PowerPoint Presentations

Audience Considerations

Use PowerPoint for Lectures & Video

PowerPoint is intended for use with a live audience. It works well for making visual presentation aids to project in a live or recorded setting, but should only be used in online courses for limited purposes, such as narrated PowerPoint lectures.

When face-to-face classroom instructors use PowerPoint, it can encourage students to engage in the learning process. Yet the use of PowerPoint in the classroom is almost always accompanied by a lecture from the instructor. While PowerPoint can enhance the lecture as a visual aid, it is the lecture itself which is the real content. A face-to-face instructor would never sit at the back of a classroom and click through a PowerPoint presentation without lecturing to the class. The students would miss the important part of the lesson - the knowledge of the instructor imparted by the lecture.

Online instructors should consider creating narrated PowerPoint presentations with an audio explanation of the slides. These video lectures should be limited to 5 minutes for each topic. 

Use HTML Content for Text Only Material

Documents created in HTML are the most accessible. Because HTML pages display in a web browser, end users don’t need to download or purchase any special software to access HTML information. PowerPoint was not created nor developed for the online environment. PowerPoint also does not provide a heading structure that can be used by screen readers beyond the title of a slide. It is not a good fit for online course delivery and should be avoided for online classes unless it is used as a supplement to recorded lectures or videos.

PowerPoint slides should not be posted in online classes without accompanying lecture/explanation. Instead, lecture notes and other content for online courses should be created as HTML topics in the learning management system. Be sure to follow accessibility guidelines for HTML document creation.

Use HTML or Word for Handouts

Make sure your presentation handouts are usable by everyone by creating them in an accessible format using HTML for the web as mentioned above. Or, save your handouts in an electronic format in Microsoft Word, following document accessibility guidelines, to provide to audience members after the presentation.

Effective PowerPoint Slides

If you determine that PowerPoint is the tool you need, follow the guidelines below to make sure your slides are accessible and appropriate for the audience.

General Design Principles

  • Standardize position, colors, and styles. 
  • Include only necessary information.
  • Limit the information to essentials - don’t use complete sentences.
  • Do not use effects, transitions, or animation. Avoid blinking or flashing elements.
  • In bullet point lines, capitalize the first word and no other words unless they normally appear capitalized.
    • Upper and lower case lettering is more readable than all capital letters.
    • Use of ALL CAPS means you are shouting and should be avoided.
    • Using no caps looks unprofessional.

Layout Guidelines

  • Use the widescreen (16x9) layout, particularly if using the slides for video.
  • Put a unique title on every slide. Slide titles are used for navigation by those using screen readers.
  • Always use standard layout templates when adding a new slide. Layouts provide placeholders that help improve accessibility for people using screen readers.
  • If you use 2 or more columns, use a standard layout that has two side-by-side placeholders.
  • Never use the tab key to separate lists of texts into columns within a single text box.
  • Allow 1” inch "margin" on all slides (safe title/action area).

Colors and Contrast

  • Always put text on a plain, solid colored background. Don’t place text on images or over textures.
  • Use colors that contrast.
    • Light (not bright) backgrounds work best. White can be too bright (RGB 240,240,240 if you must use white). Light browns and blues work well. Lettering could be black, dark blue, dark purple or dark green.
    • Dark backgrounds work, too. The most effective background colors are blue, turquoise, purple, magenta, teal, etc. Lettering could be white (RGB 240,240,240), yellow, cyan, or pink.
    • The key is having sufficient color contrast. Use one of these tools to check:
  • Don’t use color alone to convey meaning.
  • Don’t use red in any fonts or backgrounds. It is an emotionally overwhelming color that is difficult to see and read.
  • Use colors sparingly; two to three at most.
  • Be consistent with color choices from slide to slide. For example, use one color for all of your titles, another for the text body, etc.

Text Guidelines

Consider where and how your audience will view the presentation. If on a recorded video lecture, font sizes can generally be smaller. If presenting to a large crowd in an auditorium, much larger font sizes (and even fewer words) are warranted.

  • Use san-serif fonts - Arial, Berlin Sans, Helvetica, Tahoma, Trebuchet, etc.
  • Limit lines to generally no more than 6 to 10 words per line at 32+ point
  • Limit to no more than 6 lines per slide
  • Limit punctuation marks

Clip Art, Graphics, Tables, and Figures

  • Should balance the slide. 
  • Should enhance and complement the text, not overwhelm. 
  • No more than two graphics per slide.
  • Must be copyright free or used with permission of the copyright holder.
  • Add meaningful alt text to every image, up to 120 characters.
  • Need help finding free images? Check this page: free image sources.


  • Video content must have synchronized captions.
  • Audio content must have a transcript.
  • Must be copyright free or used with permission of the copyright holder.

Reading Order

Check the reading order of your slides if there’s more than 1 placeholder on the slide.

  1. Press the Page Down key to go to the page you want to check.
  2. Press the Tab key. A box appears around the first placeholder.
  3. Press Tab again to see the next placeholder in the reading order. Continue through the page.
  4. When you get to the last element on the page. Press Tab again to return to the top of the page.

Run Accessibility Checker

  • Will check for some types of accessibility problems.
  • Will show you a list of errors and provide instructions on how to fix them.
Print Article


Article ID: 57629
Tue 7/17/18 3:40 PM
Wed 6/28/23 8:21 AM