How to Make Better PowerPoint for Better Videos

Better PowerPoint for Better Videos

PowerPoint is boring.

That’s what we’ve all heard, right?

  • Too much text
  • Too many bullet points
  • Too much of the presenter just reading off of the slides.

But is it a PowerPoint problem or a design problem? 

There are a lot of ways to build slides for PowerPoint that convey information effectively and don’t fall into the stereotypical design problems. Understanding how to make better slides is vital for holding your audience’s attention and conveying your message. It’s also important if you’re going to turn your PowerPoint presentations into videos. 

Here’s how you can design better slides, find the most visually appealing imagery, and turn your slides into better videos.

The design of slides is the beating heart of any PowerPoint presentation. If you’re used to designing slides for use in front of a live group, it’s important to be aware of the differences between that and constructing PowerPoint for the purpose of video.

[You can watch the video on this topic at the top of this post, to listen to the podcast episode, hit play below, or read on for more…]

Differences between live presentation and PowerPoint video

No interaction

With a live presentation, you’re responding to things that happen then and there in the room. You’re reacting to the audience in one way or another, answering their questions and responding to their cues. With a video, you don’t have any of that back and forth. So when you’re designing your PowerPoint you need to keep in mind that you’re not going to have that feedback and interaction.

Live presentations are flexible

Generally presentations tend to be a lot more off the cuff. Obviously you will have planned what to say, but the delivery of a presentation is a lot more fluid. Sometimes you might repeat yourself, sometimes you might forget certain things you wanted to say, or you might bring topics up outside of the right order.

With a PowerPoint video you can control exactly what is being said throughout the project. The video will never run a little short, or run over time. You can hone the timing and delivery of the presentation and be much more precise in your words.

Live presentations are limited

What you’re able to display is limited with a live presentation. You might want to include a video clip, a sound effect, or a special effect, but that’s not always easy with a presentation, and sometimes it’s downright impossible.

With a PowerPoint video you have a lot more options and you can really focus in on the special elements that you want to highlight. Of course you can have an animated gif playing behind you during a live presentation, but with a video you can really hone in and emphasize that special feature.

What to avoid when creating a PowerPoint video

First and foremost, it’s important to avoid clichés. We all know the negative tropes about PowerPoint presentations that don’t work, the ones that bore their audience or overwhelm them. If you can recognize those tropes and avoid them at the design level, then your video will be a success.

Blocks Of Text

This is a good way to overwhelm your audience with a large info-dump, as well as distracting them from anything being said on your video’s audio. People can either read or listen, but it’s hard to do both at the same time.

Bullet Points

This suggests you’re cramming lots of information and points all together into one slide, rather than spacing them all out in a digestible way.

Reading EXACTLY What’s On The Slides

The audio of your video should be presenting the information to the audience, not simply repeating what can be read on the screen.

How to Begin

Better PowerPoint for Better Videos

What is the message you want to share and why does your audience care about this? Are you looking to teach them something? Do you want to change their behaviour? And what is it that you’re going to say or show to help them do that?

A lot of times the reason someone chooses to do a PowerPoint video is because there isn’t a solid visual. There isn’t something they can point an audience to and say “that’s what I want you to understand.” The information they’re trying to convey might be a lot more conceptual. Or maybe what needs to be presented is a lot of data which can’t simply be pointed at.

Approach the video step by step

What is the first thing your audience needs to understand? And once they understand that first thing, what can they do next? That’s the formula that you start building on. Use that plan to put together your script of what you want to be saying at every stage of the video.

Have realistic expectations about the duration of your video

If you’re putting together a PowerPoint presentation and your expectation is that an hour is a good length, you might need to rethink things.

Time is precious, and most people struggle to focus on a subject for a solid block of time like an hour. In general you want to look at breaking that hour down into more manageable chunks. You focus should be, how to get your audience to the objective as fast as possible, whilst giving them all the relevant information

When you’ve got your plan and your script, then you can start putting together your slides.

The basics of a good presentation

We’re going to explore some examples of slides that I created. We’ll take them apart and show you what would and what wouldn’t work for a PowerPoint video.

Better PowerPoint - Slide Examples

Notice how I created a grid on top of my slides?

This gives you a sense of scale and space when arranging elements, and will help you to keep your slide from becoming too cluttered and unfocused.

Better PowerPoint - Slide Examples
Better PowerPoint - Slide Examples

I kept these slides simple with a single image and very minimal text. You want to try and strike a balance between the audio and the visual of your PowerPoint video. The audio is what you’re going to convey the story or the message through, and the visuals are there to support that.

In these slides, you can see how I kept the images very basic, just enough to help move the story of the video along. So unless it’s a practical how-to video, you don’t need to get into heavy visual work.

What images should you choose?

Attractive images are the heart and soul of a PowerPoint presentation 

We’ve all seen great presentations let down by a lack of great images.

Better Powerpoint - What not to do

We’ve all sat through presentations like this, where all the clichés come out. The blank background, nothing but text, endless bullet points. If we’re lucky they may include some Clip Art along the way. That’s fine for someone who is just reading the information, but that kind of presentation is absolutely not designed for a video workflow.

It’s important to consider what images are going to convey the message you want to share. You should use attractive images to draw the audience into the video and the story you’re telling, but also images that don’t distract the audience from what you want them to pay attention to — the audio.

Better PowerPoint - slides with multiple images

You can even use multiple images in a single slide to create a progressive slide. Each of these smaller images is simple, but tells a different part of the story and helps keep the video in motion.

Think about the story your video is telling, but keep the images simple and don’t use blocks of text, otherwise you audience will miss what’s being said.

How many slides does my video need?

If you rely on one static slide staying on the screen for 30 seconds or a minute, that’s a problem. If your video is static, if it’s not progressing, then you’re going to lose your audience. Their brain is constantly running, they’re getting notifications on their laptop, on their phone, and if you’re not offering any new visuals to keep their attention then you’ll lose them.

In my video that these screenshots are taken from, I used 39 slides for a 45 minutes presentation. Using a lot of slides will keep the video in motion, keep the story moving, and keep the audience’s attention. There’s no point in having people sit and stare at a single slide for a very long time.

When making a PowerPoint video you should think of the slides as almost frames in a movie. You want to keep things moving so your audience stays engaged.

Where to find attractive images for your slides

Now you know that you need to be using a generous amount of slides for your video, you need to amass a ton of images for those slides.

Camtasia asset library

Assets For Camtasia is Techsmith’s asset library where you can find an incredible amount of attractive images for your video. The images are searchable by topic, so whatever your video is about, you’ll be able to find the relevant pictures you need.

Another great resource is Unsplash which has a huge library of free to use images. These are not cheesy, stiff stock photos so they’re perfect for finding attractive, natural images.

Once you have the right pictures, you can use PowerPoint to manipulate and edit the images to your needs. For anyone who isn’t experienced in using something like Photoshop to manipulate their images, PowerPoint is a great alternative as it’s easier to learn and use.

Data & technical information

PowerPoint is a really great way to present data to your audience. When creating a data slide, you want to have the data really stand-out because it’s the most important thing on the slide.

Better PowerPoint - presenting data

Here you can see I has greyed out the background to make it less prominent and less important, and then he’s made the data an attractive color to highlight its importance and draw the eye.

With data slides, there is a tendency to use the mouse cursor as a laser pointer. If you were presenting the material in a live presentation, you would definitely use a laser pointer to draw attention to the relevant parts of the data. But with a PowerPoint video you want to make the information stand out more, rather than just point at it with a small cursor.

Talk through the information, and if there’s anything that needs to be pointed out it’s a better idea to use an annotation tool, like an arrow or drawing a box around the data. Use something bold and illustrative from a program like Camtasia to highlight the information.

If you’re presenting a large amount of technical data, like a schematic, that level of detail can be overwhelming for an audience. They cannot look at every part of it all at once. What you need to do is break it down. Emphasize and highlight parts of the technical data, instead of trying to show everything at once.

Present your audience with an overview at the beginning, show them the whole schematic or whatever it is, so that they have the full context of what they’re looking at. Then focus the viewer on the most important parts step by step, slide by slide.

Your audience needs to be looking specifically at the part of the technical detail that you’re talking about in the video. If you have a large map or schematic, you don’t know where the audience is looking at any given time. You need to focus their view, slide by slide, to go along with your audio.

Make a connection

It’s important to use camera video of your presenter in your PowerPoint. When delivering information, you need to establish and build trust with your audience so they can trust the information you’re giving them.

You should assume that the people watching your PowerPoint video don’t know you. It can be hard to trust a faceless voice, so it’s important that they can see your expression, body language and tone.

You should be using camera video of your presenter whenever you don’t have a relevant slide, but you still want to make a connection with the audience.

When including camera video of the presenter, be cautious of using the picture-in-picture effect that’s very common in live chats. It’s more effective to cut back and forth from a slide to the video of your presenter and then on to the next slide.    This is because using picture-in-picture can split the audience’s focus.

Humans are drawn to look at faces and at movement, so if there’s a picture of a face in the corner of the screen moving around, your audience’s focus will naturally be drawn to it. And when they’re distracted by a moving face, they’re not paying attention to the slide on the screen.

So look for the relevant opportunities to inject the camera video of your presenter so you can build trust and add personality, but be careful not to distract from the material.

In Summary

  • Don’t start with slides – start with the story
  • Remember that PowerPoint videos need to flow
  • Create attractive slides with great images, but keep it simple
  • Play with color and motion in your slides, but don’t go crazy
  • Zero to little text
  • Limited bullet points
  • Always focus on the story

For further reading on presentation design, check out “Resonate” by Nancy Duarte. The book focuses on live presentations, but it goes into detail about imagery and the ebb and flow of a story, which make it great for anyone who wants to make a video.

Matt Pierce

Matt Pierce is a Learning & Video Ambassador at TechSmith. In this role speaks and teaches about video creation and visual communication. A graduate of Indiana University he has ten years of experience working in learning and development with a focus on visual instruction. He has directly managed the training, user assistance, video, and other teams for TechSmith. Teach him something @piercemr

Subscribe to TechSmith’s Newsletter

Join over 200,000 people who get actionable tips and expert advice every month in the TechSmith Newsletter.