Five rules for better slide decks

Always judge a deck by its cover.

12 May 2023

I use Google Slides a lot. Here are five rules I like to follow to make my slide decks extra awesome.1 They should serve you pretty well in Microsoft PowerPoint too!

1. Minimalist, customised theme

I usually pare back my deck’s theme to just four layouts: (i) title slide, (ii) section header, (iii) title only, and (iv) blank. Combined with global fonts and colour palettes this makes it much easier to ship a uniform look and feel.

2. One font, three sizes

I try to use the same font throughout, and preferably in only three sizes: large for titles, regular size for content (including text, shapes and chart labels), and small for any footnotes. This looks smart and improves readability.

3. Proper titles

For each slide I try to write a title that concisely conveys the one key message I want the reader to remember. This typically requires a sentence, not just a word or two. Pro tip: stack your slides so you can only see the titles and check the story makes sense!

4. Bespoke tables

I almost always build from scratch with shapes, lines and text boxes, rather than using Insert > Table. You need to get good with the align / distribute / group tools to achieve a tidy layout – but once you do it unlocks much more creative control.

5. Targeted highlights

I’ll sometimes flag key text or data to help readers navigate a deck more easily. Try to do this sparingly and consistently (e.g. using a contrasting colour), and always ensure your highlights support the key message of the slide they appear on.

  1. By “slide deck” I mean something that can be read and understood by others without requiring you to be present or provide a voiceover. I’ll do tips for slides to accompany speaker presentations in the next post.