How to create and design PowerPoint Presentations without boring your audience.

I know, you’re probably like, did you really use your energy to talk about PowerPoint?

Yes, I did.

Whether your designer or an executive creating a pitch deck, presentation design sounds boring and mundane, but it doesn't have to be and let me tell you why.

Gone are the days of over-saturated slides with content, charts, and tables. Clients and businesses are grabbing at the chance of creating decks that are banded and cohesive and let me tell you. I. Am. Here. For. It.

I believe there is an art to Presentation Design that is overlooked because when we think presentation design, it usually means “PowerPoint.” While I agree that PowerPoint can sometimes be archaic in comparison to the Adobe programs, it is a program that is widely used in every industry, and it is here to stay.

Here are some of my thoughts about why Presentation Design isn’t as bad as it seems and a few tips and tricks on how to make your presentation stand out.

Don’t get stuck on PowerPoint (or Keynote, Google Slides, etc.).

Presentation design is BEYOND the tools that we use as a vehicle to present our work. Presentation design begins and ends with the narrative and the 3 W’s: Who, What, and Why.

  • Who is your audience?

  • What is this story about? What are the key takeaways?

  • Why are you sharing this story? Why is this important to me (as an audience member)?

Use your Adobe Programs.

Just because you have to use PPT (or any other tool) doesn’t mean you can’t use your programs to create graphics to then export and layer them in PPT. Get creative and think in layers (just remember to watch your file size and always compress!)

Graphic Design rules still apply.

The key difference between presentation and editorial design is that it's digital and on screen, but the design principles are still the same.

  • You would still handle blocks of text the same way

  • Visual hierarchy is just as important

  • Negative space should always be considered

  • Consistency in color palettes and typefaces are treated the same way

The list goes on and while there are similarities, presentation design is a whole different medium, and there are some rules that shouldn’t be overlooked (see below for tips and tricks).

It’s Fun.

This might be the preso nerd in me, but I get so giggly-happy when a presentation looks beautiful from start to finish, and the presenter is basking in their stage glory. Imagine a book or a magazine, every single page is beautifully written and well thought out and designed. That’s how I think of presentation design. It’s even more nerve wrecking because typically someone is in front presenting the work - so it’s almost like a show!

That being said, here are a few tips and tricks to consider when creating your presentation:

You’re the storyteller, not your slides.

Your presentation should act as a sidekick to your story, and not the actual storyteller. If you’re going to be reading almost word for word of our slides, then save everyone the time and just email it.

Less is more.

I cannot stress enough how important this is. If you’re presenting and you have 1 Gazillion words behind you and complicated charts, chances are I’ve either:

  • Started ignoring you and began reading the Bible that is behind you

  • Completely tuned out

As previously mentioned, you are the storyteller. Not your slides. Your slides are there for you, as a presenter, to reference. So yes, sometimes this means, one sentence on a black screen is enough.

Timing is everything.

With the way the world is today, you have about less than 30 seconds to make sure that you still have your audience per slide. So remember that this is a story and that there are layers, so maybe consider using an unveiling transition when you’re speaking.

For example, if you have 3 points to make, perhaps take a beat and reveal each point within a respectable amount of time.

Consider your stage.

I have worked with executives that have presented on various platforms. These span from large TED-like stages to your average board meeting in a conference room. Each of these settings is a different medium.

Consider the following:

  • Where is your presenter standing? In front of it or off to the side?

  • Does he/she have a podium or will they be walking around?

  • How many screens will there be? Are these displays widescreen 16:9 or your standard 4:3? Are they calibrated properly?

  • Does your presenter have a confident screen (the ability to see current and next slide) or will they need some cues on their current slide to remember the next one?

  • Will they have a clicker or will the slides advance on their own?

  • Are they holding a mic or will it be a lapel?

**BONUS** Remember the little details: Choose your screen colors wisely.

This is a fun little tidbit that not a lot of people seem to think about when it comes to presentations.

In my previous role, I studied the way our CEO spoke. I listened and observed on what was important for the audience to hear from HIM vs. the message on the screen. For example, if he was in front of the screen and he had a takeaway that would leave such a significant impact on the audience, I typically kept the screen a darker color (most of the time it was black). That way he’s not backlit and turns into a silhouette and the focus is on him.

On the flip side, if there were something on the screen that he wanted to bring your attention to, then I’d use a brighter screen (usually a light gray) so that he can return your focus to the screen and not on him.

**Double Bonus** If you have an AV team that will be recording the presentation or live streaming, screen colors and brightness is critical and should be considered while building a deck. (Also, your AV team will thank you.)

Final Thoughts?

Presentation design is important. Every little detail matters when you are either presenting your product or pitching to an investor. Take the time to think about your narrative first then think of the look and feel and how it will work together. Without a compelling story and great design, a presentation is nothing but a long bulleted email of your thoughts.

Thinking about creating a deck? Let's work on it together!