Your slides are a distraction from your presentation.
They are either getting all your audience’s attention (in which case they’re not listening to you) or they are putting your audience to sleep.
Think back to the bad business presentations you’ve attended.
What made them bad?
Most likely the presenter’s lack of preparation and knowledge, and the dog’s breakfast of slides that assaulted your eyes.
Below are 10 slide design best practices for a knockout presentation. Beware that number 9 is impossible for most people.
You will never go wrong if you stick to this rule: keep everything consistent.
- Stick to the same font throughout
- If you use headings, format them the same way on each slide
- Use the same color scheme throughout your deck
To be effective your slides need to impact your audience.
You can add impact through the use of transitions.
Imagine I show a chart on my slide. It displays flat sales in the beginning of the year and a dramatic upswing towards the end of the year.
While this slide is displayed I go through extensive explanation of what caused our sales to be flat at the start of the year. I then talk about how we implemented a few advertising changes and this resulted in the upswing at the end of the year.
Because the full chart is displayed the whole time you are talking, the audience understands where you are going and has the full picture before your explanation gets you there.
It is more impactful to only display the first part of the graph (with the flat sales) and transition to the upswing when you are talking about it.
More impact and more likely to keep the audience’s attention.
3. No limit
Limiting the number of slides is a crazy idea.
I guess it comes from wanting to limit the number of text-heavy slides that get into a presentation.
Like text-heavy slides, slide limits have no place in a presentation.
Clear transitions between key pieces of information often require a lot of slides.
A perfect example is in point two above. One slide allows us to display a graph. Two slides allows us to show a clear change (or transition) in the graph.
Sometimes you can do these transitions with animations, but it can be become fiddly and tough to print out or use via webinar.
4. Dark background
A great way to get the audience to focus on you and what you are saying is to use a dark background.
A white background shines very bright and draws away the audience’s attention.
Consider an Apple keynote presentation. They always use a dark background. Imagine the difference if a white background was used.
5. Minimize text
If the audience have to read they are not listening to you.
Minimize all text you display.
A good rule of thumb is to evaluate text on your slides with the eyeball test: If you have to move your eyeballs to read it there is too much text.
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6. Maximize contrast
If you are trying to add impact you need to maximize contrast.
Don’t put similar shades or gradients together when you want to clearly outline a point.
Salmon bar chart on a hot pink background doesn’t provide enough contrast. A white bar chart on a black background does.
7. Sans serif fonts
Stick to sans serif fonts on your slides.
Serif fonts tend to be thinner and busier. Thinner and busier on a projected slide tends to translate to “messier”.
Keep your slides clean and clutter-free by ditching the Times New Roman and replacing it with Verdana, Tahoma, or Helvetica.
8. One idea per slide
If a slide has more than one idea when it is first displayed it has too much information.
Your slides are there to be a support for you, not to take the audience’s attention away. As such, information on your slides should serve to reinforce the one idea you are currently speaking about.
9. Prepare slides last
This one’s tough!
Your whole career you’ve naturally started preparation by creating your slides. Following that you’ve done the rest of your prep.
Trouble is, preparing slides first fails to take into account the most important part of your presentation: the message the audience needs to receive.
Creating the slides last puts you in a position to focus on the audience, and the message they will receive. It also helps you to design slides which will emphasize and impact, rather than slides which will acts as bright cue cards.
Here’s the order you should prepare:
- Decide the outcome you need from your presentation
- Outline the main points you’ll cover in your talk
- Rehearse your presentation
- Create your slides to support you and emphasize what you say
- Rehearse again with your slides to get your timing right
10. Emphasize what’s important, de-emphasize what’s not
When you have a graph, chart, or table you have a lot of information but only one or two points that you need to focus on.
In these cases it’s best to de-emphasize the information that isn’t important and emphasize what is.
You can do this in many ways, but one way that is quite simple is showing the unimportant information in a faded gray color and highlighting the important information in a bold color (and perhaps increasing the size).
What do you think?
Let’s chat in the comments below.