I saw a guy the other day wearing a t-shirt that read, "Guns don't kill people, people kill people." Often the same holds true for PowerPoint presentations. "PowerPoint doesn't kill presentations, people kill presentations."
It's easy to point the finger at PowerPoint for making office meetings unsuccessful and eLearning lessons a snore, but the truth is that poor design is really to blame.
The good news is that you don't have to be a seasoned designer to produce beautiful and effective presentations. Here are a couple of tips to get you started.
Steer Clear of Bullets, Old-School Clip Art, and Backgrounds and Animation Effects
There are certainly occasions when maybe a bullet really is the most successful way to convey an idea. However, just because PowerPoint defaults to using a bulleted format doesn't mean that you should go with the flow and present all your information with a bullet in front of it.
Try splitting the bullets up into separate slides with a single image to illustrate each point or forego the text altogether and replace it with a chart, diagram, or other informative image.
It is not necessary to have every bit of information you cover on the slide. Encourage your audience to listen; and, if necessary, take notes based on what you say, not what is on the slide.
If the bullets were more for you than for your audience, put the bullets in the PowerPoint notes section so that only you can see them.
Nothing says "High School Presentation Circa 1997" quite like a dancing animated image clumsily plopped on a rainbow gradient background with a big, garish WordArt title (complete with myriad animation effects).
Keep in mind that PowerPoint presentations are plentiful--particularly bad ones. Trust me, your audience will not be impressed with how many moving, colorful parts each slide contains.
Consider taking more of a photographic approach to the images you use. PowerPoint comes pre-loaded with photograph clip art images you can use. If you find the selection isn't enough to suit your needs, try looking online for stock photos. There are many free sites, but keep in mind that to save time and frustration (and improve on the selection and quality) you might want to set aside a budget to pay for images. A useful list of stock photo sites can be found here.
Use Full Bleed Pictures
If you want to really make a statement with your image, resist the temptation to slap it on a slide alongside your text. Instead simplify it by using one pertinent full-bleed image on the slide in conjunction with a very small blurb of text (or no text at all).
Be sure the image you use is high enough resolution so as not to pixelate (blur) and consider using text with enough contrast to be visible on your image.