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Guidelines for Overhead Transparencies

And for PowerPoint, Too

  Fred Nickols 2012


  1. Make good use of white space. Use wide margins.  Don't pack too much on a single slide or transparency.  Allow the whole thing to be taken in at a single glance.
  2. Make sparing use of color. Use it to highlight, emphasize, draw distinctions, etc., but don't use it for effect, psychological manipulation, or some other non-sensical reason that you'll wind up having difficulty justifying to yourself.
  3. Text is okay; but talk about it, don't read it. It is perfectly natural and perfectly okay to use a bullet list of "talking points" as a way of keeping your presentation organized and on track but, as I've said in the lead line, talk about it, don't read it.
  4. Avoid animation -- unless it makes or is the point; otherwise, it's merely distracting -- and annoying.
  5. Check for visibility -- from the back of the room.  There are no hard and fast rules for font size. Why?  Because room size varies. So, get in the habit of checking your visual aids for visibility--from the back of the room--whatever its size.
  6. Use an appropriate font.  Generally speaking, serif fonts such as Times Roman and Courier are easier to read and should be used for text. However, for large headlines, sans serif fonts such as Arial and Helvetica are better. In any event, just as with resumes, don't use fancy fonts, especially those gothic horrors, Letter Gothic and Old English--unless they're part of the point you're making (e.g., what those two look like).
  7. Keep diagrams simple. Nothing will lose your audience faster than a diagram they can't follow in a second.  I mean that--literally.
  8. Avoid clip art, too--unless it makes, or supports, or is the point. Pictures, cartoons, icons, symbols and all the rest are neat--if and when properly used. If not, they detract from what you're doing.



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This page last updated on June 27, 2015