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How-To Guide for Research

PowerPoint Best Practices

When making a PowerPoint, keep these tips in mind.

PowerPoint Tips

Keep slide text short and to the point

Avoid putting the text word-for-word on the screen or packing too much text onto one slide.

Keeping text short

Font Style

Pick an easy-to-read sans-serif font. For example: Verdana, Calibri, Arial, Open Sans, or Helvetica.

Font Size

For headers the minimum font size is around 20pt, while for the body you have a minimum of 18pt. With these sizes the text should be legible in every situation, whether people are viewing from a laptop, computer, or TV in a classroom.

Font size examples

Templates & Themes

PowerPoint offers many different template options, or you can create your own design. Whatever theme you choose, be consistent throughout your presentation.

If you plan on using a template for your PowerPoint, be sure to choose one before crafting the informational portion of your presentation. Changing the theme later can move text and warp images as PowerPoint reorganizes your work to fit the new design.

Design tab in Powerpoint

Visualize data

Whenever your presentation contains a lot of data, it might be easier to communicate this data by using visuals instead of just using text. Graphs might give you the results you are looking for, especially for comparisons.

For example, pick the donut-graph to show your percentages in the middle of the graph. This way your audience immediately knows what you mean.

Using visuals on slides

Simplify tables

Tables are usually crammed with information and numbers. This causes the slide to look crowded and chaotic. Visualize tables as simply as possible and delete unnecessary outlines, colors, and borders.


If you’re using text on a photo, make sure that your font is readable by either placing a border or casting a shadow around it. You can check if the colors are accessible by using a tool like the WCAG or WebAIM Contrast Checkers.

Using contrast in presentations

Relevance and quality

Using clip art can make your presentation look unprofessional or even childish. Make sure you select high quality images that support your message.

Using high-quality images in presentations


To insert an audio or video file into your presentation, select Insert > Video or Audio. After selecting Video you will be prompted to choose either Online Video or Video on my PC.

Powerpoint 2016 Video and Audio tab

Taking a video from your personal computer will upload the file. Inserting an Online Video will bring up the option to embed a video. Take the embed code (usually under a 'Share' option on most sites) and paste the embed code where instructed. Inserting an Online Video will also give the option to search for a YouTube video in PowerPoint itself. This will require an internet connection.


You can add audio from your computer, record new audio, or make a screen recording. Screen recordings are useful when describing steps for software programs, but are usually very large files. Use them sparingly!


Transitions are animations that take presenters from one slide to another. Transitions can grab attention, but are also distracting and yield diminishing returns. Use no more than two types of transitions per PowerPoint presentation. Do not place transitions between every slide.

Transitions bar from PowerPoint 2016



You will most likely have a strict time limit when presenting before a group, so it is important to time your presentation to know exactly how long it will go. PowerPoint has an excellent tool for that, called "Record Slide Show"

Under the "Slide Show" tab, you can select "Record Slide Show". Click this option will all you to decide if you want to include the time of your Animations and Transitions, and whether to start time from the slide you're on, or from the beginning.


The Animations tab selects how selected text behaves on the slide: Select the text > choose the animation you want to apply

Animations can be used to:

  • Show one point at a time
  • To reveal an answer
  • For emphasis

Animations are also distracting, and can get old quickly. 

Animations may also appear slower on older computers, making the presentation look unprofessional.


Provide references to any content that is not your own. This includes quotations, ideas, and images. There are many different options to provide citations in PowerPoint; ask your professor for what option they are looking for.

Some options for citations include:

  1. Adding footnotes on a single slide. Go to the Insert Menu > Text Box. Move the text box to the bottom of the page and insert your footnote text.
  2. Adding footnotes field for all slides:  View Menu > Master > click Slide Master. Then, on Insert menu, click Text Box and arrange the box where you want your footnotes to appear
  3. Add a Works Cited page at the end of your presentation.

Insert Excel Data

PowerPoint allows you to insert a chart based on data that you enter into an Excel spreadsheet. To insert a chart:

  1. Under the Insert tab, click Chart.
  2. Choose the kind of chart you prefer from the options presented. Click OK.
  3. An Excel spreadsheet will open in a separate window for you to enter your data. The data will be immediately transferred to your PowerPoint presentation, so you can observe how your chart will appear as you make changes to your spreadsheet.

Powerpoint 2016 Chart Tab