In the previous two blog posts from this series we have discussed both the fundamentals of a good presentations and the specifics of the technical presentations! However, there is “one more thing” that plays a huge role in your delivery and it’s your presentation design! Design is important and will always be and I am sick of seeing amazing technical experts ruin their presentations with bad, really bad slides. So if you don’t want to bore your audience with your slides – read, think, change!
1. Go analog first! – don’t start directly in PowerPoint(or whatever software you use)! Never! Take a list of paper, notes, whatever you like and write your ideas there first. Try to imagine the order of the slides, try to see what goes where and think how you can “tell” your message visually. Once you have that, sit in front of your PC/Mac and prepare the slides. Try it and you will see what a difference it makes.
2. Restraint – This one is a simple one – don’t put anything unneeded on your slides! Just take a look at them and see what’s there. Ask yourself whether or not the image you added is needed, whether or not that label on your chart adds value, etc. If not – remove them! You don’t want anything that is not helpful in some way on your slides!
3. Simplicity – Your slides have to be as simple and clear to your audience as possible! That’s extremely difficult, by the way, especially for the technical presenters, because many times they want to show how much they know for a specific topic and most of the times they put all that information on their slides. That’s not how you should do that! Don’t get make me wrong, I know it is very easy to just copy a paragraph or two from a site on your slide! However, next time try do the opposite – read those 2 paragraphs and think of a way to “tell” them with 2 words or 2 pictures? I can assure you that your audience will love this approach a lot more, but will it be actually easier for you to create it? I don’t think so. However, let’s don’t forget that as a presenter it is your job to make the slides easy to understand…
4. Images – it’s almost 2014 at the moment I am writing this, so please start using HD photos for your presentations! Also, please make sure that you save their original proportions, because I have seen many slide decks with pictures that are for example stretched and this does not look good (you can see examples of this in the slide deck below). Last, but not at least do not forget that if you are using a photo that you haven’t taken yourself there could be some legal issues. Always be careful for this and respect the rules that needs to be followed for using the photos you actually use(again, you can find example in the slide deck below).
5. Animation – be careful how you use the animations that PowerPoint provides. Do not use them just because they look fancy or cool! Most of the times I see presenters that use a specific, “complex” animation or slide transition just because the others look very “simple”. That’s the wrong approach! Again, your “mission” is to make your slide deck simple and not fancy, but complex (those animations and transitions will tire your audience, trust me). “Fade” is a good transition! And one last tip on this – if you are doing a webinar forget about complex animations and transitions! Why? Because 99% of the times the network connection of everyone that is watching you cannot support a smooth transition between your slides. Not to mention if you use some complex effects! (learned this the hard way, so trust me… again).
6. Fonts – my first advice here is to use at least a font size bigger than 14pt and that’s because you want to be sure that your attendees will see what’s there on your slide easily! What’s also important is to use fonts from the same family(examples in the slide deck below all together with which are one of the best fonts out there).
7. Charts and bars – in many business and technical presentations, speakers decide to put some type of diagram. However, I am frequently seeing people mistaken the purpose of each of those. Here is a quick tip that you can use:
- Pie charts – use them to present part of the whole
- Bar charts – use them to put an accent on a specific value
- Line graphs – use them to present a trend
8. Colors – what colors you use and how you combine them is also something that you should think of. The subject and the psychology behind each colors is something that you can research on your own all together with what are the possible ways to combine the colours. However in the below slide deck you can see examples of the following types colors combinations:
- Achromatic +1
9. “Room to breath” – many presenters I see put not just a lot of unneeded stuff on their slides. It’s even worse than that – they put some of it in such a way that it’s like glued to the borders of the slides or to another object on the slide – be that another photo they chosen or a piece of text. Do not do that! Examples of this on slide 37 and 38!
10. Where is the center?! – if you say to PowerPoint to align and centralize your text it will do that for you, that’s true. The problem here is that it does that based on mathematical calculations. However, if you take a closer look to a “centralized” text you will probably see that it’s a bit lower than you may think it should be. Try to move the text a bit higher on the slide and take a look at it again(visual example of this is also present in my slide deck). Don’t you think it looks a bit better?
11. Design is everywhere– design is indeed everywhere! Try to notice the beautifully designed “things” out there and learn from them!