PowerPoint: Formatting a Presentation

Quite possibly the most frequent presentation medium used by students today would be Microsoft Powerpoint. I’m sure you have all thrown together a quick PowerPoint for a class to get a project over with. However, PowerPoint contains an immense amount of opportunities to enhance the visual attractiveness of your presentation. Even if your information is 100% accurate and interesting, but your PowerPoint is not aesthetically pleasing, you will lose your audience’s attention. Just like you would not wear sweatpants and a t-shirt to deliver a presentation, you do not want your presentation to seem lackluster either.

Recent versions of the software allows for a more diverse PowerPoint presentation including a variety of themes, colors, backgrounds, slides, and formats. Following the lynda.com videos for Powerpoint for Mac 2011 Essential Training, Chapter 3 Formatting a Presentation, I learned many new aspects about PowerPoint. There is another course four Windows users called PowerPoint 2010 Essential Training that is comparable to the one for Macs. In that course it is also chapter 3, entitled Formatting a Presentation. I focused on videos 1, 2, 3, and 7, which discussed what I found to be the most interesting parts of Formatting a Presentation.

The video named Using Themes discusses using visual interest to keep the audience interested in your presentation. In order to do this, you can use the built-in themes that come with the software. Themes are combinations of colors, fonts, and designs that completely change the look of a slide. These themes are easy to use, help avoid using clashing colors, and “adds pizzazz” to any presentation. I decided to use the theme called “Inspiration,” I did not choose the name for this theme, it comes with PowerPoint. It will take a boring plain black and white slide (top), to one with the Angles theme(bottom).

example of plain black and white slides

Plain Black and White Slides

example of a slide with the theme "Inspiration"

Slide with “Inspiration” theme

Color options for themes

Color options for themes

Screenshot of PowerPoint Theme

Changing the color of the theme

The second video, Creating Your Own Themes takes the first video to the next level. It explains how to modify the current themes and save them for future usage. For example using the Angles theme, as seen  above, and changing the colors to a selection called Inspiration.

This change can be saved, and potentially even set as the default for future presentations. Also, it can be applied to all slides, or only one depending on how you want your presentation to look.

The next video, Changing the Background steps away from the idea of themes and focuses on backgrounds. Backgrounds differ from themes because they can be much simpler, in addition to not changing the entire look of a slide. Changing the background comes with much more freedom and decisions, which personally seems overwhelming, but also exciting. There are numerous aspects to be chosen concerning color, gradient, texture, pattern, and transparency. Gradient was a very ambiguous term to me when I first watched the video, but from using the background feature I realized it is simply how “thin” or “thick” the color will appear on the slide. There are some presets of background, but you can also almost completely design your own. I think the video did a great job of explaining the process of designing a background and providing examples. It can be somewhat confusing, but totally worth it considering your PowerPoint will be you own creation and display your personality.

options to format background

Options to format background

Slide with self-created background

Slide with self-created background

The final video I watched was Using Headers and Footers which contained a lot of information on how to minimize the time spent on minute, yet significant details in your PowerPoint. Headers are typically not used for slides, and are instead reserved for pages of the presentation that are printed out for an audience. Footers typically appear on each slide in the same spot, oftentimes it may be the date and/or page number, but it could also be a word. For example, if you are presenting and you have different topics every few slides, you could use the footer to show which topic you are referencing for each slide.  However, footers do not need to appear on each and every slide, you can choose which slides they will appear on. The slide master depicts three locations in which the footers can appear on slides. Headers and footers are available for printing out pages of your presentation for the audience to take notes, for example. The notes and handouts master contains four spaces for headers and footers to appear on a page. By clicking on “Slides,” you can adjust the footer for the slides, and by clicking on “Notes and Handouts” you can adjust the header and footers for the pages.

example of footer locations on slides

Footer options for slides

example for header and footer locations for notes and handouts

Header and footer options for notes and handouts

Safe to say, there were many new aspects of PowerPoint that I was unaware of. These videos greatly added to my knowledge and ability of PowerPoint. The most effective PowerPoint presentations are the ones that look the best, through the lynda.com videos, I now know how to create good-looking PowerPoints that will grab my audience’s attention.

Share your thoughts below. Are these helpful hints to help you with future PowerPoint presentations? Did you already know a lot of these facts? Could you see yourself using these tools more in depth in the future? Do you particularly like any of these specific features?

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19 Responses to PowerPoint: Formatting a Presentation

  1. Kelly F. says:

    Steph, this was a great post! I was really intrigued by the fact that you could make headers and footers for different slides. I could easily see myself using these tools for my classroom to help my students follow along with the presentation. I had a few questions, though. First – where do you find all of these amazing tools? and second – when you were explaining the different ways you could manipulate a slide you mentioned texture, what is meant by that?

    • Steph G. says:

      Kelly, thank you so much for your feedback! I’m glad you found it helpful! These tools can easily be accessed on PowerPoint and further explained through the lynda.com videos of “PowerPoint for Mac Essential Training”, “Chapter 3: Formatting a Presentation.” They give an in-depth explanation, as well as guidance on where these tools can be found and how to use them. When I mentioned texture, I meant how the background appeared on the slide. For example: some textures may make things look fuzzy or rough. Hope I helped!

  2. Maria H. says:

    Steph, this post was very well-explained and informative. I felt as if I already knew a lot about Microsoft PowerPoint before reading the post, but I also learned about headers and footers as well as custom themes. A question for you: do you think using a theme or a custom background looks more professional for a presentation? Or simply using the original black and white theme? I appreciate you welcoming questions and comments at the end of your post- it makes the audience feel comfortable with giving you feedback. Well done!

    • Steph G. says:

      Thank you so much Maria, I’m happy you enjoyed reading my post! Personally I think that themes look more professional than backgrounds. While the original black and white theme is convenient, it is a little too boring for my tastes. I think the themes really add something to the presentation quality of a PowerPoint.

  3. Sara R. says:

    Great post, Steph! I am always trying to make my projects not only informative but also aesthetically pleasing so that my audience is captivated on various fronts. I was previously aware of the choice of templates that is offered when creating a slide, but I was not aware of the ability to use concentration gradients to create your own background. I really like the teal-colored slide that you created, that is embedded in your post, and plan on testing that out the next time I am working on a PowerPoint in Mac. Thank you for all of the useful information!

  4. Mary F. says:

    Great blog post Steph!! Going into this I thought I already knew everything I could about making a PowerPoint presentation but you proved otherwise. I had no idea you could make your own themes, you’re right in your post when you say that that’s exciting! I also had no idea about the headers and footnotes, which is some knowledge I could’ve used in past presentations. Thanks so much for all this new information!

  5. Chelsea S. says:

    I thought your comparison between the layout of your powerpoint and what you wear to a presentation was a great way to explain why formatting a presentation is so important. You don’t want your audience to get distracted on something other than the information the powerpoint contains! Like Maria, I felt as if I knew a lot of this information but I did learn about the headers and footers as well. I always thought they were for word documents but apparently not. Like you, I get overwhelmed by all of the options I can choose from so having these pre-set themes set for me are wonderful and save me from stress.

  6. Chelsea R. says:

    Your images go really well with your explanation. You separated each visual and added a second image to compliment what you were saying. It makes it easy to follow along with you. I never knew that you could add in headers and footers to presentations and I think it would be helpful to organize and explain what each section is about. It can also help show that you are in a different section.

  7. Tabitha C. says:

    What a great simile of how you would not present a messy presentation is like how you would not wear sweatpants to give a speech! Just as I said to Katie in her blogpost, themes sometimes freak me out because I feel like it’s a huge commitment to choose one style for the whole presentation. I like lots of colors but my group members often do not agree. So, it is good to learn about them even if they make me uncomfortable because I’ll certainly have to use them eventually!

  8. Katie H. says:

    I really enjoyed reading your post Steph! Changing the themes of PowerPoint presentations has always been one of the most interesting things to me because it changes the entire look and feel of the presentation. I find myself comparing your blog post to mine about the styles in Word documents, which are similar because of what they do to the final look of the document or presentation. As much as I love changing the themes of PowerPoints, what would you recommend as a professional theme to be used for in-class presentations? I often find myself drawn towards the vibrant, fun themes which are not a professional as needed to be. Thanks for all the amazing information!

    • Steph G. says:

      Thank you so much for your feedback! I noticed as well that our posts were very similar! As far as professional themes, I think that the majority of themes can be made professional by changing the color scheme. A neutral color scheme may seem much more professional than one with a lot of colors.

  9. Alexia M. says:

    Steph, I really enjoyed reading your post and thought that you had a lot of good points about PowerPoint presentations. A lot of these tools which you spoke of are most likely going to help me out a lot in the future. However, I was previously aware that you could add themes and change background. I did not know that you could add headers or footers, though. It is nice to know that if I like a specific design but not the colors of the design, I can easily change them. I definitely see myself using these features in the future!

  10. Winna P. says:

    Steph, this blog post was so awesome and helpful. It was extremely well organized and very easy to follow along. I thought the two screenshots of before and after really helped me understand what you were referring to. I think this post is very helpful to everyone in our class for when we one day become teachers! One of my biggest pet peeves as a student is when teachers have boring PowerPoints. I am all about the visuals! Thanks so much for all this new information that I can’t wait to use!

  11. Anna B. says:

    Hi Steph! Great blog post! I definitely use powerpoint all the time for both big and small projects, so knowing more about how to make them look their best is super helpful. I knew about the themes and color selections before, but this post really clarified their uses even more for me! Also, I knew you could change the background, but I too was always confused as to what gradient meant. Until I read this post, I had no idea that you could use headers and footers on slides, pick which slides to put them on, or just save them for print outs for the audience. This is such neat tool that I did not even know existed. Now that I do know about them, I know that I can use them for future projects, and even for my future students. If I am doing a presentation where I hand out the notes to my audience, I can put specialized headers on the print outs that I do not necessarily want on my slides on the screen. That to me is such a handy tool. I can see myself using headers and footers for notes and PowerPoints with my future students to provide them with better organized presentations. I think your post is so great- especially the questions for discussion at the end! Great topic and even better blog post!

  12. Angie E. says:

    Hey Steph, great job! I never knew how customizable PowerPoint could be. I didn’t even know that the backgrounds feature existed, I’ve always just used the provided themes. Also thanks for sharing about the headers and footers features and the ways they can help audience members who have printouts. I will definitely be using that next time I do a large in-class presentation for one of my classes. Thanks?

  13. Victoria B. says:

    Hey Steph, I really enjoyed reading your blog post. I use PowerPoint all the time but I was never aware that there was a Header/Footer feature. I think that it is a great tool to keep the information contained in the slides organized and labeled by content. I look forward to implementing this the next time I create a power point presentation!

  14. Laura H. says:

    Good job Steph! The headers and footers part was so helpful to me! I never knew that before. And I have never played around with backgrounds, but I definitely want to after learning about them from your post!

  15. Robin G. says:

    Great blog post, Steph! I have used PowerPoint as a helpful tool for presentations for years now and I thought that I was an expert! I am happy to learn from your post that there are few things with which I was previously unfamiliar. It is very nice to know that it is possible to create my own themes. I used to get frustrated sometimes because I thought that I was limited to the small selection of themes, and I tended to always use the same one. I will definitely be using this feature with future presentations!

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