your blog. I’ll be blogging about you so I can get the news out there about good visual design. Thanks for sharing this wealth of important information!

    By the way, to the previous person who asked what’s wrong with Comic Sans, nothing. You and I both like the font. Have been educated that it should be used sparingly and not in a professional environment; not in an office setting nor in a presentation. But, you can still love the font.

    FYI, perhaps you were aware of the BIG fight on twitter one year about Comic Sans. That is when I learned that so many people hate the font; the majority were professionals.

  • September 29, 2014 at 8:22 am

    These are great (except tabular data – I love tabular data!). Would love this as in .ppt format!

  • October 3, 2014 at 8:53 am

    A pretty comprehensive list of things to avoid… although I am with Robin on tabular data. It can make a point very clearly, but of course the contents of the table have to be well designed and you can’t just replicate a table designed for printing.

    What’s your precise issue on the “watermarks” slide? The copyright attribution on the image? Or just having text over a faded image? That’s the only one that wasn’t clear to me. Usually I think of watermarking as superimposing a logo or text subtly over the image. I’m all for including copyright information, non-obtrusively.

    • October 3, 2014 at 4:42 pm

      Great points, Kate! You’re right, if you’re careful and you plan and design, tabular data can work. What often happens, though, especially with scientific or business presentations, is that a screen gets covered in numbers with no clear correlations or comparisons. It’s often best to visualize the information in a way that the audience can make immediate connections with the information.

      As for watermarks, they create visual noise, which often makes reading text difficult. They also have a tendency, if done incorrectly, to look like pixilated images, which detracts from a professional presentation.

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