“Hey, Jim. Let’s put together a PowerPoint for next week’s meeting.”

If you’re in business, you likely hear such a statement on a regular basis. In fact, there are over 30 million PowerPoint-based presentations made daily. But how are your PowerPoint skills, really?

Unless you work at an organization large enough to have a staff member who’s been trained and is dedicated solely to PowerPoint creation, chances are you’re left to your own devices when it comes to building slide presentations. And, of course, you want your slides to be as professional looking and engaging as possible. Your brand and company image depend on it, in fact.

With that in mind, here are six quick tips for better PowerPoint creation:

  1. All fonts aren’t equal and easily obtainable. If you’re creating a PowerPoint you plan to share with others electronically, stick to a common font like Arial or Calibri. There are a range of attractive fonts out there, but if you use one others don’t have on their computer or device, the presentation will look different on their screen than it does on yours. If you’re only giving a talk presentation with no intent to share the file, then feel free to go nuts, font-wise.
  1. Choose graphics or images that are similar in style. It’s great to use imagery to add interest to your deck, but graphics, images, and icons should have a similar look and feel throughout your presentation. For example, you don’t want to have a “high art” photo on one slide and a cartoonish graphic on the next.
  1. Use effects sparingly. Don’t be afraid to try some of PowerPoint’s cool animations and effects. Just be judicious in their use—you don’t want your presentation to seem like a carnival ride. Choose and stick with one transition for all the slides in your deck for the same reason.
  1. Keep it short and simple. PowerPoint is intended to deliver a shortened version of your verbal presentation, so focus on concise, bullet-pointed phrases. Avoid sentences when you can and paragraphs completely. Some people use the “5/5” rule, which is five words max per line and five lines of text max per slide. Also, nothing is worse than sitting through a 50-slide presentation, so keep things as short as possible.

Oftentimes, I do two versions of a presentation—a shorter one I use with my talk, and a more detailed one I make available electronically to my audience after the presentation is over. The latter works when there’s a lot of information you want to share, but it’s too much to put on screen.

  1. Go wide. Ensure you are in the “wide screen” mode versus standard mode for your PowerPoint presentation. This enables it to fill the entire screen and looks more professional. (That might seem like a “well, duh,” tip but you’d be surprised how many people don’t know to use this function.)
  1. Know when to bring in a pro. If your presentation is vital and has to be its best and professional design caliber skills aren’t a readily available skill or area where you wish to gain skills, consider using a designer who specializes in creating compelling, professional slide decks.

There’s a lot you can do with PowerPoint that goes beyond talk presentations. It can be used to create simple brochures, for instance, as well as interactive quizzes that can be used for training. Its music and narration features also allow you to create multimedia presentations for your company or product that can be run on a loop at a trade show or other event.

PowerPoint’s been around a long time. First known as “Presenter,” it was released in 1987 by Forethought, Inc. for Apple Macintosh computers. Back then, it ran in black and white and was used for creating overhead transparencies. Microsoft purchased Forethought and the rest is history. Today, PowerPoint is the most widely used software of its kind with 95 percent market share.

This article was originally published on The Connector and reprinted with permission.