Use This Simple Technique to Upgrade Any PowerPoint Presentation

PowerPoint is an unavoidable element of the working world. And for us young professionals, PowerPoint has been a part of our presentation-filled lives since elementary school!

As most of us have grown older, we’ve strayed away from the crazy animations and distracting WordArt that dominated the slideshows of our early years.

But it can probably be said that a lot of us have yet to kick an old and more subtle presentation habit: the traditional linear PowerPoint style.

See also: 7 Presentations That Will Renew Your Faith In PowerPoint

If that term sounds unfamiliar to you, it at least will look familiar. Almost every PowerPoint style you’ve seen has followed a linear style, where the slides progress in sequential order.

(If you cannot navigate through your presentation without pressing the back and forward arrow keys, the presentation almost certainly adheres to a linear style.)

Here’s how a linear presentation is set up:

Linear presentation

Although this format can be very useful and does indeed serve its purpose, it is actually hindering us from using PowerPoint to its full potential. The human mind does not work in a linear manner, so why should we present information to humans through PowerPoint that way?

The example below shows a non-linear style. By making the presentation non-linear, we are giving options to both the presenter and crowd.

Maybe your audience is most curious about predators or how dolphins give birth. Instead of dragging them through the other slides, give them what they want first by incorporating some type of menu with hotspots.

Non linear presentation

While non-linear presentations can be created in alternative tools like Prezi and Speakflow, you can also create them with trusty PowerPoint. In fact, PowerPoint has tons of native capabilities that can seamlessly incorporate navigation control—you just need to know where to find them!

Here are some tips that will help you break away from the constraints you thought PowerPoint had—and help you wow your audience along the way.

1. Treat Your Slide As a Blank Canvas

You open up a new document. What do you see first? A bunch of presets and bullets. Don’t feel the need to use them just because they’re there! It helps to look at a plain white slide and imagine the information organized on it.

If that’s hard, draw your layout using paper and pencil, then apply it in PowerPoint. **Helpful hint: The size for a PowerPoint slide is 1024×768 pixels.

2. Get to Know Your Tools

There’s an inner artist in everyone, and if you are familiar with the right tools, you just might be able to unleash it.

Action buttons (slide show options), quick styles (format options), and animations (slide show options) are a few tools we recommend to check out. They might help add the pizazz you need for your next presentation!

3. Organize Your Puzzle of Slides With Navigation Control

As crazy as this might sound, some PowerPoint presentations can go up to 80 slides. When this is the case, consider having a navigation menu present on all slides so that you and your users can move through the information, just like a website.

This will make it hassle-free if someone would like to go back to a slide when he or she is waist-deep into the presentation.

Pro Tip: Check out this tutorial on master slides to learn an easy way to show recurring elements across slides without having to copy and paste each time:

Seriously, master slides will change your life!

4. Bond Pieces of Information

Avoid presenting steps or branches of common information in sequential order if you don’t have to. Let’s say we want to share a brief report of sales for every month in the past year.

Going through each slide one by one with your audience can get tiresome. Creating one slide with links to all the different months can be one way to add structure and a level of engagement to your presentation. And, in turn, both you and your audience gain some control within the PowerPoint.

5. Use Buttons to Encourage Engagement and Play

Think of creative ways to display your information. Instead of listing bullets, maybe add hotspots to a graphic that will reveal information when clicked.

Adding buttons that link to other slides in the deck is a great way to make your PowerPoint non-linear. Establish a mindset that prevents you from using the back and forward keys as much as possible.

6. Get Cool With Animations Again

For some of us, animations bring to mind our silly PowerPoint presentations from when we were younger. But if you give careful attention to the intended experience, you can use them in a sophisticated yet seamless manner.

Start out by incorporating fades and floats. Test how purposeful animations can be in a few slides before you go crazy!

Try it Out

Well, there you have it! We hope we have persuaded you enough to fight your slideshow demons and create something new and amazing in PowerPoint.

Beyond Graphic Design: Maga Design on The Tech Life Podcast

It’s better to show than to tell. Most people have had the experience of trying to explain something in words, but couldn’t. “It’s just easier if I show you.”

And that’s true. But how do you show someone something they can’t see? An idea, a vision of where you want to go, something you want to accomplish that has never been done. You’d need some sort of magic.

Listen to the following podcast with CEO and Founder of Maga, Scott Williams and Rachel Link, Director of Client Services, as they chat with Rich Conte of the Tech Life podcast about:

  • The meaning of “Maga” means magician
  • How we support organizations that are facing communication challenges
  • Why businesses today, more than ever, need to clearly communicate with engaging content to an ever-growing variety of people.

This isn’t an easy task. And effective solutions aren’t by accident, they’re by design.

Maga’s in-house team of designers, UX/UI experts, and strategists are a creative powerhouse of innovative solutions, applying the power of visualization to communication methods across the board– maps, point-of-sale kits, interactive displays, apps, whatever the situation calls for.

And people are taking notice, from the U.S Navy and multi-national tech companies to local start-ups and the Lowcountry Food Bank. Check out the conversation right here!

7 Presentation Examples That Will Renew Your Faith In PowerPoint

The opening scene of It Might Get Loud shows Jack White (of The White Stripes) hammering together a one-string electric guitar with a two by four and an empty Coke bottle.

He plugs it in, plays a grungy riff, takes a drag of his cigarette and asks:

“Why says you need to buy a guitar?”

Pretty epic, right? The thing is, Jack White is one of the best guitarists in the world. Any guitar manufacturer would be happy to send him their best gear for free.

He’s got access to all of the latest guitars, amps, effects processors – you name it.

But he doesn’t need any of these things to make great music because he’s a master of his trade, a craftsman. An artist.

See also: Beginner’s Guide to Graphic Recording

An artist’s skills and creativity aren’t determined by his tools. Tools are only as effective as their user!

The most illuminating example of this in the business world is the ever-present PowerPoint presentation.

You know what I’m talking about, right? We’ve all sat (or napped) through a mind-numbing PowerPoint presentation at least once in our professional lives.

It’s easy to blame the tool, which is why you’re so used to hearing people say things like:

“PowerPoint sucks!”

“Death to PowerPoint!”

“Prezi is better!”

Have you ever said anything like this? I know I have.

But PowerPoint isn’t the problem. It’s us, the users. PowerPoint is a blank canvas, and it’s actually a pretty powerful tool. After all, there’s a reason why it’s the most popular presentation software in the world!

The problem isn’t the software. The problem is that presentation with 50+ text filled slides and no images. It’s charts and graphs that are too small to see and impossible to digest.

It’s a design problem, and it’s totally fixable. Bad PowerPoint presentations can be avoided, but it’s up to you – the user – to make that happen.

To help you get inspired, here are 10 good presentation examples everyone should see (especially non-designers):

1. Fix Your Really Bad PowerPoint

by SlideComet

A presentation about presentations? How meta! This deck is based of Seth Godin’s ebook on the same topic, and it’s fantastic:

2. Why Content Marketing Fails

by Rand Fishkin

This isn’t a pretty presentation. Rand clearly isn’t winning any design awards with this one. But it’s very entertaining and very effective:

3. The Brand Gap

by Marty Neumeier

This grey scale presentation about design and branding is simultaneously minimal and beautiful. It goes to show that you don’t need a ton of content to make your point:

4. What Would Steve Do?

by Hubspot

This deck about the world’s best presenters is bold, clean and impactful. Pay attention to the power of full size images and tasteful transition effects (i.e very simple “on click” animations):

5. 10 Powerful Body Language Tips

by SOAP Presentations

Believe it or not, this is really a PowerPoint presentation. But many hours of expert design went into it, so it looks like it was built in Illustrator:

6. The Power of Networking

by Fabio Lalli

This is a perfect example of slide deck built to support the presenter. – not to steal the show or act as a crutch. Notice the use of large, evocative, high res images on every single slide:

7. All About Beer

by Ethos3

What stands out in this deck is the design. Specifically, the branding and consistency.  The pleasant (and relevant) color palette is consistent throughout the presentation:

Each of these are examples of great presentations that could be built with almost any presentation software, including PowerPoint.

So here’s my challenge to you: next time you’re putting together a slide deck, come back to this post, get inspired, and create something awesome that makes people ask:

“Is that PowerPoint?”

Read next: 5 Data Visualization Blogs You Will Fall In Love With

Ever Been on a Bad Flight? Here’s How Experience Design Could Have Saved You

Every experience is the result of intentional design, or lack thereof.

I recently flew on a discount airline flight to visit friends. Perhaps you’ve done this, too? If you have, you have my deepest condolences.

Even if you have somehow avoided this hell, you probably know that flying, especially on a budget airline, is the worst.

this is the worst

So imagine my surprise when I walked off the plane having had one of the best customer experiences of my freaking life. I was offered not just a snack, but a choice of snack!

When I asked to have both coffee and a Diet Coke, no one gave me any shade about my severe caffeine dependency and I even got a full can.

When was the last time you had an in-flight TV on a domestic flight? With on-Demand? There were leather seats, people. Leather. Remember that anti-vegan material that used to dominate the airline recliner game?

I literally raved about the airline for three days to my friends, lost acquaintances and even strangers.

happy girl

TBH, I was attending my high school reunion so it was an occasion that called on conversation with close friends, lost acquaintances, and strangers.

(I didn’t actively seek out all of these people just because I had a great flight. But still.)

And apparently I have less in common with some of my former classmates than I would have thought. Fortunately, I had my amazing flight story to fill those awkward silences with the former-football-captain-turned-lawyer types.

And you may think that makes me sound lame, but you’d be wrong. Because everyone had his or her own bad flight story to tell in return.

bird crash

It is literally the most effective conversation starter I’ve ever used.

Bad flights seem to be a universal experience. A massive plague that has infected the human experience one trip at a time.

So why had my flight gone differently? I assure you, I didn’t pay up to avoid any unpleasantness. I’m far too cheap (re: student-debt poor) for that; round trip my tickets were under $150.

My experience was so great because it was designed that way. (Did I mention I got a full can of Diet Coke?!)

And it was a timely experience, with some useful lessons to put into practice because Maga is currently working on it’s own experience design project for a defense industry conference.

See also: DC EXCOMM 2015 Recap

Conferences, as a rule, aren’t known for being the most exciting or even pleasant experiences. Despite the promotional efforts that a million conferences have used before – networking!, new products!, technology!, free coffee and donuts! whatever! – here’s the truth:

Conferences across industries tend to be predictably dull and serving the same cheap wine for your one free drink coupon.

got wine

So Maga is excited to be working with the CDCA to bring some intentional design to the conference experience for this years 9th Annual Summit Conference.

We’re leaving behind the traditional makeshift hallways of booths (aka the corporate equivalent of Halloween corn-field mazes.

Imagine booth lackies are the zombies placed periodically between the corn, half-heartedly trying to gurgle an indecipherable line at you before you hustle off to the nearest exit.)

We’re opting for open spaces to interact, linger, and converse. We’re bringing in interactive displays that get you talking. So you know, you might actually have a real conversation with a new contact.

nice to meet you

And we’ve got a few more tricks up our sleeves for later.

We’re taking conferences a step further. We’re not just getting a bunch of pieces together. We’re assembling them in meaningful ways; building an experience through intentional design.

We’re not just hoping that attendees will get something positive out of this experience; we’re making sure they will.

strange love

If you’re interested in attending, we’d love to see you there. You can get tickets here:

Read next: Beginner’s Guide to Graphic Recording

Why You Should Use Noun Project to Download Icons

Let’s begin with a brief thought exercise: What is the first word or concept that comes to mind when you see all of the following images?

Icons examples

Hopefully you guessed something along the lines of “communications,” which is exactly what these icons represent — at least for the Noun Project community.

Wander over to and you’ll discover countless icons created and uploaded by people all over the world – from the US to Poland to Hong Kong to Lebanon.

All you need is a free account — and the willingness to get temporarily lost in an immensely cool repository of iconography.

Icons, as simple as they can look, are integral parts of what we produce here at Maga—whether it’s a map, a website, an app, or an invitation to an office birthday party. They often prove to be quick answers to visually-based questions.

Need to direct a reader or viewer’s attention to a key idea?

Want to convey a concept or object in a single picture?

Or maybe just want to spice up that PowerPoint presentation you made for an upcoming meeting?

Icons will be your dependable friend—like a dog that loves you unconditionally (as all dogs do), except you don’t need to walk it, bathe it, or potentially surrender your personal objects as chew toys for it.

Dog icon
Dogs are loyal and make you feel loved. They are man’s best friend. Like icons for a presenter.
Raccoon icon
Raccoons steal your food when you go camping. They cannot be trusted. Raccoons are not like icons.

At Maga, we’re fortunate enough to have a dedicated group of designers and design strategists who can create icons for our work products. But not all of us are wizards in Adobe Creative Suite.

Many of us don’t consider ourselves artists.

In fact, for some of us (we’ll call them Muggles), just being able to make a colored rectangle in Illustrator is a minor accomplishment. Yet no one at Maga is exempt from having to make the occasional brief or PowerPoint deck.

And because we all like to practice what we preach, this means that the Muggles of the bunch—including yours truly—often have to find simple, easy ways to make their presentations more visually engaging.

See also: Beginner’s Guide to Graphic Recording

This is when Noun Project proves to be an incredibly useful tool. Adding icons into a document allows that document to catch the reader’s eye in ways that blocks of text couldn’t.

It also allows the author to arrange content in more interesting or compelling way. With Noun Project, an appropriate icon is only a search away. And once you’ve found the right image, a quick download is all that stands between you and your visual aide.

One noteworthy aspect of Noun Project is that its contents are not limited to traditional, concrete nouns—that is, to people, places, and things that you can see or touch.

A search for an abstract concept will unearth a myriad of interpretations. For example, here’s what turns up for “solution”:

Solutions icons

Is a solution an idea? Yes.

Is it a technological fix? Yes.

Is it putting two things together? Yes.

Is it a chemical mixture? Yes.

Is it an answer to a math problem? Yes.

In some ways, then, Noun Project highlights the complexities of the human language. Mitigating this complexity is always part of the challenge at Maga, but it’s also a big part of the value that we provide: visual communications that are easily understood by varying audiences.

So next time you’re trying to enhance a presentation or document, check out Noun Project. You can almost always find what you’re looking for…or, if not, you’ll at least stumble upon something humorously unexpected along the way (looking at you, R2-D2).

Icon Creds: Luis Prado, Jose Campos, Christy Presler, Demetria Rose, Marcio Duarte, Gabriele, Malaspina, Yazmin Alanis, Mister Pixel