Top 10 Tips for PowerPoint

by Terry Wilhite

Microsoft's PowerPoint is now as popular in Sunday school classes and sanctuaries as it is in corporate boardrooms. Because projector prices have plummeted to $1,000 and below, even smaller churches can afford these teaching tools. Lately, however, I've seen several presentations that "wowed" me with great transitions, cute art, and nifty sound effects-but when the presentation was completed, I couldn't remember much about the message. Too much of a good thing on the big screen leaves congregants looking at pictures, admiring the transitions, but missing the message! Here are some tips I'd like to share with you so that projection reinforces your message, but doesn't compete with it.

1. Be consistent with your slides. Create a background and "look" for announcements, another for birthdays, song lyrics, and sermon outlines.

2. Project only Bible translations that help to amplify or clarify the version the congregation is holding in their hands. Our aim as leaders is to get people into the Word-to get them to use their Bibles.

3. Use theme music "under" your announcement slides. For example, use the same song or style of music every time the announcements are shown (like the theme music for a television news broadcast).

4. Eliminate unnecessary wording. Instead of typing: "The Youth Committee will meet at 7:00 p.m. Tuesday Night," instead, type "Youth Committee" on one line, then "Tuesday Night, 7 p.m." on the next, and the location on the next line. Follow the same format every time. Keep it simple.

5. Use transitions sparingly. The best transition is no transition-just the quick change from slide to slide. Transitions should be employed to get viewers from one major segment to another, i.e., announcements to birthdays, songs to sermon outlines. The same transition should be consistently used per presentation. If you use a text effect, such as the typewriter effect, use it sparingly. Again, the best effect is no effect.

6. Use at least 36-point type. Test font sizes on the big screen before your presentation. Use phrases, not long sentences, and please don't crowd text on the screen.

7. Make sure text colors don't compete with the background. The background should be dark, the text light. For example, a crimson background with yellow or white text. You may want your background theme color to match or compliment the colors of your church sanctuary. That will help the message come through.

8. Less is still more. More is a bore. Watch for clutter. Too much text, too many graphics will appear as clutter. If you're displaying chorus or hymn text, make sure that "jumps" from one slide to another are at good breaking points: the end of a verse, or places we take breaths when we sing. Pictures in the background or live video can be attractive, if it is lightly displayed. Otherwise, the busyness of the screen will be distracting.

9. Timing is everything. Practice the transitions and slide progressions for hymns and choruses on the computer you'll be using for the actual performance. PowerPoint's transition speed will depend on the speed of your computer's processor. If you set the presentation up at home on your 500 MHz machine and then take it to church to show it on a 1.2 Ghz computer, your automated transitions and your type effects will be faster. As you manually advance announcement slides, read each slide to yourself a bit slower than what's comfortable. That way you'll have the reading speed about right.

10. Be careful not to show the "seamy side " of your software. Do all the work before the congregation is in place. Here's a secret. Check to see if your projector will allow you to freeze-frame. For example, you can freeze-frame the "welcome" slide while the sanctuary is filling up, just in case you have to add something at the last minute. Here's another tip: When there are no more slides, and you hit the spacebar to advance, PowerPoint will revert to the thumbnail mode that shows all tiny slides at once on your screen. To keep this from happening, create a slide with a church logo that will alert you that you're at the end. I put several of these slides in at the end, just in case I forget and hit the advance button twice at the end. If you've got to know what's next, print out a copy of your slides, if you're not using the dual monitor function.

Terry Wilhite is a music and multimedia specialist. He welcomes your article ideas and questions. His e-mail address is

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