COMMUNICATION

Seven best practices of slide formatting

Some best practices that I have gleaned over the years of formatting slide decks, at work and at play

Shawn Seah
5 min readJun 29, 2023

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The author Shawn Seah speaking at a lecture theatre at the National University of Singapore. Photograph by Shawn’s team.

Each time I see a presentation that could have been formatted much better, I wince a little in pain. We all know that a well-formatted presentation can make it easier for decision makers to just focus on the substantive content.

But somehow, sometimes, and strangely, an odd font or a missing comma, small caps followed by all caps, or just a jarring colour combination sticks out so jarringly, detracting rather than adding to the narrative of a presentation.

I just had to write this story on some best practices for formatting slides. It reminds me (and I hope, the reader) that good formatting is all about consistency and coherence.

First, Keep Things Consistently Clean and Simple

Keep slides clean and uncluttered, through ample white space, minimal text (although I admit that this is not always easy, especially in a technical presentation that needs walls of text), and simple visuals.

Have a clear and direct hierarchy of information.

For me, this often means utilising black bullets for the key, main messages and white hollow bullets for the supporting, sub-messages that support your key points.

And if there is another sub-level of sub-sub-messages, they should be in square bullets to distinguish them from the white hollow bullets (sub-bullets) and black bullets (main/key).

Second, Use Coherent and Consistent Colours

Choose a coherent colour scheme that complements your content and conveys emotions.

For example, if your presentation is for children, use kid-friendly and loud colours like red, green, orange, or pink.

But if your presentation is for adults, use your corporate template if one is available. Adhere to corporate templates religiously. If, and this is purely an example, for some reason the corporate style is to use a maroon Roboto Medium for the action title or headline, literally use a maroon…

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Shawn Seah

Singaporean writer and public speaker, passionate about education, social issues, and local history and community stories.