We have all been there: We have to throw a presentation together for a client, boss or a sales pitch. We also want it to look really good, and we want it done in the least amount of time possible.

Sounds familiar? Probably.

Does it ever work out that way? Most likely not.

Either it takes way too long to make something half decent, or you just go with a bland, white background bullet list presentation.

So, today, I’m going to show you exactly how to upgrade your PowerPoint presentation in 4 easy steps.

In our example, we are going to show this for a SWOT analysis, but it works for anything you want to show.

Step #1: Make a bullet list like you normally would

The first step is probably business as usual: You simply set up your items in a list of bullets. There are just a couple of things to be aware of:

  • Make sure the hierarchy is correct
  • Make sure you have text in the header and the content

You can see an example of both of these in the picture below.

Step #2: Use Slide Themes to quickly change the feel of the presentation

Next up, we’re going to drastically improve the entire look of the presentation. Here’s the exact process:

  1. In your ribbon, navigate to the Design tab
  2. Find where it says “themes” on this ribbon
  3. Click the down arrow to see the full range of themes
  4. Hover over a theme to see a preview
  5. Pick one you like and see your presentation transform itself

Here’s a screenshot with step 1-4 highlighted:

And below is our already improved presentation, which took a good 15 seconds to choose.

Note a couple of things here:

  • Due to having filled out the header, this is automatically updated with our text
  • The bullets change to complement the theme and the colors of the theme
  • The main body of the slide is still pretty empty, so let’s improve that in step #3

Step #3: Use SmartArt to quickly transform boring bullets

Now, the last step is to use SmartArt which quickly transforms our boring bullets into something that looks solid and professional.

Again, here are the steps you need to follow:

  1. Select all the text in your content
  2. Navigate to the home tab on the ribbon
  3. Click “convert to SmartArt”
  4. Hover over each of the options to see a preview of the layout
  5. Pick an option you like

Here’s how our slide looks after following these steps and selecting the option so tellingly named “basic matrix” by the good folks at Microsoft.

Now, this obviously isn’t what we’re after; luckily it’s easy to correct.

  1. Select the SmartArt like the picture below and simply drag the edges to align it with the slide.

After resizing our SmartArt, we end up with this very respectable result.

Now, I’d argue that this is pretty good and so much better than the bullet list we started with.

However, as a true PowerPoint nerd, I’d also say it can become a little bit better.

So, what would I do?

Pro tip: Play with colors to highlight common themes

Us humans are very visual. And color coding something is extremely visible and easy to understand for the human brain. In other words, let’s do that.

We have a slide, where there is some good and bad stuff.

Strengths and Opportunities are obviously great for the business, while Weaknesses and Threats are obviously not that great.

We’ll now color code these two groups of items, so these factors stand out to there receiver. Here’s how:

  1. Select the Strengths box and while holding shift, select the opportunities box. Both boxes should now be selected
  2. Move to format on the ribbon
  3. Under shape fill, select a color you like
  4. Rinse and repeat for Weaknesses and Threats

After doing that, here’s the slide we end up with.

Now, get to work creating awesome slides!

I hope you can see the value in this. It is really easy to do, and it’ll make your slides look so much better compared to what we started with.

Oh, and it will impress your clients, or your boss if you suddenly go from the boring, white slides to this.

If you have any questions, you can leave them below – I’ll be around to answer them. Oh, and you can find a lot of other cool PowerPoint tips here.

About the Author: 

Steffen Risager is a finance professional who writes PowerPoint tips in his spare time at https://bluetieslides.com.