Kelly Vandever - Communications for Everyone

Make Your PowerPoint Slides Better by Thirds

In PowerPoint Slides, Presentation Tips on March 8, 2011 at 11:00 am

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One of Kelly's Old Slides Before Ditching Bullet Points and the Default Format in PowerPoint

It doesn’t take a lot to improve your PowerPoint slides.  The bar has been set really low.  If you represent only one point per slide, add pictures and only put one or two words per slide, you’ll be ahead of most presenters who use slides in their presentations.  To take it one step further, trash the default slide format and consider using the Rule of Thirds as the way you format your slides.

The Default Position in PowerPoint

Does this slide look familiar?  It is similar to the view we’ve seen for years using PowerPoint.

The Default View in PowerPoint Most of Us Learned

Pretend for the moment that you’re making up a slide to use for a presentation about customer service and you decide that you want to represent the concept that “Seconds Count” when dealing with a customer.  You look for pictures to represent this idea (see this post for my favorite place to find photos) and you settle on an egg timer.  If you follow the default format in PowerPoint, you’ll end up with a slide that looks a little like this.

Concept Using Default Settings in PowerPoint

But what if we applied the Rule of Thirds to this slide?  How might that change the look and feel of the slide?

What Is the Rule of Thirds?

The Rule of Thirds comes from the world of design.  Imagine taking your PowerPoint slide and dividing it into three segments horizontally and vertically like this.

Imagine the Slide Divided in Thirds Horizontally & Vertically

The Rule of Thirds would have us line up our composition on the slide along the thirds that have been created by the lines.  So let’s try that with our egg timer above.  What if I move the egg timer to the right third horizontally?

Let's Move the Egg Timer Off Center

To the Side with the Grids Removed

Eh, still not feeling it.  But what if I enlarge the egg timer to fit most of that right third horizontally.

Making the Egg Timer Larger

OK, I’m getting a little closer now.  What if I move the words down to line up with the top line vertically?

Move the Words

Better.  But what if I made the words bigger?

Use a Bigger Font on the Text

I like that better.  Now let’s compare the default version with the one based on the Rule of Thirds.  What do you think?  I like the Rule of Third version better.

With the Default

With the Rule of Thirds Applied

The Rule of Thirds can be applied to more than just the sample above.  Consider these slides that follow the rule of thirds.

Rule of Thirds on a Photograph

Using the Rule of Thirds

Using the Rule of Thirds

Try the Rule of Thirds with your slides and see if you don’t agree they help your slides look even better.

Now it’s your turn…

I’d love to see the slides you’ve made over!  Post them in the comments below!

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