Throughout my academic career, I’ve made so many presentations. It seems like every class I’ve taken has at least one major presentation, usually to wrap up a final project. You would think that after all this practice, I would be a pro at making PowerPoint presentations. While I’ve made a few good ones, I’ve definitely made a few too many horrible ones as well.

And it’s not just me. I generally find presentations I have to watch in class to be outright dreadful. Some of the blame can be placed on professors who allow students to get away with subpar presentations, but I think much of the problem is that students just don’t know what a good presentation should look like. I took a few pointers from  Adam Sigel on effective communication recently, and realized there is hope! Here are five tips to take your presentations to the next level:

Plan Your Content – Before opening up PowerPoint, sit down with a blank piece of paper and plan out your presentation. Start by throwing all your ideas out there and then organize them into a logical presentation. Then, open PowerPoint and design your slides to support your content. If skipping the planning stage, your design will drive your content, and your end result will just be data without any emotion or influence.

Tell a Story – Figure out how to tell a story with your presentation. Stories evoke emotional responses in people and connect them to what you are saying. Most decisions are made through emotion. Knowing this benefits you if you successfully bring out positive emotions in your audience.

Simplicity & Originality – Start with a blank white canvas. Typical PowerPoint templates are either too cluttered or way overused.  Choose animations very carefully. Don’t number your slides- only you need to know what slide you’re on. The more stuff you have on the screen, the less people focus on you, and the more they focus on the screen. Create your own design and keep the slides as simple as possible.

Font & Color – Avoid Calibri and Times New Roman. Using a default office font screams you don’t really care. Choose a Serif or Sans Serif font that you like, that looks professional, and that fits your brand. Colors have strong emotional connections. Red signifies anger and passion, purple signifies wisdom, pink is most preferred by women, blue is most preferred by men, etc. If you want to draw out a certain emotion in your audience, there is probably a color best fit to do so.

Put the Details in your Handout – Each slide should convey one point to your audience. Don’t fill your slides with paragraphs of information. It causes your audience to lose interest and/or stop focusing on you. Rather, put the details in a handout to give to the class, which is easy to do when you follow the first tip!

Next time you have to give a presentation follow these tips and see how much your presentation improves!