What Are the Best PowerPoint Fonts for Killer Presentations?

Submitted by: Brendan Cournoyer, Director of Content Marketing, Brainshark

March 29, 2012 09:03 AM

You might not think so at first, but the wrong font choice can torpedo a PowerPoint presentation in a hurry. So how do you know if you’re making the wrong decisions?

Check out some of the posts out there from PowerPoint pros and presentation experts, and you might be surprised by how much thought goes into the fonts they choose. While a lot of them talk about using PowerPoint for live meetings and speaking events, many of the concepts for choosing the best fonts easily apply to online video presentations as well.

Here are some tips to keep in mind for your next PowerPoint presentation – straight from the pros.

PowerPoint Font Size

As Jon Thomas of Presentation Advisors writes, “Go big or go home!” Obviously, visibility is a key point of consideration with PowerPoint slide design, and the last thing you want is a bunch of itty-bitty text that your audience has trouble reading.

Remember that the information on your slides is meant to reinforce the points you are making in your presentation, not serve as a substitute for a strong understanding of the content or a well-written script. For that reason, using smaller font to fit in a bunch of full-sentence explanations will not only minimize the effectiveness of your messaging, but also take up valuable real estate that would be better used with graphical images or larger textual points.

In fact, Thomas suggests that 30pt font is the smallest you ever want to use in a slide, noting that “if you’re worried [that] your font is too small, then it’s DEFINITELY too small.”

This 30pt rule may also be a common practice among expert presenters. Last year, Amit Agarwal asked some of the most prolific presenters on the planet for their opinions on PowerPoint fonts. In the post, uber-entrepreneur Guy Kawasaki reinforced 30pt font as the minimum baseline for quality slides. Interestingly enough, he said that since your space is so limited, sticking with larger fonts can actually motivate you to create more compelling text.

“Force yourself to use no font smaller than thirty points,” he explained. “I guarantee it will make your presentations better because it requires you to find the most salient points and to know how to explain them well."

PowerPoint Font Types

The types of font you use in your PowerPoint presentations can be trickier to finalize, mainly because there are so many options at your disposal. In her Presentation Software Guide for About.com, Wendy Russell notes that sans serif fonts typically work best for titles and headers. (These are the fonts that don’t have any curly extensions to them. Think more Arial, less Times New Roman.)

Russell also preaches consistency in your font choices, with no more than three different font types throughout your presentation. Personally, I’d stick with just one font and go with it, but I know others prefer using different fonts for slide headers than with the text underneath.

So which font should you choose?

Though many experts recommend keeping it simple, they also advise against using common fonts like Arial, Calibri or Helvetica. Microsoft’s own Scott Hanselman, a seasoned technical presenter, told Agarwal that he’s partial to Lucida Console, which he describes as “the most readable, mono-spaced font out there.”

Thomas, on the other hand, notes on his blog that original fonts can have a much larger impact, depending on your audience. (Sites like Dafont.com have a ton of these, for example.) Google Web Fonts also hosts a number of fresh options to choose from – and the Open Font License means they can even be used for video marketing presentations.

Finally, it’s important to remember that your font style should match the tone and message of your presentation. Because of this, you need to be mindful of the personality of your target audience. Bruce Gabrielle recently wrote an interesting post on “font personalities” and the emotional impact of different styles. Do you want your presentation to come off as stern? Strong? Edgy? Bruce’s post might be worth a read for those looking to choose the font that best represents the tone of their message – with survey data to back it up!

Are there certain PowerPoint font principles that you abide by when creating your slides? What other tips do you have for effectively using fonts in PowerPoint? Sound off in the comments below!

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