Designer Secrets: 3 Tips for Using White Space in Your Presentation

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We’ve all tried to squeeze too many bullets, images or infographics into a slide in an effort to ‘make the most’ of our allotted time or avoid forgetting our talking points. But leaving enough space between, around and inside the elements on your slide is key to building better slides. In this blog, we’ll cover why it’s important to build white space into your presentation and run through a few actionable tips you can use to improve your slides. 

Why use white space in your slides?

White space, or ‘negative space,’ is a design term meaning unmarked space. In presentations, it can refer to the space between, around and inside your elements (text boxes, images, infographics, etc.). When you build enough white space into your slides, you create balance and harmony, offer your audience a visual break and help them read and understand your slides. 

Before building your next deck, check through the tips below to make the most of your white space.

Tip #1: Stick to one idea per slide.

We know the one-idea-per-slide thing might seem daunting, but don’t discount our advice just yet. We’re not suggesting you cut your content down to one sentence per slide. (We’re not not suggesting it, but it’s not a realistic goal for every slide.) Instead, just make sure all of the content on each slide has a specific, unifying purpose. 

Let’s say you’re building a product marketing presentation for a crisp brand, and you need to show your audience sales stats from Q2 across locations in Spain, France and the Netherlands. Instead of putting all of your sales info on one slide and your findings and recommendations on the next, try separating the info by location and keeping the findings on the same slide as the stats.  

For example, you might split your Spain-focused slide down the middle with an infographic on one side and key recommendations on the other. Without trying to fit three graphs into one slide (or, worse, creating a graph charting all three and confusing the hell out of your audience), you’ll have more room for white space, giving your audience a visual break and the chance to focus on a single idea (in this case, crisps in Spain). 

Bonus Tip: Use AI to cut down on text 

Reducing the text on your slides is a great way to maximise your use of white space. Plus, it helps your audience focus on you instead of getting lost in a cluttered slide. To learn more about why it’s important to cut down on your word count, check out our blog, Presentation Storytelling in 5 Easy Steps. 

Cutting words can be tricky. When you’re stuck with a big text block, try using an AI tool like ChatGPT to remove the unnecessary words. Try this prompt: ‘Rewrite this section of my PowerPoint slide by removing as many words as possible without losing the meaning and tone.’ Treat the answer like a suggestion and play around with it until it works for you!

Tip #2: Leave enough space between and inside elements (i.e. text boxes, images, etc.).

Leaving space (i.e. margins and padding) around and inside your elements creates a balanced slide, gives your audience a visual break and prevents you from crowding your slide. But margins aren’t built into PowerPoint, so how do we make sure we’re leaving enough space? 

First, let’s get into the difference between margins and padding: 

Margins: Margins are external, referring to the white space between elements and between an element and the edge of your slide. 

Padding: Padding is internal, referring to how much of the background (white space) is visible inside an element.  

Use these 3 tips to increase your margins and padding: 

  1. Gridlines: Under the View tab, select ‘Gridlines.’ You’ll get an automatic gridline guide on your slides, and you can adjust your objects to fit within the grid. 
  2. Guides: Under the View tab, select ‘Guides’. You’ll see two centred lines – one horizontal and one vertical – that meet at the exact midpoint of your slide. If you right-click on one of these, you have the option to add more guidelines. To add margins, add four lines – one at the top, one at the bottom, and one at each side of your slide. Just make sure they’re equally distant from the edges (PowerPoint will give you a distance as you move them). 
  3. Padding Margins: Right-click the text box or image and select ‘Size and Position.’ At the bottom of the ‘Format Shape’ box, select the ‘Text Box’ dropdown. Now you can increase the margins and add a little space into your element.

Tip #3: Use white space to tell your story.

Storytelling is the most important tool you can use to build (and give) a great presentation. We’re big proponents of telling a story in every business presentation, whether it’s ‘choose us to solve your problem’, ‘with our services, you’ll conquer your obstacles’, or ‘we’re offering a chance to achieve your goals’. To learn a handful of techniques for building an engaging narrative into your presentation, check out this blog: Presentation Storytelling in 5 Easy Steps. 

Luckily, with clever use of white space, you can make your design do (some of) the hard work of telling your story for you! Here’s how: 

1. Create a visual hierarchy.

Arrange the elements in your slide to convey your message. Let’s say that you, a crisp brand (again), want to build a slide with a list of advantages and disadvantages of a new flavour (baked beans). You create a small box for each item on each list under the larger headings ‘Advantages’ and ‘Disadvantages’, leaving equal space between each element in each list and a significant amount of white space between the left and right columns. With this layout, you’re telling your audience that these items on each side correspond with each other, but not with the boxes on the other side. It may seem simple, but if you don’t add the white space in between, your audience may see the visual cue and assume the contents of all of the boxes are interrelated. 

2. Call attention to certain elements.

Direct your audience’s eye to a specific element by leaving a large amount of white space around it. Imagine a ‘Where’s Wally?’ illustration with only Wally. When you take away the rest of the crowd, you let your audience to skip all of the work of finding the most important element. Plus, you remove any distractions. You can use it with text, too – any element, surrounded by empty space, will stand out. 

When it comes to building great presentations, white space can be your best friend. Fitting everything into each slide isn’t the goal. Instead, try splitting your information across several slides, using less text, and leaving space around, between and inside your elements. Your audience will thank you! 

Curious about outsourcing your next big presentation to a team of experts? Get in touch today. 

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