How to Design Beautiful, Effective Presentations

Presentations aren't just for conferences. They're a great way to create useful, visual content for your audience. They're also great for repurposing, so you get more content for the time and effort you invest. 

Looking for a new way to add value to your blog posts? A presentation might be just the thing. Here are some tips for Content, Design, Words and Images. 

 
 
Presentations aren't just for conferences. They are a great way to create useful visual content for your audience. here are some tips for CONtent, design, words and images. they are also great for repurposing, so you get more content for the time and effort you invest. looking for a new way to add value to your blog posts? a presentation might be just the thing. find out how...
 
 

CONTENT


Don’t start your design process in the presentation software. This is a surefire way to end up with too much text, too little focus, and a presentation that doesn’t flow well.

Start by answering the following questions:

  • Who is your audience?
  • What is your objective for this presentation?
  • What are the key points you want to get across?
  • What order do they need to come in?
  • How are you going to introduce your presentation?
  • How are you going to close your presentation? 

The answers to these questions don’t need to be terribly detailed. Actually, short and sweet notes will stop the key points getting lost.

Just keep focussing in on those key points.

Once you’ve answered these questions, sketch out (storyboard) your presentation. Nothing final at this stage, just one or two words to state the point of each slide, and perhaps a sketched diagram or idea for an image.

 

 
 

 

Your aim is to produce slides that:

  • have few words,
  • focus on the main points,
  • simplify complex data or concepts with graphics or images, and
  • help your audience understand and remember what you are talking about.

Don’t worry about having too many slides. You might think you are being efficient by listing more than one point on a slide with bullet points. This isn't the case. This forces your audience to read rather than listen to you. And, while you're busy explaining bullet point 1, they are already reading bullet point 5.

Break your bullet points up into individual slides. Use one slide for one idea. That way, your audience is focussing on the right bit at the right time.

 

 

When deciding on the level of detail in your slides, think about where they will be seen. Are you presenting them yourself at a conference? Then reduce the word count considerably or consider an image-only presentation, as you will be there to talk through the slides.

If you're creating your presentation to use on your website in the form of a Slideshare, you won’t be there to elaborate or explain. You'll need to make sure the presentation stands on its own two feet. This doesn’t mean you need to add a load of bullet points or text. Just add more slides, breaking each slide down further into easy-to-digest, bite-sized nuggets.

For each idea, can you:

  • ask a question,
  • illustrate a point, or
  • inspire them with a soundbite they can remember and share?

 

 

DESIGN

It’s tempting to use the default presentation templates provided with your software. They aren’t all bad, it’s just that they’ve been used over and over again. Try and start from scratch and design your own. If you take a little time to create your own style, you will have a branded, professional template you can reuse. And, one that won't look familiar to anyone sitting in the audience because they've used it themselves!

If you're not sure how to do this, why not get a professional designer to create a branded template for you?

If you don’t feel comfortable with selecting colour palettes or choosing fonts, keep it simple. Clean, simple design, with just two or three colours that contrast well, will serve you well and give you a professional-looking presentation. 

If you’re not sure about combining fonts, choose one that has multiple weights and vary the weight rather than the font. For example, in these graphics, I’ve used Raleway. It's a san serif, easy to read, and has 9 weights, from thin to heavy. 
 

 
 
 

If you would like to use a contrasting decorative or serif font, limit these to your title page or slide headings. They can work well and give your presentation a particular style and feel. Just make sure they are legible, use a large font size to improve clarity, and use sparingly.

 
 
 
 

If you are using your presentation on your website, it’s important that it’s recognised as yours. People often want to share or embed content-rich visuals like presentation, so your tried-and-trusted brand needs to be jumping off the screen. 

 
 
 
 

WORDS

Keep your words brief, to the point and memorable.

  • What’s the point of this slide?
  • What’s the key idea or point you are trying to get across?
  • Want to make them think? Ask a question.
  • Want them to share? Give them a short, powerful quote.
  • Want an emotional response? Choose a striking or moving image.

If you just want them to know where you are in the presentation, a heading slide with one or two words may be all you need. Don't feel you have to explain every slide with words.

 
 
 
 

Make your font work for you. You can use simple changes in font colour, size, case or weight to add emphasis.

  • Making a big point? Use a big font size.
  • Want to stress a point? Use a bold font.
  • Need to use a few lines of text but have one particular word that is key? Vary the colour, weight or size of your font.

This is where using a standard, elegant san-serif font with multiple weights makes it easy. 

 
 
 
 

IMAGES

Poor old clip art. It had it’s heyday but that was a long, long time ago. Like stock templates and images, they've simply been overused. Well-chosen icons, photos or even the clever use of your font, will make a better job of it.

If your image is relevant but distracting, consider a black-and-white version. 

If you need to use text on an image sllde, make sure the contrast is good so the text remains legible. If this isn't possible, place the text on an overlay, adjusting the opacity to make the words stand out.

 
 
 
 

Graphics are an excellent way to simplify a complex concept or focus on an idea — like a photo, without the distractions.

Infographics suit presentations perfectly and the visual interpretation of data helps with audience understanding and retention. They don’t have to be complicated. Actually, the simpler the better. Think pie charts, bar charts, icons, symbols and figures.

 
 
 
 


The overarching theme with presentation design is: keep it simple. They aren't a verbatim copy of what you are talking about. The slides are there to:

  • highlight ideas and themes,
  • summarise key points,
  • simplify complex concepts, and
  • help audience retention through visual stimulation.

Start with the right questions, edit your answers down to the key points, and show more than tell.

Just keep it simple.

 

[The stock image is available free from Pexels.]