An easy way to design effective presentations (through a format like PowerPoint) is to follow the CARP system (Williams, n.d.):

Read on for more information about contrast, repetition, alignment, and proximity!

Contrast and Alignment

Contrast is an important component of ensuring that the relationship beween your ideas is clear.  If elements are not the same, use font, color, size, thickness, shape, and space to make them very different. Try consulting our PowerPoint template for basic format, and branching out from there to format your work in the most logical way.

Ask yourself: Can you see a clear difference between your headings and the other content material?

Alignment can help demonstrate the relationship between ideas, as well.  All items on a slide should be aligned to demonstrate a clear structure or hierarchy and not simply placed on the slide arbitrarily. Proper alignment will highlight a clean design and clear organization.

Ask yourself: Does your alignment allow your audience to clearly follow and understand the hierarchy of your ideas?

Repetition and Proximity

Repetition makes significant ideas, main themes, and key takeaways clear to your viewer.  Repeat visual elements (including colors, fonts, textures, images, and sizes) throughout the presentation to show consistency and clear organization

Ask yourself: Do you use a cohesive and consistent design throughout your presentation?

The position of items relative to other content also helps communicate hierarchy and relationships.  Group items close together to demonstrate a basic relationship, like a link, or a more complex relationship, like causality. When items are close together on a slide, they create a single visual unit, increasing clarity and decreasing clutter.

Ask yourself: Can your audience easily find necessary elements (or assignment requirements) on each of your presentation slides?

Other Tips for Creating PowerPoint Presentations

Use a background that

  • is not too graphically busy
  • is a contrasting color to your text

Use images that

  • Are directly relevant to the topic and related to the slide text
  • Are of high quality (rather than blurry or pixilated)
  • Match the professionalism of the presentation

Warning: Complex images, video, and transitions between slides can distract the audience from your content. Be frugal with PowerPoint's many options.

Use text that

  • Is in a clear sans serif font like Gill Sans or Calibri
  • Is a sufficient font size (20-point or higher)
  • Is consistent (no more than 2 different fonts per slide)

Use PowerPoint's Notes section to elaborate on each slide's brief points. Keeping the slide text minimal draws attention to the key ideas so that you don't overwhelm your audience or repeat information.

Organize your presentation effectively by shaping it like a regular paper. You can

  • Add an Overview slide at the beginning to serve as an introduction
  • Add a Recap slide at the end to serve as a conclusion
  • Use each slide as a paragraph, addressing a single main idea

Revision Tip: Take some time to step back and reflect on your audience. If this is a mock presentation for your healthcare facility, school, or business, ask yourself

  • Who exactly makes up my audience and how do they learn best?
  • Have I ordered the slides logically for those learners?
  • Is the clip art appropriate for the situation?

For technical how-tos, see the training courses offered by Microsoft.  Read Anne's blog post for information on Prezi, an alternative to PowerPoint.

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