Lesson 3: Formatting PowerPoint for Effective Design

About this lesson

How Do I Look Professional with PowerPoint?

Don’t fight with PowerPoint, use the built-in tools to look fantastic.  Design themes can magically transform your ideas into a compelling visual slide deck.

But I Want to Look Different Than Everyone Else’s PowerPoints!

Once again, don’t fight with PowerPoint to look different, if you do, you will be courting a disaster.  Instead learn how to use the built-in tools to alter the appearances of the professionally designed themes to make it unique from everyone else’s presentation, with very LITTLE WORK!

What Will this Tutorial Teach Me?

First off, is to make sure your design format matches your eventual presentation room, whether it be on a conference room projector or Zoom (yes, you need to design your slide formats differently!)  Then you will learn how to leverage the existing design themes (plus what to avoid) and how to customize the look to make it your own.  Lastly, you will see how to add page numbers, footers, and match the fonts. At the end, you will become a design expert, within PowerPoint.

For details of all the topics, look below.

Note that this tutorial can stand on its own, it is part three of a six-part MasterClass on becoming a PowerPoint Master User.

Bonus: Material: Slide Room Presentation Tester

Also, do look for the downloadable PowerPoint four-slide room tester to make sure that the room is properly set up and what fonts are readable based on color, size and background.  All for free!  The course material download link is below

The Masterclass

This is lesson three of the six-part Masterclass on becoming a PowerPoint Power User, but the ideas covered in video training stand on their own and there is no requirement to watch the earlier lessons.


  • Designing to Match the Presentation Room
    • What to look for and compensate in the conference room
    • SPECIAL: Designing for Video Conferencing, like Zoom or WebEx
  • Key Sequence of Steps
    • Why follow our magic sequence of steps for success
    • Importance of starting with outlines
  • GET IT RIGHT: Slide Size and Aspect Ratios
    • Dealing with the unknown presentation room
  • Microsoft Design Templates – The Consistent Design
    • How and what to use
    • Ways to stand out from the crowd
  • Individual Slide Layouts
    • How to make PowerPoint meeting your specific vision
  • Slide Masters – What are They
    • The hidden tool that CONTROLS EVERYTHING
  • Footers, Page Numbers, and Footers
    • Recommendations of when and how to use
  • Slide Backgrounds
    • Hints and Warning
  • Adjusting Fonts to Fit the Page
    • Maximizing your message without looking like ransom notes


Subject Microsoft PowerPoint

Software Compatibility Office 2013 up to Office 365

Level Advanced

Course Completed Complete




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Training Video Transcript for “Lesson 3: Formatting PowerPoint for Effective Design”

Do not embarrass yourself in front of your boss and peers with an amateur design look. In this training video, I will show you PowerPoint effective design that enhances your communication and will not embarrass you in front of your colleagues or customers. No graphic design degree needed. 

This is module three or our six-part masterclass PowerPoint series where we focus on expert design decisions.

The design ideas in this tutorial can stand on their own. 

This is rated. A for all and has powerful tips and tricks for both new and longtime PowerPoint users. 

Now, let’s power up to formatting PowerPoint for effective design. 

PowerPoint is filled with landmines that can sabotage your presentation with unnecessary bells and whistles combined with horrendous color choices. Very few of us are graphic design experts, although there are too many people that think they have a sense of fashion but they too may fail miserably at a presentation design. 

My goal is not to make you a graphic design artist but to help you create visually enhanced presentations with the tools that Microsoft provides. Basically, we’re going to leverage what PowerPoint does best and minimize our design mistakes all at the speed of a few miles clicks. To accomplish our goals, we will cover the following elements from understanding the limitations of our presentation room to templates colors fonts, and all the design tools provided by Microsoft. 

In this tutorial video, we will be demonstrating in the most recent version of Office 365 as of August 2020 and quite honestly these design elements have not changed for years. So this training will be useful for years to come. However, if you happen to be using an older version, we will highlight significant differences by comparing and contrasting PowerPoint 2013. 

Before you even open PowerPoint you must scout out the presentation room because we’ll be making design choices based on the limitations of the presentation environment. What do you need to scope out? First off is the projection system that will display your presentation. If your audience can’t easily see your presentation, then you are destined for failure. 

Is it a modern conference room projector mounted in the ceiling or on the wall or some type of TV? More specifically you need to note how bright is the screen can it realistically reproduce colors or even a photo? The sharp met the system will impact your fonts and words. 

Less sharp as in low resolution, then you can only use larger no thrill fonts. Full high definition TV then you can use colorful backgrounds with gradations of colors is the projector a widescreen or more squarish like a small rectangular shape of the older TV take note and we’ll cover this aspect ratio in a few moments. 

How big is the room and how far away might the viewers be seated from the screen a big room will require larger fonts for readability if you can you might take a presentation with four slides with different colors schemes and font sizes plus one with the photos to judge the room by setting it different parts of the room as some projection systems lose the brightness when viewed at an angle. 

The room tester presentation here is available on our website for free. At http://power-up.training  

While not relevant for this training video, but will be in the future sessions you should also check out what type of laptop video connector is needed such as HDMI or VGA. 

Lastly, video conferencing presentations, like zoom are not under your control the participants may have horrible monitors or be using a small smartphone screen assume the worst and voice small fonts and fancy formatting. 

Okay as we’ve stated in all our previous lessons need to start with an outline outlines not only create razor-sharp logic in your text before many flows smoothly take a look let’s switch from outline view to slide sort of view to see the big picture and then move over to design mode. 

Now. As I select various design templates, you will see them get apply cleanly this would not be the case if you build them by hand here’s one with floating text boxes, it becomes a mess in text placement ugly clashing colors, and font choices, ugly ugly ugly stick with the outline mode and that Microsoft templates do the heavy lifting more on design templates in a few moments, but let’s go back to the basic black and white so we can discuss your first design choice up. 

Size. Before we do any formatting the critical first step is to choose the slide size, let’s go to the design menu. Earlier I discussed the importance of determining the projection systems aspect ratio and this is why PowerPoint wants you to select a slide size before you go too far this will determine the size of your canvas a painter always starts by selecting a canvas first and that you must do too so as you know, how to layout your slides. 

Here are the two standards widescreen and standard white screen is 16 by 9 versus standard. 4×3 take a look at what that means widescreen is 16 units wide versus 9 units tall the units could be inches feet per yards, no matter what it is always that ratio for the widescreen. 

Standard is more squarish. Most videos purchased in the 1990s or early 2000s would be the standard 4×3 in our current modern times the widescreen is more often the default, but don’t assume as there are repercussions. Look at this example of a presentation that was built for widescreen and then we tell PowerPoint to convert to standard after the fact. 

Watch how it gives a choice for different strategies to compress either one can be bad watch how things get mushed up together. Best to make the right decision upfront before you customize the slides. Go to design go to slide size. Here’s a power up training tip if you don’t know what the target room is going to look like by way of brightness and screen size you might consider higher contrast templates for low light rooms and then create two versions of the presentation for both white screen and standard screen this gives you ultimate flexibility when you go to the presentation, but you need to remember to update both versions if you make any changes. 

Okay to repair goals we want to create visually compelling slides quickly and effectively and the solution is the use of Microsoft design templates the templates are skillfully put together by professional graphic designers the design covers the obvious and the settling including color layout fonts and bullet spacings. Let’s take a quick tour of some of the choices and the changes we’ll go back to slide sort of review and then in design we’ll choose some of the pre-done templates and you can see as it flows through our outline created presentation, it changes the background the color scheme the fonts and even locations such as titles you’ll see the insert situations the titles work well, but we can see this line, for example, the title is too large and we choose another slide alphabet in one of our choices might be to make the title of the shorter. 

But the point here is that it is a foundation of where to begin. These design templates are fantastic, but you may want to stand out from the crowd in a good way, don’t worry we’ve got you covered. We’ll just tweak the existing presentation by going to the variations by clicking on the variance you see we have four choices here and we have able to add additional color schemes and fonts by choosing the standard templates you’re going to get the best results and you’ll see we have some that we can take a look at if you go into the other choices such as the foss the colors now you’re training into dangerous waters, it’s great though to be able to see that we can take an often seen template that may have been shown in a previous presentation weeks ago. 

And add your own variant to make it look unique. Depending on the version of PowerPoint you’ll have other templates to choose from including the ability to go online but in recent years they made that more difficult still you could go to file and new and see a bunch of choices that you can start with and if you wish you could type in a name such as searching for reports and see more to choose from however I have to warn you these other templates are not as well crafted and I find that they’re often issues with spacing and fonts, so if you go to this path, it is dangerous, you may want to stick with the speedy standard looks. 

To say professional do note that there may be an additional source of templates that you may or must consider your organization may have a corporate template that they’ve required to use this is typical if the communication department wants to keep a consistent look and feel for all public presentations. You can make your own and I’ll cover that in an advance training class on master slides by warning you this is a giant rabbit hole and just so you understand about templates. 

I will preview master slides in a few moment but before that, we need to take a look at specific slide layouts. So we’ve picked our design templates and our color schemes our themes and fonts these changes have rippled through our full set of slides in our presentation now we’re going to get into the very specific of each slide by selecting a layout let’s go back to the normal view here, we chose a very specific slide we’ve gone to layout and you can see there are a variety of different templated layouts that shows how to accomplish various types of content, whether it be text or grass or so forth or focusing on only text but you see even within the Air they have different types of layouts that affect different components in this case here, here’s a layout for the title slide that is different for the content slide we also have the ability to have content with double contents basically windows to do side by side content, this is the ability for you to customize the layout to match the specific content. 

So what controls these choices the layoffs are intimately tied to the template and each have a unique slide master. I’ve hinted about the advanced features of Slide Masters and we’ll look at mastering this feature in future videos, let’s pull back the curtains and see how slide masters control everything about the design template. 

Here we’re showing a specific slide master for a specific slide layout in the design portion here, we have complete control over everything whether it be the background the design elements the fonts the font size and it works at each of the different levels such as the second third and fourth bullet levels everything we change here, well then automatically be reflected back up to the master slide note, however, if we’re changing at this specific layout it only affects this. 

Specific layout NOT for the whole presentation, if we want to impact the whole presentation what we should do, is go to the very very top and you’ll see that the top there’s one slide that is bigger that is the master of the master slides anything we change here such as this case here will change one of the elements including the slide number as we make this change it will reflect the whole presentation and all the children pages and layouts below we find that this is an extremely powerful piece that you can muck everything up in a big way and Bless your careful and know what you’re doing but for the time being we’re going to undo all of our changes and go back to our presentation and leave this for our future training class. 

There are just a few more items to examine such as adding additional elements, let’s go into insert menu and then select either header and footer date and time or slide number it doesn’t matter each choice leads to the same menu before we discuss each item keep in mind that our goal is to create a crystal clear message if you add anything to the page that is not needed then it can distract you from our clear message. 

So ask yourself this is a date or a slide number or a footer add or detract from our message the answer is usually detracts, however there may be reasons to add these elements. Dating time might be of use if we plan to store the document for historic reasons and more importantly if we plan to print them out and people will hold on to the pronounce it’s good to know the original date when reviewing them in the future. 

If that is the case then remember not to use update automatically because if you ever come back and open the file up say a year later then the dates will get updated so put in the relevant static date under fixed. Slide numbers might be useful if you plan to print out the slide and hand them out or you’re talking to someone over the phone they haven’t left and they are working with an electronic version then you can use the slide numbers as a talking reference point to find the page you’re working from. 

And the footer. This is a freeform field that you can enter text such as the meeting title. If there are multiple presentations or your department name, but once again ask yourself if this adds value. Lastly, the elements will show up on every slide except for the title slide. If you click here, and of course if you want to change the location then you’ll need to go into the slide master. 

Next slide backgrounds. Be careful because once you change the background you’re now deviating from the design template and there may be consequences. However, there may be a good reason when the design tab you can make a change to format the background. You could apply it to just one slide potentially to make a single slide stand out with great importance. 

Or you could just make the change and apply to all. Here’s a quick tour of the background choices. The solid fill provides a single look a flat look on the simple to manage. The gradient fill however provides many complex choices that could look amazing under the right expertise or horrendous. 

I can do horrendous basically is mixing two or more colors that can change over the areas slide. Wash this as I choose colors and the spectrum that it transforms over the canvas. If I select the type I can change the flow of the colors. Or I could just select a better design preset gradient which may or may not work for my presentation. 

Now that I’ve looked it up. I’m going to reset the background as opposed to apply all.

Here’s a recap of what to do. Start with an outline. Make sure you understand what the room is like that you’re going to be presenting in so you can design the slides to meet the needs. Make sure you select the size slide size white screening versus standard to fit the room projector.

Then choose the design template for the whole presentation that matches your theme and tone and is visible within your target room. Then slide by slide adjust the slide liability layout to match the content. 

To adjust the font on each slide what you need to do is click on the frame for the text box and while in the home menu click on the up arrow of the font to increase or decrease the size of the font to fix fit the slide. But don’t go overboard. 

Keep it somewhat similar in size and relationship with the previous slide so is not to jolt the audience but still make it as visible as possible in your presentation room. At this point, you could be ready to present in a professional manner. But for those that want to move and plan to carefully craft their presentation our next training video will be going into more advanced features such as working with text as graphics shapes smart art text bars word art chart and design ideas. 

There you go. You’ve just improved upon your fundamental tools of building powerful presentations. If you wish you could download the outline that you saw in this training session at our website of power-up dot training. See the description down below on our notes. Also do subscribe to our channel subscriptions help us build our community and if you’d like this presentation give me thumbs up likes encourages me to make more training videos for you. 

You got questions about things that we covered or other requests look at them in the comments below. You can also recommend other topics that you’d like for me to cover. Next, get ready for module four on our masterclass series. Bill specific slides for targeted results. Until then go power up.