During my first year as a management consultant, I used Google Images for all my presentations. Need a chart showing increasing revenue? Google Images. Need a money icon showing how much we overcharge our clients? Google Images. Need a photo of an overworked yet underpaid first-year consultant? Facebook photos. It wasn’t until my second year that I found out about these amazingly helpful websites like Color Hunt, Pixabay, Flaticons and since then the production value of my presentations has skyrocketed.

So in this blog, I’m gonna share concrete examples of how you can use four free tools to upgrade the look and feel of your PowerPoint or Google Slides presentations. Let’s get started. Hi friends, welcome to the first episode of Think Outside the Box, where I show you creative ways to stand out at work. In my experience, the more resourceful or “scrappy” you are in the workplace, the more likely you are to be recognized as capable and proactive.

First, I’m proud to admit that I haven’t started a presentation from scratch for the past five years. And that’s thanks to websites like Slides Carnival that let you download and use Google Slides and PowerPoint templates completely for free. I personally like a more minimal design so I usually use one of the templates under the ‘simple’ category and in just two clicks, one, two, you have the option to download this template as a PowerPoint document or use it as a theme in Google Slides.

I’m honestly amazed at the quality of some of these templates. I mean, just check out how, like, clean and elegant this Viola theme is. And I think if you scroll all the way down, they even include, like, extra diagrams, infographics, and icons that you can customize completely. Damn! I should just use this next week. The terms of use are very simple as well. As long as you give credit to SlidesCarnival, the templates are available for both personal and commercial use. Alternatively, you can also check out the Template Gallery that comes with Google Slides or slidesgo.com. But they both have a few limitations.

The Template Gallery doesn’t have that many options and slidesgo.com limits your download to 10 free templates a month. Any more than that, you’ve gotta pay and go premium. Now that you have a great template, you wanna customize it and make it your own. And this is where websites like colorhunt.co come in. I use this tool to pick a color palette that I will apply throughout my entire presentation. I usually take a few minutes to browse the popular pastel and night categories all the way down over here.

By the way, I’m almost positive, like, this is the MKBHD branding. Maybe one of you can let me know. And I would favor the ones I really like. Then it gets added over here. Then when I’m ready to apply the color palette, I click into it, click on the HEX code to copy it to my clipboard. Go back to my presentation, select the color I want to replace by clicking the highlight color here, adding custom color, pasting the HEX code in, pressing ‘okay’. And for elements you can’t seem to click on like this one right here, all you gotta do is go to ‘slide’, ‘edit theme’, click it here, change the color by, again, choosing the color you just added, clicking ‘X’ to exit out. Look at that.

I just made this template unique to me. I’m telling you sometimes my genius is almost, like, frightening. Okay, but what if there’s one color you really like and you wanna build around that dominant color? Let’s take the totally not a scam purple iPhone, the HEX code of which I’ll throw on screen right now. If I input that into a website called ColorSpace like so, it can generate a bunch of color palettes around that dominant color. For me personally, I usually go with the ‘natural palette’ like this one, but there are so many options on here, there’s definitely something for everyone.

Before you go crazy with these colors, by the way, most companies have brand guidelines in place for external presentations, but for internal presentations, you can get a bit creative and show your personality. By the way, please do let me know whether you’re enjoying this Think Outside the Box episode. I have way more like work hacks like this, but I’m just not sure whether they’re relevant for you. So let me know down the comments if you wanna see more of how I use non-traditional tools for traditional corporate work. Now you have a template and made it your own. It’s time to add some images to help convey your message.

Spoiler alert! We’re not using Google Images. Instead of high-resolution images, I use unsplash.com. Let’s say I’m doing a presentation on airline travel, I type an airline in the search bar here, I go down and find an image that I think would be appropriate. Let’s say this one. Click ‘download for free. And going back to my presentation, I drag this image into the slide, resize it a little bit to make sure it’s covering the entire slide so I can crop it if I want.

I would right-click and actually bring this all the way back and pro tip and for under format options and adjustments, I actually like to bring the brightness down a little bit if this is a background image, to make the words pop out a little bit more. Alternatives to Unsplash include pexels.com and pixabay.com. They all have free, high-quality stock photos you can use, and Pixabay even has vector graphics similar to what you would find on Google Images, just in a much higher resolution and most have a transparent background as well.

And onto my personal favorite flaticons.com. Again, I’m just amazed how many, like, beautiful free icons there are on this website. Back to my presentation, let’s say I want an icon on travel and airline, I just simply type that in. And the ones with the little crown on here are, like, for premium users, you’ve gotta pay, but there are plenty of free options as well. Let’s pick this one.

This looks pretty good. Free download, attribute the author if you end up do use this. Going back to my presentation here, again, I just drag the icon onto the slide, resize it a little bit, and… It doesn’t look too bad. Another resource for icons I recently came across and credit goes to Kevin Strapper for this one is thenounproject.com. They have these extremely intricate icon designs, as you can see here, and these are more suitable for, like, formal presentations because most of the icons are in black and white. All right, bonus tip because I love my viewers, if you really wanna bring your presentations to the next level, you can start by trying out new fonts and typewolf.com is a great place to get some inspiration.

So if you’re just browsing this, you find a font that you really like, let’s say, Public Sans, for example, you copy it, go back to your Google Slides presentation, select some words, go to the font menu, ‘more fonts’, and you can simply search for it. And there is indeed Public Sans here and click ‘okay. Now, not every font is gonna be available, but it doesn’t hurt to try.

A few more pro tips: to make sure you don’t forget about these tools the next time you prepare a presentation, save them into a bookmarks folder on your browser and name it ‘Jeff Su’s The Best.’ I’m not kidding this time. Do it! Also, check out the licensing terms and conditions for the websites I mentioned today. In short, they’re safe to use if you’re just including them in presentations and not trying to profit off these free resources in some way. If you enjoyed this Think Outside the Box episode, do let me know down in the comments below and check out this video on data storytelling tips.

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