It’s Monday morning, and your boss just asked you to pull together a presentation for that big meeting on Wednesday. You know the numbers, you know the content, but PowerPoint? Not exactly your forte.

Well, I’m here to help. Now, the first rule—the most important rule, the one that you must never forget—is that bad slides ruin good content. As much as I wish it wasn’t true, I can promise you that both your colleagues and your clients will be swayed by the aesthetics of the presentation before they even read the first word.

So, to make sure they focus their attention on your message, without you wasting hours in PowerPoint hell, follow these three simple rules when you make your slides.

Master Slides are Your Best Friend

Master slides are the templates of the PowerPoint world, and they will save you a great deal of time and effort. By spending a few minutes upfront designing a good master slide, you’ll ensure each slide looks the same and make your whole presentation look cohesive and professional.

To start, go to the View menu to Master > Slide Master and create your template. One of my personal tricks is to add a very light background with some subtle texture to give the slides more depth—head over to Subtle Patterns for inspiration and free downloadable backgrounds.

Then, add your company logo in the corner and any key information (website, your contact info, the meeting topic) in the footer. Finally, save the master and get back to your presentation.

Pro Tip: Save the master separately as a template before you start adding content to your PowerPoint. This way, you can use it as a base for future presentations. 

Fonts Change Everything

If your company prefers the straight and narrow when it comes to presentation design—or has its own font (like GE)—you can skip to the next section.

But if you want your presentation to have a little more wow factor, say good-bye to Arial and Times New Roman and hello to Google Web Fonts. These fabulous, free fonts are easy to install on your computer, and pair together incredibly well (Design Shack gives plenty of suggestions for fonts that look great together). Just download the fonts, install them on your computer, and prettify your presentations in no time! Make sure not to overdo it though. Two fonts are plenty: one serifed for headers and one sans serif for blocks of text.

Pro Tip: If you use custom fonts, make sure to save your presentation as a PDF before sending it to others. If the PowerPoint file is opened on a computer without the new fonts installed, it won’t have the intended effect.

Be Brief and Visual

One of the biggest mistakes people make when creating a PowerPoint is treating it like a Word document. Remember, your slides are there to show, not tell—or in other words, to highlight your most important points in a visual and engaging way.

So skip the lengthy paragraphs and use headers, bullets, and—most of all—images. Don’t write that you grew from 100 to 210 to 350 users; make a graph. Don’t write a long list of specs for your new feature; share a mock-up. Adding visual structure to your slides can also make sure your colleague’s eyes focus on the right things without adding too much text. (For more help with graphics, check out our round-up of 10 great PowerPoint templates.)

Brevity is also important when thinking of the presentation as a whole. Keep your presentation short—having 7-10 slides is totally fine for a 30 minute presentation if they include all the information you need. If you expect to be grilled by your audience and want to have plenty of detail at the ready, put it in the appendix and reference it if you’re asked.

Pro Tip: Don’t go below 13-point font size—it’ll ensure that you keep it brief on each slide (and that your audience won’t be squinting through the whole presentation).

Tell us! What are your tips for crafting a perfect PowerPoint presentation?

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