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How to design an effective PowerPoint slide in 5 minutes

by | Sep 12, 2022

The M.O.V.I.E. framework is a simple but effective five-step process that you can use to consistently design PowerPoint slides that are clear, effective, and engaging.

Building a PowerPoint slide for work, school, or anything else can be a daunting task. Even if you know what to say, figuring out how to say it can be really difficult. Combine that with a tight timeline, pressure from a boss, or just a general lack of creativity and you might find yourself staring at a blank canvas not sure where to begin. 

In this post I’m going to show you how to design a slide from scratch using the MOVIE framework. A simple, five-step process that you can use to quickly create beautiful, well-structured slides like what you might see at a top consulting firm like McKinsey, Bain, or BCG.

If you’re interested in learning more about how to build your own high-quality consulting-style PowerPoint slides, make sure you check out our advanced courses.

1. Message

This might seem like a boring step, but it’s a critical one. A common mistake I see a lot is people will pick a slide template, then try to force their message into that template. But that can create problems because it forces you to adapt what you’re saying to the logical layout of the slide. And before you know it, you’re trying to fill your slide with meaningless bullet points just because they’re there. 

Related: 7 PowerPoint mistakes that are killing your presentation

A better approach is to think about what you want to say first, then you can figure out the best way to present that information visually. Let’s say we wanted to build a slide about Spotify and their growth in the audio streaming market. Very simply, our message might be something like, “Spotify is expected to grow”, so let’s put that at the top of our slide. 

first step of powerpoint slide

The truth is, every well made slide has a clear message. In this slide from Oliver Wyman for example, the message is that digitally-focused banks are more successful at attracting new customers than traditional banks. And it’s pretty easy to see that reflected in the content with each of these visuals showing the net flow of customers from digital to traditional and vice versa. 

oliver wyman powerpoint slide

“Customer Experience: The 14BN Risk” Oliver Wyman, 2018

Or this slide from McKinsey about innovation in the mining industry. The clear message is that companies are using innovation to address declining productivity trends, as stated here in the title. And again you can see that message clearly supported by these two quotes from mining company executives.

McKinsey PowerPoint slide

“Challenges in Mining: Scarcity or Opportunity?” McKinsey, 2015

2. Organization

Step number two in the MOVIE framework is to organize your information. Now that you’ve established a message for your slide, you can start organizing your data to support that message. This is going to make your slide more persuasive, and help your audience understand how you’ve reached your conclusions.

This is where the Pyramid Principle comes into play. If you’ve never heard of the Pyramid Principle make sure you check out some of our other videos on the topic, or take a look at our advanced courses. 

Put simply, the Pyramid Principle is just a method for communication where you start with your main message, then break that message down into its component parts. When you do it right, each statement provides a summary of all the statements below it.

Related: Consultant Explains the Pyramid Principle

And this type of approach is something you see used by top slide creators all the time. In this slide from McKinsey you can see the main message of the slide at the top, and support for that message in these two sections. 

McKinsey PowerPoint slide

“Technology’s role in mineral criticality” McKinsey, 2017

In this slide from BCG the slide structure is even more pronounced, with three distinct sections that all support the main takeaway of the slide as spelled out in the title. And this works really well because the audience can read the title first to get an overview of the content, then dive deeper into the details with each of these three sections. 

BCG PowerPoint slide

“Loose dogs in Dallas: Strategic Recommendations to Improve Public Safety and Animal Welfare in Dallas” BCG, 2016

If our main message is that Spotify is expected to grow, then we need to think about what information we can use to support that message, and more importantly, how we can best organize it. 

Let’s say for example that we’ve gathered the following data points from various sources including investor presentations, annual reports, expert interviews, etc. The first step would be to figure out how we can organize these data points into different categories. And reading through them, you can see a few themes emerge. For example, it seems like many of them are about podcasting, so let’s take those and group them together. Then give them a summarizing title. 

Because the truth is, you don’t need to include every single data point you have. You need to tell a compelling story.
And being selective with what you decide to include is an important part of that. 

Then a few of these are about the growth in users, so we can put those together as well, and we’ll add the title “Strong user growth”.  

Then these last couple don’t really seem to have a place, so we’ll just leave them for now. 

So now we can use these two groups to form the main content on our slide. Of course it doesn’t have to be 2 groups, it can be 3, 4, or sometimes even more. All you’re trying to do with this step is take the data you have, organize it into groups that support the title, and put them on your slide.  And notice how well this slide’s organized now. The title at the top provides the main message, these subtitles help support that message, and the bullet points support the subtitles. The logic is clear, persuasive, and easy to follow. 

Now, it’s worth noting that this isn’t the only way to go about this. We used a bottom-up approach to organize our information, but another option would be to use a top-down approach, where you first decide on your subtitles, then go and find data to support those subtitles. Each method has its own pros and cons, so ultimately it comes down to whichever method works best for you.

So with the basic organization of our slide in place, you might be wondering what we should do with these other data points. And the answer to that is to just delete them.

Second step of designing a PowerPoint slide is organizing your information

3. Visualization

The next step in the MOVIE framework is to visualize your information. This is going to help the audience quickly and easily understand the details of your slide, in a way that a text or numbers can’t really do. Without getting carried away, you want to try and visualize as much of the information as possible. Most simply that means trying to include charts where you have enough data, but that can also mean adding icons, graphics, or pictures. As long as those icons, graphics, or pictures help bring clarity to the message, instead of just being a distraction. 

Taking a look at our slide here it’s pretty easy to see where we could add a chart. In this section about user growth, we can probably just add a chart to visualize the growth. And although these three bullet points aren’t all the exact same, they do all cover the same general idea, which is that Spotify’s user growth is strong. 

Related: Choosing the Right Chart: A Consultant’s Guide

So to keep it simple, we’ll just add a basic line chart that shows Spotify’s monthly active users, broken down by quarter. That way the audience can get a clear picture of how consistently Spotify has been able to add to its active user base, which is going to help support our main idea that the overall business is expected to grow. 

Third step of designing a PowerPoint slide is visualizing your information

Even a simple visual like this can be powerful. Not only does it make the information easier to process, but it helps break up the content, adding a little bit of texture to the slide. There’s nothing inherently wrong with a slide of just bullet points, but sometimes a visual or two can keep the audience from falling asleep. 

There are a number of ways to do this, but one way is just by directly stating the insights. 

Once again, this is a principle you can see all over the place. Some of the best slide creators use visualization to bring life to the information on their slides, and it’s very effective. In this slide from Kearney for example, notice how they’ve organized the slide into four distinct sections, then used charts to provide support for the takeaways in each section.

Kearney PowerPoint slide

“Fintech New York: Partnerships, Platforms and Open Innovation” Kearney, 2020

Then even more subtly, notice how on this slide from Oliver Wyman they’ve used icons to help visualize what might have otherwise been a pretty boring, text-only slide. Even little things like this can really help the audience understand the content of the slide more quickly. 

Oliver Wyman PowerPoint slide

“Responding to Covid-19” Oliver Wyman, 2021

4. Insights

The next step in the framework is to make your insights clear. This is a critical step in the slide-building process that often gets forgotten – even by experienced slide creators. 

Most slides in the business world tend to be pretty dense – full of text, numbers, charts, and other visuals – and this can be overwhelming for the audience. In a live presentation the audience has to listen to the speaker, read through the information on the slide, and think of how they’re gonna respond. Even for a smart and well-informed audience, this can be difficult. So the solution is to make your insights crystal clear. 

Related: How to Design Effective Presentations: 5 Practical Tips from the Consulting Industry

In this slide from BCG notice how the title clearly and directly states the insight of the slide. Then notice also how the subtitles do the same thing. Instead of just stating a 1 or 2 word topic, they explicitly call out what it is they want you to know.  

BCG PowerPoint slide

“The Open Education Resources ecosystem” BCG, 2013

Looking at our Spotify slide there are a few different places we can do this. First we want to highlight the main ideas of our slide, which of course is our working title, and then these subtitles, which are the support for that title. So let’s change this title to be a bit more clear and descriptive… Then we can update these subtitles as well to be very clear about the point we’re making…

Fourth step of designing a PowerPoint slide is calling attention to the insights

The other way to make your insights clear is to highlight them with things like bolded text, callouts, arrows, and lines. In this example from Strategy& there’s a whole lot of text, but the insights are clear because of how they’ve strategically used color and bolding to help guide you through the information. The main takeaway of the slide is the biggest and commands the most attention, then the subtitles of the slide use a different color and are slightly bigger than the paragraphs, but then even the paragraphs use bolding to draw attention to the key parts. The end result is an effective slide that might otherwise have been really hard to read. 

8 1

“Making zero-emission trucking a reality” Strategy&, 2020

Going back to our Spotify slide, there are a few different things we can do to highlight the insights. First we can draw more attention to our title and subtitles with large text, bolding, and the use of lines. 

Highlighting the title and subtitles on your PowerPoint slide

The next thing we can do is call out the main insight of the chart. Charts are typically an easy place to do this because the data is distinct, so you can highlight a specific bar or line to help emphasize your message. In this chart however it’s more about the overall growth, so let’s add a callout here that tells the audience the compound annual growth rate. This connects well with the message in the subtitle, which of course connects with the overall message of the slide. 

Adding a callout to the chart will help your PowerPoint slide design

Then finally let’s take a look at the bullet points. The numbers will naturally stick out slightly more than the text, but let’s add some bolding to the important keywords and text to really help the audience see what we want them to see. 

Bolding keywords will improve the design of your PowerPoint slide

And just like that, our slide is significantly easier to understand. Now instead of forcing the audience to take in all this information at once, we can guide them to the parts of the slide that matter most. 

5. Extras

The fifth and final step in the MOVIE framework is to take care of the extras. This can refer to things like formatting, alignment, footnotes, or anything else that’s going to help clean up the look and feel of the slide. Depending on your situation, this might also mean making sure your company’s template and guidelines are followed. 

If you’re enrolled in our advanced courses you’re going to automatically have access to our comprehensive slide checklist, which you can use to quickly and easily finalize your slide. But if not, just take a few minutes to look for typos, misaligned boxes, or anything else that looks out of place.

❝ Make sure you have all your supporting details such as sources, footnotes, or anything else someone would need to understand the slide when looking at it for the first time. ❞

This might seem like a simple step, but any good slide creator is gonna take this part very seriously. Notice how on this slide from Accenture everything is perfectly aligned. There are no typos, and they’ve made sure to include units, sources, and footnotes. The truth is, the overall quality of your slide is a reflection on you, your team, and your company. And at places like Accenture they understand this really well. 

Accenture PowerPoint slide

“Fintech New York: Partnerships, Platforms and Open Innovation” Accenture, 2015

With our Spotify slide you might have already noticed a few things that can be done to improve the look of the slide. The first is to align these subtitles, both to each other but also to the margins of the slide. The next is to make sure we’ve got the details included for our chart. Then finally, we can add sources to the bottom of the slide. 

Adjusting formatting of your PowerPoint slide is important to design

And with that, our slide looks pretty good. It might look a little simple, but the slide we’ve made is a clear and well-structured slide that’s going to be more insightful than 99% of the PowerPoint slides out there. 

In this post I took my time really trying to explain the details of each step. But with practice, you can use this framework to build slides in just a few minutes. Decide on a message, organize your information, visualize that information, make your insights clear, and of course, don’t forget the extras.

If you’re looking to build your own high-quality, consulting-style slides, be sure to check out our advanced courses for individual learners and for teams.

Source Information:
“Customer Experience: The 14BN Risk” Oliver Wyman, 2018
https://www.oliverwyman.es/content/dam/oliver-wyman/Iberia/Customer%20Experience.pdf

“Challenges in Mining: Scarcity or Opportunity?” McKinsey, 2015
https://worldmaterialsforum.com/files/downloads/5-Rare_20Raw_20Material_20Issues.pdf

“Technology’s role in mineral criticality” McKinsey, 2017
https://worldmaterialsforum.com/files/Presentations2017/PlenarySession1/WMF2017-McKinsey-Franck-Bekeart.pdf

“Loose dogs in Dallas: Strategic Recommendations to Improve Public Safety and Animal Welfare in Dallas” BCG, 2016 https://dallascityhall.com/government/Council%20Meeting%20Documents/loose-dogs-in-dallas-strategic-recommendations-to-improve-public-safety-and-animal-welfare_combined_083016.pdf

“Fintech New York: Partnerships, Platforms and Open Innovation” Kearney, 2020
https://www.kearney.com/documents/783760/825173/COVID-19+and+Effects+on+Turkey_v1.pdf/0cce22fb-e035-f16a-49f1-70deeb5cc112?t=1585067844932

“Responding to Covid-19” Oliver Wyman, 2021
https://www.oliverwyman.com/content/dam/oliver-wyman/v2/publications/2020/March/COVID-19-Primer.pdf

“The Open Education Resources ecosystem” BCG, 2013
https://www.hewlett.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/The%20Open%20Educational%20Resources%20Ecosystem.pdf

“Making zero-emission trucking a reality” Strategy&, 2020
https://www.strategyand.pwc.com/de/en/industries/transport/green-trucking-2020/truck-study-2020.pdf

“Fintech New York: Partnerships, Platforms and Open Innovation” Accenture, 2015
https://www.slideshare.net/accenture/fintech-new-york-partnerships-platforms-and-open-innovation

You can watch a video version of this article on YouTube.

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