Presentation Design Basics

Presentation Design Basics


Have you ever created a presentation and wondered how you could improve it? When looking at an engaging slideshow, have you tried to pinpoint what made the PowerPoint grab your attention? PowerPoint presentations are a key component of education. They are used to convey information and provide visual support to learners. A few key PowerPoint design basics can help close the gap between having strong content and struggling to format it for learners.

Design & Preparation

PowerPoint templates are designed with learners in mind. Inserting text and media in prepopulated spaces can help ensure readability. Microsoft offers a wide variety of PowerPoint design templates on its website. Simply choose a template and either download it to use in Google Slides or open it through PowerPoint!

  • Color Consistency is Key!
    • Ensure text color and background color contrast with each other!
  • Text or Pictures?
    • Pictures, discussion, and on-screen text cannot be consumed at the same time.
    • To combat this, provide an image while you narrate or provide a chunk of text for the audience to read.
  • Keep Text Concise.
    • 5-6 words on each line and 3-4 bullet points per slide.
    • Remember readability: script fonts, cursive, and ALL CAPS can be confusing.


Generally, pre-made slide templates are created to be accessible. Starting with that strong foundation is a great first step in ensuring all students are able to access and grasp the material.

URL Usage: Students may utilize a screen reader. Consideration of hyperlink usage is very important because screen readers read exactly what is on the page. Inserting a hyperlink into an informative title, as opposed to inserting the lengthy website URL or “click here”, is especially considerate.

Captioning: Audio or video content should be captioned. This helps support students with hearing impairments and varying learning needs. Captioning videos with Canvas Studio is an easy way to increase your course accessibility levels!

PDF: Download and save your PowerPoint presentation as a PDF. You can distribute the PDF to students as needed, namely, students with visual impairments and other learning needs you are aware of.

Check for Accessibility: Microsoft has a wonderful accessibility checker that can help you identify and remedy accessibility issues in your presentation.

Engagement Strategies

Use your PowerPoint as a speaking tool. Include key points on the slideshow and expound upon them in your speech delivery. Become a master navigator! Right-click to utilize mouse presenter tools during a lesson (laser pointer, highlighter). Use the “alt” + “tab” keys to move between your presentation and the web browser.

Handouts: PowerPoint has various ways you can print handouts from your presentation. One example of how to use this tool could be to print presentation hand outs and distribute them prior to class. Create a brainstorming activity based on the slides and use this as a point of discussion between classmates. Another example is providing handouts during class to aid in student note-taking.

PowerPoint slides can be used for more than just presenting! Some other uses include:

  • Think-Pair-Share: Create slides with different prompts for students to collaborate with classmates!
  • Comprehension Checks: Create slides in-between content that provide for misconceptions to be addressed and questions to be answered.
  • Classroom Poll: Insert a slide within your presentation that allows students to vote on content-based matters.
  • Note Reflections: Project a slide with key points that should be in the student’s notes at that point of the presentation. Have students compare and discuss notes with classmates.


Teaching with PowerPoint: Center for innovative teaching and learning (no date) Northern Illinois University. Available at:

Research guides: Microsoft PowerPoint: Design Tips (no date) Design Tips – Microsoft PowerPoint – Research Guides at University of Michigan Library. Available at: (Accessed: 19 February 2024).