Based on (1) feedback from friends and readers and (2) the fact that I’ve been creating a lot of presentations for clients, I’ve decided to spend the next several posts on some more PowerPoint tips. Some will seem familiar (my hatred of bullets, for example). But even the familiar ones will have new examples of dos and don’ts.
And if you have any other suggested PowerPoint topics, please send them my way.
First up, Back in Black.
I’ve mentioned this briefly in a couple of previous posts, but I have found that nearly every presentation that I create from scratch is based on a black background. Why? Maybe it’s personal taste. My car is black. My phone. My computer. My t-shirts. My dog.
But there’s more to it, I think.
1. Microsoft template colors are painfully ugly. So anything is better than what PowerPoint serves up. And no matter how much you like your organization’s pre-approved template, chances are your audience would rather see a black slide. Look at these examples…all the same slide but with a white, blue and black background. Which one looks the best?
2. Black doesn’t get old. Most colors age and fall in and out of fashion. Black will always be the new black.
3. Black is consistent across computers. PowerPoint colors look slightly different on different computers, whether they’re PCs or Macs. Black looks black. So you won’t open your slides on another computer and say “that looks different.”
4. White is blinding. And distracting. When you display a blank white slide in front of a group, everyone stares at it (and not you) waiting for you to fill it with content. White also creates an unmistakable square on the wall. So if you don’t fill it up with graphics, you feel like the slide is incomplete.
The borders of a black slide blend smoothly with the color of the screen you display your presentation on. So when a slide is blank, it simply looks like the projector is off, and the eyes in the room focus on you, not a blank screen. This allows you, the savvy presenter, to insert a few blank slides into your presentation when you want the audience to stop looking and start listening…like at the beginning and end of your presentation, or when you are about to make an important point.
5. Black is an easy color to match. I like to delete the backgrounds of my photos and graphics so not all of my graphics are rectangles and so they appear to “hover” above my slides. To do that, I use PowerPoint’s “transparent color” feature which works pretty well but always leaves a few traces of color around the edges. These “traces” can stand out on color slides, but blend right into a black background. See examples here and here.
6. Simplicity speaks volumes.
7. Black makes other colors look more vibrant and vivid. You’ll be amazed at how the same colors look so different when suspended over a black background. Use the same shading effect as before, but use white as the shade color instead of black and the shapes or line charts seem to jump off the screen. Check out this example in white and black, and this one in white and black. Both versions look pretty good, but I think the black slide gives the colors more impact.
8. At least for the time being, it’s different. I assure you, your presentation will stand out. People will ask you what software you’re using, because they’ve been inundated with the template wizard’s rainbow of bad colors. I posted this before, but look at this QuickTime version of a recent presentation and see how the simplicity of the black background stands out.
Next up is fonts. Doesn’t sound terribly exciting, but if you’ve tried to be fancy with clever fonts, you know that using the wrong ones can be a big headache.