Image for Learn How to Unlock PowerPoint’s User-Friendly Design Tool Secrets

In the Zoom-meeting era, some digital experts foresee the demise of PowerPoint as an outdated, one-way presentation tool. Before you go there, give PowerPoint its rightful due and learn what it can do for you.

Granted, the priority in our new-normal COVID world is online, two-way exchange, not in-person, watch-and-listen presentations. However, when used right, PowerPoint is much more than a script with bullet points projected onto a screen. It can tell a visual story.

There are digital tools better suited than PowerPoint presentations to link remote home-office outposts and allow real-time dialogue. But there aren’t any better, more flexible tools than PowerPoint to convey ideas and information in a clear, visual format. Team discussions are great. They can be greater when they focus on well-presented ideas and information.

If anything, PowerPoint is undervalued as a design tool. It is wrong to assume PowerPoint presentations are just a string of bullet points in a clunky format with a few pictures dropped in. That may be the default setting, but it isn’t all the software can do in the hands of someone who knows what he or she is doing. PowerPoint might be considered the wannabe graphic designer’s tool of choice. 

For communicators focused on communicating, PowerPoint offers a more than acceptable compromise of capability and familiarity. So, don’t abandon it; learn how to use it fruitfully.

Let’s go back to those Zoom meetings. Video conferencing platforms make it easy to share information, including presentations. That’s basically what every webinar does. The most effective presentations on Zoom meetings could consist of a few charts or a handful of slides with provocative topics or proposals. PowerPoint is the perfect tool to create visually appealing charts and slides. Because it is a widely used software, the charts and slides are highly shareable by meeting participants.

For everyone who isn’t a graphic designer, PowerPoint may be the most user-friendly tool to create eye-catching visual displays – from handouts to posters to infographics. The PowerPoint interface, unlike its cousin Word, isn’t dedicated to text at the expense of images. Put another way, it is a lot easier to design something with a combination of text and images in PowerPoint than in Word. Plus, PowerPoint offers some design concepts that can jumpstart your project with a customized look.

PowerPoint, despite Microsoft’s reputation for micromanaging what users can do, is designed to let you decide what to do. You can create custom-sized documents, easily insert and manipulate images and text, choose colors and typefaces, manage layers and align layout. PowerPoint can animate design elements and mix-in video. It is not a full-fledged design tool, but it is a lot more robust than many people, including longtime users, realize. You can design professional grade work in PowerPoint.

CFM assisted Central City Concern on its rebranding to show what it does, which resulted in a new logo closely resembling an inspiration image we designed on PowerPoint.

When projects require high design, communicators can employ PowerPoint to develop inspiration images that can guide the work of a graphic designer. More than once in my career, an inspiration image for a logo or poster developed in PowerPoint wound up capturing the attention and affection of a client. The graphic designer’s job became perfecting what PowerPoint created.

Like any design tool, you have to learn how to use PowerPoint. I’ve been using PowerPoint for nearly two decades and I still discover features I never knew existed or that were added without much notice to users. Many of the improved features are knock-offs from more sophisticated design tools. Microsoft never has been good about teaching how to use the program to its fullest capability, probably because it still clings to the notion PowerPoint is mostly for presentations. Despite that, most of PowerPoint’s features are intuitive enough that you can teach yourself how to use them if you devote the time to find them.

Designs in PowerPoint can be exported in pdf documents to colleagues, clients and professional printers, just like those from big-time design tools. PowerPoint can be as faithful to good design as its more expensive cousins. The quality of the finished product depends on the resolution of the images, not the pedigree of the design tool. 

Dismissing legacy software tools may be cool, but it isn’t useful or practical for many communicators who don’t have the time, talent or budget to master sophisticated design tools or the latest-greatest gadget. For communicators focused on communicating, PowerPoint offers a more than acceptable compromise of capability and familiarity. So, don’t abandon it; learn how to use it fruitfully.

CFM routinely uses PowerPoint to design eye-catching handouts for projects it advocates for in the Oregon legislature..