What if I showed you how to leverage this behavior to attract more viewers to your pitch deck and keep them engaged?
What if you could be the Steve Jobs of presentations?
To begin with, let’s agree on a universal truth—we’ve all made that one presentation, at least one, that absolutely sucked!
Over the years I’ve been subjected to more than my fair share of presentations. And of all of these, the ones that have caught my attention are just a handful.
And it isn’t just me. Of the 7.5 billion people worldwide, the percentage of the population who have sat through a presentation and have had a real takeaway and been content is very seldom.
Why a presentation, though? To tell a story, pitch an idea or even share data maybe? Yeah? If that is the case, then, the whole process is supposed to be engaging.
However, around 39% of your audience fall asleep at some point of time during your presentation.
Not that small a number, is it?
Talking about presentations, what’s the first thing that pops into your head when you hear the word ‘presentation’? Microsoft PowerPoint. Right? Le sigh…
Call it digging one’s own grave or whatever, but PowerPoint itself has created more bad designs than any other designing tool with an obviously possible exception of…I dunno, MS Paint. And they call it a presentation design tool…
IMHO, PowerPoint is a tool that puts your abilities as a marketer to the test. To create even a passing presentation, one needs to demonstrate design skills, technical literacy, and a sense of personal style. Well, PowerPoint has a high bar in at least these regards.
PowerPoint doesn’t kill the people. Blame ‘creatives’ instead. But using PowerPoint is kinda like having an AK-47 on the table: things go from bad to worse pretty quick.
The bottom line is that presentation design matters. Regardless of how dynamic the speaker is, how mind-blowing the available statistics are, or how captivating the idea is, boring PowerPoint slides could make your audience fall asleep—fast.
Whether you’re using a presentation software from the 21st century, PowerPoint, Keynote or just good old PDFs, these nine tips will help you create fabulous designer slides that effectively get your point across.
Do not use a built-in theme
Use the slide layout to get your audience’s attention
Dodge the bullet point epidemic
Use quality images to increase the emotional appeal
Don’t forget to use typography
Remember the ‘Rule of 3’
Always maintain a strong contrast between the text and background
Don’t complicate your slides with multiple colors; keep it simple
Finally, watch your readability
Standard templates are boring. To illustrate my point, let me take you through the difference that a standard template design makes on your presentation vs. a custom one.
What do you think? Pretty darn awesome, right?
Not too surprising though considering that, for the broad majority of us, standard templates work sub-optimally. And I’m being generous here…
The point I’m trying to make here is that custom slides generally make a much stronger statement than something cookie-cutter. The problem with using standardized templates is that they’re generally poorly designed and have been seen by at least half the world(not including China cos that’s a whole different world!) You want to stand out, not blend in.
Think of yourself at a Halloween party; no one wants to be the guy who walks in straight from the Office(*subtle jibe*).
For non-designers i.e. guys like me, leaving behind the crutch of a standard template may seem a bit radical, but trust me, if I can do it, you can too.
Just make sure to go through the other points before you head out on your own lest you end up with something far worse than what the Microsoft designers came up with. But, if you really can’t pull off a custom template on your own, maybe then, you should have a look at Pitch Deck. We have some pretty incredible situation-specific templates since we’re, you know, a presentation platform. Just saying…
Here’s the thing—most people have a natural reading order — from top to bottom and left to right. Knowing this, you can direct visual flow in deliberate ways to parts of the slide that you want to draw attention to. Playing with slide layout is a proven way to control the hierarchy of information.
Since the dawn of presentations, people are accustomed to a particular style — the heading on the top-left corner, the main content and then an image on the side to complement the written text.
Now, it’s quite okay to don the creativity hat and plan on creating a custom slide with a unique layout. In fact, I’d even give you the brightest green flag to go ahead with it. Good job I’d say.
However, there is this one thing that you should always keep in mind before you get all brave — the ‘reading order’ that we discussed a few minutes ago. Under no circumstances should the reading order be disrupted or your audience is likely to lose the message that you are trying to convey amidst your newly-set design trend.
So, try to structure your slides more like this…
And a little less like this…
Don’t Use bullets in your presentation.
This, perhaps, is the most preached statement.
I can personally attest to the adverse effects of using bullets in a presentation. A few weeks after I watched a presentation delivered by the members of a start-up accelerator, the only slides that I can recollect are the ones that utilized visuals. The one’s with listings was forgotten soon after the event. On the other hand, I distinctly remember the information that was delivered using visual slides, even weeks after the presentation.
Now, is this a personal preference? Definitely not.
In 2014, the International Journal of Business Communication published the results from The Use of Visualization in the Communication of Business Strategies, a study designed to gather empirical evidence regarding whether the use of visualization is superior to text in the communication of business strategies. The results of that experiment confirmed that lists of text are ineffective for presentations. Slides with visuals are undeniably more efficient than slides with text.
Specifically, the study concluded:
Subjects who were exposed to a graphic representation of the strategy paid significantly more attention to, agreed more with, and better recalled the approach than did subjects who saw a (textually identical) bulleted list version.
Tell me something I don’t know.
Although, sometimes the need for text on a slide is inevitable. And at times like this, bullet points are the most convenient form to say everything in the shortest and concise manner.
However, there is a method to this madness as well.
You cannot go about dumping the most complex ideas ever composed by humankind into a bulleted list.
For instance, this is strictly a no-no.
To get this right, the first errand that you must run through in your itinerary is to must make a decision on what is important to be on the slide vs. what one should just leave for the speech.
Once you’ve fixed this little glitch, well then, voila…
You cannot deny that images are being used in most of the presentations today. But, why?
While everyone loves a good book or two filled with pages and pages of text, it isn’t the same when it comes to presentations. People are more responsive and engaging towards images than plain text. The images in a presentation support your message. It enhances comprehension, retention and elicits an emotional response that will increase the impact.
Images are one of the single best ways to make your presentation look awesome. It’s can also be one of the single best ways to make them look lame.
For instance, this is something that you definitely don’t want in your presentation…
However, an upshot like the one above will always catch everyone’s eye
Typography is the art and technique of arranging typefaces. And to explain how it works, I am going to take you through an example.
Say, the word “GOODBYE.” What does it convey?
Bidding adieu to your friend as a farewell gesture?
A word said after a heated argument?
But, when the same ‘goodbye’ is in a written format, how do you identify the tone and intent in which it was said?
The first is a command. It seems as though you are asking your audience to GET OUT!
The second one, however, seems more like an expression used when parting ways. It could either be related to a happy ending or a sad farewell.
My point here is typography plays an essential part in the comprehension flow.
Traditionally, serif fonts (Times New Roman, Garamond, Bookman) are best for printed pages, and sans serif fonts (Helvetica, Tahoma, Verdana) are easier to read on screens.
These are always safe choices, but if you’d like to add some more typographic personality, try exploring Google Fonts. The open-source collection is free, and you can download from over 600 font families.
So, what is so magical about the number 3?
It’s no accident that the number three is pervasive throughout some of our greatest stories, fairy tales, and myths.
We remember three things…
As humans, we’ve become highly proficient at pattern recognition by necessity, and three is the smallest number of elements required to create a pattern. Put simply; people tend to remember three things more quickly.
It all comes down to the way we humans process information. It is easier for your audience to take away information with your application of the rule of three in the presentation.
There is always a high possibility for the text that you have written on your slide to get lost amidst the bright background and the vibrant images that you’ve used. Remember, the visuals are a catalyst to your text on the screen.
Yes, your slide has to be visually appealing. But not at the stake of losing the readability of the textual content in the slide.
Hence, avoiding the usage of brighter color variants in the background would be a good idea.
OR, you could get smart and do something like this…
Wherever possible, stick to simple light or dark colors. Don’t choose highest contrast colors from the color spectrum. It will hurt the eye. Literally. Also, avoid strong gradients, which can make text hard to read.
However, dark text on a light background or light text on a black background will work well.
I’ve provided a simple illustration to back this up…
The caveat to this is, if you’re presenting on behalf of your brand, check what your company’s brand guidelines are. Companies often have a well-designed brand palette, and it’s a good idea to use them in your presentation to align with your company’s brand identity and style.
Now that we have spoken about typography and usage of colors, let’s understand how the combined usage of all the three can be put to good use.
To demonstrate that, let me show you how, despite using a contextual image with appropriate typography, the result can be a complete wreck.
This can be remedied quite easily, though: by creating a simple color bar behind the text we increase the readability by leaps and bounds while retaining all the existing styled elements.
Design is just thinking made visual, but aptly. When we write blogs, we look up bloggers, we look at various articles, for inspiration. But when it’s time to craft a custom designed slide, we don’t seek out amazing pitch decks to kick-start our presentation making process—but we should. By getting inspired and being familiar with captivating presentations, it’ll be easier to create one on your own.
Let us know in the comments below…