Agriculture Communication


Agriculture Communication

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PowerPoint Pizzazz Handout

Print PowerPoint Pizzazz Handout (PDF)

PowerPoint Pizzazz Designing visuals for presentation PowerPoint and other presentation graphics software have brought us a long way in a short time. Today’s tools allow us to create sophisticated pages with color, animation, charts, photographs, sound, video, and perfectly set type. While the tools to create presentations have improved, our skill at using these tools has not necessarily kept pace. When visuals are used, your presentations can be more persuasive, interesting and involving, you can cover more material in less time, and retention and comprehension are greater. This handout will help you design visuals and create a visual plan for your presentations that will make the information you have easier for the audience to understand. Remember that the number one priority with visuals is legibility — they must be easy to read.

Page setup

Set your Page Setup to the final format you will be using – on-screen show, banner, 8½ x 11 handout, etc. This will produce the best quality output plus save you time because you will only set it up once.

Create a master style

  • Use templates for a consistent look throughout the presentation — consistent fonts, colors and graphic style.
  • Choose a master style that is appropriate for your image, your audience and your objective. 
  • Customize the template to suit your needs. Add logos and elements to be on all visuals.
  • Simple is always better. Elaborate designs will destroy the impact of the message with the intensity of the design.
  • Consistency in design will maximize the overall power and pizzazz of the presentation. 


  • High-contrast improves legibility. Use light type and artwork on a dark background for projected images.
  • Shoot for 20 words or less per visual. The more words there are, the more distracting it is for the audience.
  • Use well-stated headings, two to five words in length. Omit unnecessary phrases such as “Graph of” or “Percentage of.”
  • Use a subhead if you need more than a few words to describe a visual.
  • Headings should be larger and bolder than subheads and body text.
  • Avoid all capital letters for text. Even though they’re easy to type, it makes text harder to read and looks like you’re shouting.
  • Capitalize only the first word in a line.
  • Eliminate capitalization altogether on bullets.
  • Add emphasis and contrast using size, text weight, color and style of text.
  • Avoid underlining text. The underline cuts off the descenders of the letters, making them harder to read. Deb Tanner, Publication Coordinator/Designer John Grindahl, Graphic Designer David Haasser, Graphic Designer
  • Limit punctuation. Formatting such as size, type style and weight, position and color reveals the organization of the material.
  • Use line spacing (in the Format menu) instead of extra returns to separate items. Keep related items closer together.
  • Use spell check, but you need a human eye to catch small mistakes. Be especially careful when making last-minute changes.
  • Proof your visuals. If another set of eyes is not available, try reading your material backwards, word for word. 


It’s easy to write too much text for visuals. When you are through with the initial presentation setup, go back and edit to simplify your visuals.

  • Take out sentences and replace them with key words and phrases.
  • Take out visuals you can live without.
  • Take out clip art if you have used more than you really need.
  • Take off punctuation.
  • Remove all extraneous elements such as lines, arrows, borders and boxes, and make small adjustments to the size and placement of the remaining elements.
  • Keep visuals simple and uncluttered. The audience should not have to struggle to figure out what it’s trying to show.
  • Have open space (also called white space) on the visuals to allow for easier reading and visual breaks.
  • Vary the look of the screens for interest. Mix up text slides, charts, bulleted lists and photos. 


  • Use san serif fonts for easier readability. San serif fonts don’t have the flares at the bottom and tend to be a more consistent thickness throughout the letter form that appear clearer on visuals.
  • Use fonts such as Arial, Helvetica and Tahoma.
  • Avoid using fonts with extreme thick and thin strokes, or thin, wimpy-looking fonts.
  • Keep font size 24 points or larger. Never use fonts smaller than 18 points.
  • Apply fonts to master pages for consistent size, placement and colors.
  • Use no more than two fonts for your presentation. Keep in mind that fonts come in families, which are variations within one typeface design such as normal, bold, black, narrow or italics — and this counts as one font.
  • When presenting in a large room, the text needs to be larger than if you’re presenting in a small room. 


Although there is no extra cost to add color to your presentation, there are many choices that can be made. Most of the time, the colors you choose are not as important as the relationships they create. Some work well together and some don’t.

  • Use color to attract, highlight, contrast, or create a feeling or mood.
  • Colors have a thermal quality. Reds, oranges, and yellows are warm colors that create a feeling that is warm, bright and cheerful. Cool colors such as blues and greens create feelings that are soothing, peaceful and cool. Green also represents growth, prosperity or envy, but doesn’t always project well.
  • Choose one or two vibrant colors.
  • Apply colors to your master templates.
  • Use color that is appropriate for your message. Be careful with red which is perceived as a danger color.
  • Be careful using unusual colors such as pink, purple or light green. They are not always considered appropriate.
  • Avoid using red and green together. Ten percent of the male population and 5 percent of the female population are red/green color blind and can’t easily see the difference between the two.
  • Use colors with high contrast for easy readability.
  • Use highly saturated colors when presentations are projected on a screen.
  • Test your colors on the equipment you will be using. You may need to adjust colors for different media.


  • Use dark colored backgrounds for slides and on-screen shows. Light colored backgrounds work well for overheads.
  • Use simple backgrounds that show off your information, not compete with it.
  • Simplify the background even more if you will be using it for charts and numbers.
  • For variety, change the background color when you introduce something you haven’t yet talked about. 

Bulleted lists

If you write sentences on the visuals of what you’re going to say, you have nothing to add. The audience’s attention will be on reading the visual, not listening to the presenter.

  • Use a few key points for visuals. These should be essential words and phrases, not sentences. Expand on these points in your verbal presentation.
  • If concepts are complex, use subentries for more detailed information. Keep the layers of information to two or three.
  • If you need many points for clarification, devote an entire visual to each point, rather than squeeze too much on one visual.
  • Avoid using punctuation. Ideas are grouped and arranged visually, so punctuation is not needed. 


The use of graphics makes information more appealing and easier to grasp. Graphics include clip art, photographs, tables, charts, and graphs. Graphics should not be added just because you can. Ask yourself: Does it enhance the understanding of my information? Might it offend or exclude part of the audience?

  • Clip art should be appropriate, especially cartoony clip art. Photographs, maps, arrows, and diagrams are appropriate for all audiences. This is not true of clip art.
  • Maintain a consistent style in artwork.
  • Consider drawing your own artwork and scanning it.
  • Use wmf files for line art. It resizes well, with clean edges.
  • Avoid using gif files. This format is designed for web graphics and looks blurry the more you enlarge it.
  • Use jpg files for photographs. The file size is smaller than tif or pcx files.
  • Be aware of copyright. There is a wealth of information on the internet that presenters can use and much of it is free. However, if you take information off the internet, be aware that copyright laws apply to articles, pictures, audio files, and graphics. Just because it’s on the Web doesn’t mean it’s free for the taking — you need to get permission from the copyright holder in order to reuse it.
  • Keep visuals uncluttered. The more clip art, photos and text you have, the smaller everything needs to be. 


Tables can be used to provide information and visual interest. They are support information only. If the audience needs to have every detail, provide it in printed form.

  • Simple is better.
  • Separate vertical columns with enough space to keep entities from running together.
  • If you use horizontal lines, which facilitate natural left to right reading, allow plenty of room between entries for lines.
  • Avoid using grids, which box every entry and separate content.
  • Highlight columns by setting entries in a bright, foreground color or with a vertical band of color behind the entries.
  • Highlight key numbers with color. 

Charts and graphs

Charts and graphs are visual representations of data used to make a point quickly. They should support what you say, not say everything for you.


  • Simple is better. Information, color and design should be clean and uncluttered.
  • Reduce complexity. Remove grid lines, chart frame and figure numbers.
  • Keep styles and colors consistent throughout your presentation.
  • Make lines thick if showing trends. Thin lines are almost invisible on the screen.
  • Make the lines in bright colors. Only use yellow if it will be over a dark background.
  • Have no more than five lines or sets of bars per chart, otherwise the information gets confusing and too small.
  • Guide the eye to the main point of the chart with an arrow, a different color, or a box.
  • Shorten numbers as much as possible. For example, use ‘96 instead of 1996
  • Use rounded numbers that are as short as possible. For example, instead of $10,400,34, show 10 or 10.4 and change the axis to thousands.
  • Show only key numbers, if at all. 



  • Choose wisely. Don’t overdo. You want the audience focused on the information, not on what will fly in next.
  • The easiest transitions and builds are text dropping down from above or text that appears coming in from the left.
  • Transitions are easier for the audience to read when the text comes in the same way each time.
  • Every visual does not need these special effects. If overdone, they can slow down the pace of the presentation. 


  • Scan photos at 100 dpi for presentations on a computer monitor.
  • Scan at 150 dpi for projected images. Low-resolution images look grainy and blurry when enlarged several times their original size.
  • Scan photos at 100%. The more you will be enlarging the image, the higher your scanning resolution should be.

Print PowerPoint Pizzazz Handout (PDF)

For more information on PowerPoint and designing visuals, contact at 231-7898 , at 231-8620 or at 231-7891.

Sources Point, Click and Wow! A Quick Guide to Brilliant Laptop Presentations by Claudyne Wilder and David Fine Looking Good in Presentations by Molly W. Joss The Non-Designer’s Presentation Book: Principles for Effective Presentation Design by Robin Williams Presentation Zen Design: Simple Design Principles and Techniques to Enhance Your Presentations by Garr Reynolds NDSU Extension does not endorse commercial products or companies even though reference may be made to tradenames, trademarks or service names. 

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Cleaner Way to Copy and Paste into Ag CMS

Notepad icon
Sometimes when you copy and paste text from a Word or PDF document into Ag CMS, the formatting can be significantly altered. This is because programs like Word carry over some background code when you’re transporting your copy into paste.

 To avoid this, paste the text into Microsoft Notepad (which should be a standard app on your PC), which eliminates all formatting. This should make working with text in Ag CMS easier.

 Sonja Fuchs, Web Technology Specialist 701-231-6403

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Write the Right Word: Me, Myself and I

Despite the way it’s often used, “myself” is not a substitute for “me” or “I.”

You’ve probably seen a sentence such as this: “Please contact John Smith, Mary Doe or myself for more information about the workshop.” The “myself” is incorrect because it is a reflexive pronoun that should be used when you are the object of your own action; that is, when you are doing something to you. “Me” is the correct word.

An easy way to remember which is right is to delete the other people in the sentence. You would not say, “Please contact myself.” You would say, “Please contact me for more information about the workshop.” So the sentence should be: “Please contact John Smith, Mary Doe or me for more information about the workshop.”

A reflexive pronoun always is the object of a sentence; it never can be the subject. A subject is the one doing something in a sentence; the object is the one having something done. So if I pet the dog, I am the subject and the dog is the object. You wouldn’t say, “Myself petted the dog,” so don’t say, “Fred and myself petted the dog.” The sentence should read, “Fred and I petted the dog.”

Whether to use “me” or “I” also seems to confuse writers. A good way to determine which to use is to take out the other people in the sentence. In the sentence, “Jim asked Tim and me to go fishing,” “me” is correct because you wouldn’t say, “Jim asked I to go fishing.” On the other hand, “Tina and I went to the mall” is correct because you wouldn’t say, “Me went to the mall.”

, Information Specialist, 701-231-5391

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Sharing Videos on Websites and Social Media

Videos are among of the most popular content on the web and social media, but sharing them on your website or in social media can be confusing.

There are two main methods of sharing videos on a website, linking to the video file (e.g. MP4, WMV or MOV) or embedding a video that has already been uploaded to a video streaming service, like YouTube. Don't link directly to a video file on your website. Most video files are large. They take up storage space on Ag CMS or other web servers, and they need to be downloaded before a website visitor can watch them. Downloading these large files can take a long time, and, if the user is on a mobile device, it can impact their data plan.

Instead of uploading and linking to the video file, embed it into your website from a video streaming service. There are hundreds of educational videos on the NDSU Extension YouTube channel. To learn how to embed a YouTube video on an Ag CMS website, check out this article, How Do I Insert/Embed a YouTube Video or Playlist on My Website? If your video is not on a streaming service, let me know. We may be able to add it to the NDSU Extension channel or help you get it uploaded elsewhere.

Here's a video I embedded in this web page.

Videos from YouTube or another video streaming service don't need to be embedded in social media posts, you can simply share them as a link. Just go to the video on YouTube and click the "Share" button to copy the link to the video. When you paste the link into your post on Facebook and Twitter, a graphical link to the video will be displayed at the bottom of your post.

One major drawback to this method is that users will be taken to YouTube to watch the video. If you have access to your video file, you can upload the video directly to Facebook or Twitter, so users can watch your video without leaving their news feed.

Facebook will accept MP4 and MOV video files with a file size of 4GB or smaller and are 120 minutes or less in length. Here are Facebook's instructions for uploading video to your Facebook Page, How do I add or edit a video on my Page?

Twitter will accept MP4 and MOV video files with a file size of 512MB or smaller and are 2 minutes and 20 seconds or less in length. Here are Twitter's instructions for sharing video, How to share and watch videos on Twitter.

If you have questions or need assistance embedding or sharing video, please let me know.

Bob Bertsch, Web Technology Specialist, 701-231-7381

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Are You a Robot?

Have you ever been on a website or filling out an online form when it asks you to input re-key a display of distorted letters or check a box to “verify you are not a robot”? This is called a Captcha, which means Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart.

It is a way for an online form to discourage hackers and bots from spamming your form. Their systems aren’t usually able to decipher the distorted letters.

I’m seeing on the Google Forms I’ve worked on for various staff there’s a Captcha that asks you to show how many of a particular object in 9 squares. In the example below, check all those that have a car in the box. So if you ever see this on your Google form for inside or outside of work, just know that it is for the form owner to protect itself from spam.

It can be a pain for you to decipher the objects in the blocks, especially those with sight disabilities but it is there to help so don’t be alarmed if you see these pop up.

Sonja Fuchs, Web Technology Specialist, 701-231-6403

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Write the Right Word: Hyphens

The Associated Press Stylebook, which Ag Comm uses as its writing guide, has eased the rules for hyphens.

The basic rules are that hyphens are joiners. Use them to avoid ambiguity or to form a single idea from two or more words.

Think of hyphens as an aid to readers’ comprehension. If a hyphen makes the meaning clearer, use it. If it just adds clutter and distraction to the sentence, don’t use it.

One of the biggest changes is that you no longer have to hyphenate most compound modifiers after versions of the verb “to be.” For example: “The man is well liked.” “The children are soft spoken.”

Also, you don’t need a hyphen when you use a modifier and the meaning is clear without it. Examples include chocolate chip cookie, special effects embellishment, climate change report, public land management, real estate transaction, emergency room visit, cat food bowl, parking lot entrance, national security briefing, computer software maker.

However, one rule that hasn’t changed is that you don’t need a hyphen in phrases that start with “very” or adverbs ending in -ly. For instance, “2018 was a very good year for producers.” “This is an easily remembered rule.”

You also still need to hyphenate two-word modifiers if they come before a noun. For example: “The nominee is a well-known producer.” “Farming is a full-time job.”

Ellen Crawford, Information Specialist, 701-231-5391


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Designing a Powerful Publication


Sept. 6, 2019 - Where do you begin when you start to design or redesign something? Whether it’s a “save the date” card or a flyer, the bullets below will help you move your design from amateurish to professional.

  • Sample Flyer

    Start with the focal point. Decide what it is you want readers to see first. Create your focal point with strong contrasts.
  • Group your information into logical groups, and decide on the relationships between these groups. Display those relationships with the closeness or lack of closeness (proximity) of the groups.
  • As you arrange the type and graphics on the page, create and maintain strong alignments. If you see a strong edge, such as a photograph or vertical line, strengthen it with the alignments of other text or objects.
  • Create a repetition, or find items that can have a repetitive connection. Use a bold typeface or a rule or a dingbat. Look at what is already repeated naturally, and see if it would be appropriate to add more strength to it.
  • Make sure you have strong contrasts that will attract the reader’s eye. Remember — contrast is contrast. If everything on the page is big, bold and flashy, then there is no contrast! Whether it is contrasting by being bigger and bolder or by being smaller and lighter, the point is that it is different and so your eye is attracted to it.
    Source: The Non-Designer’s Design Book by Robin Williams

To dig deeper into these concepts, go to Powerful Publications to learn how to make your designs more sophisticated.

Deb Tanner, Graphic Designer, 701-231-7891

David Haasser, Graphic Designer, 701-231-8620

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The Rule of Seven

The Rule of SevenSept. 5, 2019 - I recently judged the 4-H Beef Showmanship contest at the Minnesota State Fair. More than 550 contestants showed their animals in 38 classes. After each class, I asked the observers to honor the contestants with a round of applause as they exited the ring.

After about 12 classes, I sounded like a broken record and started to second guess whether I should keep asking the crowd to applaud.  My marketing and branding background quickly took over when I realized that even though I was saying the same thing over and over again, my audience was changing each time. As new contestants entered the show ring, new audience members sat down on the bleachers to watch. I could see the look of pride on the faces of parents, grandparents, 4-H leaders and friends, as they clapped for their chosen contestant. I learned that day that even though I was tired of saying the same thing over and over, my changing audience was hearing it for the first time.

The Rule of Seven is a marketing principle that says a potential customer needs to see or hear our marketing message at least seven times before they take action.

The same principle applies to our NDSU marketing and branding messages. It can feel uncreative and repetitive to use the same green and yellow color scheme and the same branded templates each time we create a promotional piece for a program or field day, but many times our audience is new and/or hasn’t noticed our message.

For example, let’s look at seven different ways an NDSU Research Extension Center could market and brand an upcoming field day:

  1. An NDSU-branded flyer posted at local agricultural businesses
  2. An NDSU-branded postcard sent to past field day participants
  3. A post on the REC’s Facebook page with a photo or graphic
  4. A news release sent to local media
  5. Asking the field day’s presenters to share about the event on their social media channels
  6. A blog post on the REC’s webpage
  7. Using NDSU-branded PowerPoint templates during the field day

Though we can’t guarantee that one person will see all of these marketing messages, we can hope a combination of these methods would help a potential field day participant make the connection that it is an NDSU event, choose to come to the event, and understand that NDSU research scientists, specialists and staff helped contribute to the educational experience.

The NDSU branding guidelines and the NDSU Extension branded templates are great resources to help you better market and brand our information.

Remember, just because we are familiar with NDSU doesn’t mean our audiences are familiar with all the programs and information we provide. We have to be diligent about helping them make the connection and subsequently recognizing the value and impact of our work.

, Information Specialist, 701-231-6136

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Cross Promote Your Web Updates and Social Media Posts (9/05/19)

Any time you update your website could be an opportunity to share an event or program on your social media channels (if it fits your social media strategy). For instance, if you embed a new video on your website, you can’t expect that people will just stumble across it while searching. “If you build it, they will come may work for baseball fields but not web updates.

Your website audience might differ from your social media audience(s) so it’s a good idea to cover your bases to ensure new web content is seen. For example, if adding a new video or a field day announcement, link to those as a social media post.

Likewise, your social media channels should link back to your website, whether it’s Facebook’s “About” page, “Link in Bio” on Instagram or web info on Twitter. 

This gives your social media followers a chance to learn more about who you are and what you do and another way to contact you.

Examples of links back to websites on social media:

Follow NDSU Extension on Facebook:

NDSU Extension Facebook

Follow NDSU Extension on Twitter

NDSU Extension Twitter

, Web Technology Specialist, 701-231-6403

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Write the Right Word: Spelling Can Affect Words’ Meanings

Just a few letters can make a big difference in the meaning of a word. Here are four examples:

  • Accept/except

“Accept” means to receive. For example: “I accept your offer to give me a ride.”

“Except” means to exclude. For instance: “I will take all of the books except the dictionary because it is too heavy to carry.”

  • Adverse/averse

“Adverse” means unfavorable. “I hope we don’t have adverse weather the day of the groundbreaking.”

“Averse” means reluctant or opposed to something. “She is averse to change.”

  • Allusion/illusion

An “allusion” is an indirect reference to something or someone. “He alluded to an earlier argument.”

An “illusion” is an unreal or false impression. “The painter created the illusion of motion in his masterpiece.”

  • Principal/principle

A “principal” is someone or something first in rank, authority or importance. “He is the principal at the new high school.” Principal also is the amount of money borrowed in a loan.

A “principle” is a fundamental truth, law, doctrine or motivating force. “All internal combustion engines work on the same principles.”

Ellen Crawford, Information Specialist, 701-231-5391

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