11. Formatting Tips for Your Deck


Formatting your business presentation properly is critically important. Nothing should distract your audience from the message you are conveying. In this lesson, I give you all my formatting tips for sit-down presentations.

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  1. Lesson Goal (00:06)

    The goal of this lesson is to learn how to format a PowerPoint presentation effectively.

  2. Templates and Page Numbers (00:19)

    Poor formatting in PowerPoint often occurs due to the incorrect use of templates. Learning to use templates correctly ensures that fonts, colors, shapes and textboxes will stay consistent throughout your presentation.

    Long presentations should include page numbers on every slide. To insert page numbers, you can select the Insert tab, then Header & Footer. The resulting window lets you add a number to each slide in your document.

  3. Adding a Source Bar (01:06)

    A source bar is a textbox that should be included on each slide. It indicates the source or sources of the information shown on the slide. The best way to add a source bar is to add a textbox to the master slide. The text should have a small font size, and be a color such as gray. This allows us to add a source on each slide. Having a source for all your information makes your slides look much more professional, even if the source is just “team analysis” or something similar. You should add a source for any information in your presentation.

  4. Dimensions, Guides, Gridlines, and Charts (02:15)

    It’s important to be aware of the dimensions of your slides. PowerPoint slides can have a 4:3 aspect ratio, or a 16:9 ratio. 16:9 is more common in recent PowerPoint versions. You can check the dimension of your slides by selecting Slide Size from the Design tab. Sit-down presentations should be printed in 4:3. For stand-up presentations, 16:9 is likely to be better, but you may want to check the dimensions of the presentation screen with the venue in advance.

    Guides and gridlines are important tools as they help you to align content correctly on your slides. Guides and gridlines can be turned on or off from the View tab. You can use these lines to ensure new content on your slides is aligned with existing content.

    To position charts correctly, you should use the chart placeholder to create a layout in your template specifically for charts. You can change this layout for individual charts if you wish, but this approach ensures the default layout is consistent.

  5. Formatting Text (03:34)

    Where possible, text should be in bullet points, and sentences should follow a parallel structure. For presentations that will be viewed on a screen, the font size should be at least 16. If the audience will have a printed copy of the document, then a smaller font size of 12 or more can be acceptable. Different slides can have different font sizes, but all the text on a single slide should have the same font size.

  6. Creating a Cover Page (04:20)

    The cover page should have a different format from typical slides. It should include the presentation title, the location, the date, the audience, and a disclaimer if necessary. This will give your presentation a standard, professional appearance.


Poor formatting in a presentation can really affect its ability to influence an audience. If the audience continues to notice mistakes or inconsistencies, it can impact your credibility and the nature of your message. Poor formatting often comes down to not using a template correctly. If you are unsure of how to use templates, be sure to check out my course on this topic. In there, I will show you how to ensure that your fonts, colors, shapes, and text boxes stay consistent throughout the presentation.

With long presentations, be sure to include page numbers on all of your slides. Too many times in my career, I've seen executives struggle to navigate a presentation that did not include page numbers. This can really frustrate your audience. To include page numbers, go to File, Print, and Edit Header & Footer, making sure that the Slide Number checkbox is checked.

I would also recommend putting in a source bar at the bottom of every slide. For every information you put on a slide, just include your sources for that information here. If a member of your audience wants to question the veracity of a number, they can just refer to this part of the slide, typically located at the bottom.

To add a source bar, let's go to the Slide Master, and create a text box at the bottom of the slide.

I'll extend its length, color the text gray, and set the size to say nine. In our chats, we can now enter a source automatically on every slide. It's good practice to include a source in every slide, even if that source line just says team analysis. It really adds rigor to your presentation.

The next item to bear in mind regarding formatting are slide dimensions.

In later versions of PowerPoint, the default dimensions have switched from four by three to 16 by nine.

When you're printing a sit down presentation, be sure to stick with four by three. If you're doing a standup presentation, 16 by nine may work better, particularly if shown on a wide screen television.

It's often worth checking this with the venue beforehand.

Guides and grid lines are very important part of presentation formatting, because they ensure that the content on your page is aligned correctly. The standard guides that we have used previously ensure that our content was present in the center of the page. However, we can adjust our guides to guarantee other alignments as well. For example, if you wanted to ensure that your text boxes aligned with the title at the top of the page, you can move the vertical guide across, to align with the left-hand side of the title like this.

To make sure that your charts are in the same place on every slide, I would make use of the Chart placeholder.

Every slide with a chart should be created with this template. While you can change your chart size to suit the particular slide, it's always nice to start off at a consistent default setting where possible.

The text on your page should adhere to the points I mentioned in the Master The Text Box course. Where possible, your texts should be in bullets, and those bullets should have a parallel structure. Determining the correct text size can be influenced by a number of factors.

Firstly, if your sit down presentation is going to be viewed on a screen, you may need to keep text above 16. If you're going to print out copies of the document, which I always recommend, you can get away with the text size as low as 12. You can vary the text size from slide to slide, but I would try to keep a text size consistent within a slide if possible. So if you decide to go with a font size of 14, try to use 14 throughout the slide, aside from the title. These are my formatting tips for regular slides. Now let's take a look at the cover page. Your cover page should have a different format to your typical slide, and include the title of the presentation, the location, the date, a disclaimer, if necessary, and the names of your audience group. This has pretty much become a standard for business presentations. If you incorporate these simple formatting tips into your presentations, they will make your slides look much more professional, and really enhance the impact of your document.

PowerPoint Essentials
Creating Business Presentations


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