In an excellent article entitled “12 tips for creating better PowerPoint presentations,” Stephanie Krieger offers these thoughts on making your slide presentation work better (1). She focuses here on the idea that your slides should grab viewers' attention. Her thought is that to create slides that grab attention you should learn how to use slides effectively and try not to pack your slides with dense text-based information. You should get in the habit of including only elements that contribute to the point you are trying to make. Consider the difference between a text-based slide presenting, say, information documenting the growth of an investment, compared to a slide demonstrating the same information in graphic format. The graphic format makes a much stronger point. This information is from Krieger's post on the MicroSoft website.
One way to help grab and keep your students’ attention is to select or create your own theme. Quoting directly from Krieger’s article on the MicroSoft website: “Themes are the evolution of design templates in PowerPoint, but they're also much more than that. Themes were introduced in Microsoft Office 2007 to help you easily create the right look for your presentations and to coordinate all of your Microsoft Office documents almost instantly.
A theme is a coordinated set of fonts, colors, and graphic effects that you can apply to your entire document with just a click. The same themes are available for your Microsoft PowerPoint presentations, Microsoft Word documents, Microsoft Excel workbooks, and even your Microsoft Outlook email messages (and, in Office 2010, your Microsoft Access database forms and reports), so it's easy to create your own personal or business branding throughout all of your documents.
In PowerPoint, the theme also includes the slide master, slide layouts (and slide background options). When you apply a theme in your presentation, you automatically get slide layouts, colors, fonts, and graphic effects that go together, and you can format content with just a few clicks. In the PowerPoint Ribbon (at the top of your screen), find many built-in themes on the Design tab. To preview a theme, in the Themes gallery, simply hover your pointer over it. In Office 2010, you also see a selection of themes in this gallery that are automatically updated periodically from Office.com.
Using the galleries on the Design tab, you can also mix and match a slide design with different theme colors, fonts, and effects to quickly create your own look. You can even easily create a completely custom theme. Note: If you change the theme in your presentation but the formatting doesn't change, you may not have used theme-ready formatting when you created your presentation. When you start with a new PowerPoint 2010 or PowerPoint 2007 presentation, theme-ready formatting is automatic for fonts and colors on slide layouts and for Microsoft Office graphics, such as SmartArt graphics, charts, and shapes.”
1. Krieger S. 12 tips for creating better PowerPoint presentations. http://www.microsoft.com/atwork/skills/presentations.aspx, accessed September 12, 2011