Keeping the Power in Your PowerPoint

Keeping the Power in Your PowerPoint

By Rebecca Barnes

What are the most common missteps in sermon PowerPoint presentations?

“That’s hard to answer,” said Kathy Jacobs, Microsoft MVP in PowerPoint, consultant and author of “On PowerPoint.” “There are so many. I would say the biggest ones are not planning, not practicing and not learning the tool.”

“I’ve worked with many pastors,” Jacobs said. `”They’re so good at what they do, standing up there preaching, that they don’t stop to think of what’s up there on the PowerPoint presentation.”

Jacobs said she heard an Easter sermon, or rather didn’t hear the sermon, where the pastor upstaged himself with PowerPoint images. “He had butterflies flying and flashing all over the screen,” she said.

Jacobs said preachers should consider their presentations from the audience’s viewpoint.

It really comes down to less is more and the quality of imagery,” said Vince Williams, vice president of business development for Oxygen Multimedia. The company provides downloadable slides for churches.

“Churches should spend less time on creative aspects of transitions and fancy features, and just use better imagery that communicates.” Williams said.

“A lot of mistakes get made in over-creativity,” Williams said. Design basics

Jacobs said she collects fonts, but uses no more than two or three in one presentation, never uses all caps and doesn’t use fonts smaller than 18 point, although 24 is best.

There are more rules of thumb. Williams teaches eight basics of slide design:

1. Choose a background that fits the look and feel of the presentation.

2. Choose images that help visualize the text; use one strong image throughout the message.

3. Use an easy-to-read sans serif font like Arial or Helvetica in black and white.

4. Use no more than two font types for one presentation.

5. Stay within the “title safe” margins and leave breathing room around the text.

6. Don’t use all capital letters.

7. Carry a background theme or color throughout the presentation and use pictures sparingly. Do not put text on top of pictures unless the picture is partially transparent.

8. Test your ideas with the equipment, lighting and space to be used for preaching. Sit in the back of the room to make sure the text is legible.
Williams said the repetition of a key image is particularly effective in teaching. It provides a visual cue that ties the listener to a sermon series or message.

Web sites such as, and provide free backgrounds, sermon templates and regular templates that are valuable in their example of a professional-looking presentation, according to Jacobs.

Ministers should keep their slides uncluttered and avoid mixing two or three styles of pictures, such as photos, clipart, paintings, etc, he said. Preachers who keep Williams’ eight basics in mind and take Jacobs’ advice to plan and practice may turn out PowerPoint’s that enhance their messages rather than detract from them.