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General Business 360 Communication Guide

Slide Design

Whether you are using PowerPoint, Google Slides, Keynote, or Prezi, follow these guidelines for excellent slides that support and illustrate your points.



Decide whether or not you need a slide deck.  Don’t have time to put together a well-designed and visual slide deck?  Create a handout with a brief outline of your talk with space for listeners to take notes.  There’s no law that says that every type of talk must have slides to accompany it.

Create the content first.  Resist the urge to play with presentation software before you have thoroughly read your sources and developed your outline.

Use speaking notes.  Many presenters put their speaking notes on their slides, which results in an awkward presentation where the presenter turns away from the audience and reads their own slides.  Create speaking notes to keep in front of you and avoid looking at your slides.

Tips for speaking notes: keep them brief and print in a large (18-22 point) font.  These should be an outline of your key points, rather than the full text of your speech. Alternately, print your slidedeck in Handout format (vertical, 4 per page is index card size) and tape copies of your slides to index cards, marking your animations for reference.

If you have to present without notes, use your speaking notes to practice until you don’t need them anymore.



Use a headline and minimal text.  A headline helps audiences keep track of your main points, but no one can read and listen at the same time, so there’s no reason to put more than a few words on any one slide. It is often appropriate to avoid text altogether and create purely visual slides.

Select sans serif fonts. Sans serif fonts don't use serifs, the lines, strokes, or projections that attach to the main stroke lines that form letters in typography. Sans serif fonts create improved readability on a screen or slide. Common sans serif fonts include Adobe Clean, Ariel, Calibri, Century Gothic, Helvetica, and Roboto.

Use brief bullet points and keep bulleted lists short.  Bullet points longer than 3-5 words and lists with more than 3-5 items distract audiences from what you’re saying.  However, an image is often a better choice than a bulleted list.

Make lists parallel.  Each item in a numbered or bulleted list should begin with the same type of word to help audiences quickly understand your points.

Parallel List Beginning with a Verb

Parallel List Beginning with a Noun

Parallel List Beginning with a Modifier

Third Quarter Goals

  • Increase sales by 20%
  • Roll out two new product lines
  • Hire one sales professional

Common Investment Products

  1. Stocks
  2. Bonds
  3. Derivatives

Popular Items from the 2019 Collection

  • Cashmere sweaters
  • Skinny high-rise jeans
  • Floral sneakers
  • Chunky scarves

Proofread.  Read every word out loud and ask a trusted friend or colleague to check your slides for embarrassing errors.  Pro Tip: many spell check programs don’t highlight mistakes if the text is in all caps.


Backgrounds, Images, Graphs, and Other Visuals

Customize slide templates.  Audiences have seen the most commonly used PowerPoint or Google Slide templates before, in contexts unrelated to what you have to say.  Customize fonts and colors and other design elements to create a unique template. 

Note: organizational templates don’t need to be customized, though you will still want to use them thoughtfully.  Pay attention to how your text and images relate to objects in the template.

Check for accessibility. Use WebAIM’s color contrast checker to evaluate the accessibility of your chosen color combinations.

Add thoughtful visuals that support everything you say.  Brainstorm a way to illustrate all of your main ideas and supporting details.

Avoid random clip art, stock photos or watermarked images.  Low quality images distract from your message.

Size visuals appropriately.  There’s no reason to put three graphs on one slide; create a new slide for each graph, with a headline that clearly states what the graph shows.  Additionally, look for images that are appropriately sized.  More pixels = better quality—click Tools/Size in Google image search to return only large images.  Small images that you enlarge will look blurry on the screen.


Animations and Transitions

Animate list items or images.  Focus audiences on what you want them to look at by only showing them one thing at a time.  YouTube and LinkedIn offer many tutorials on using animation tools.

Incorporate slide transitions.  Slide transitions can create an additional layer of visual interest.  Use one or two subtle transitions consistently rather than a different transition for each slide.  Consider the “personality” of the transition and whether or not it fits the tone of your presentation.

Content Credit

Content on this page was created by the Business Communication team at the Wisconsin School of Business.