These days, professionals would rarely dream of making a presentation without a digital slideshow. Since their debut 30 years ago, presentation platforms have given virtually anyone the ability to bring stories to life visually. Experts estimate that nearly 30 million presentations are created every day.
But in our world of distractions and short attention spans, captivating your audience’s attention is no easy task. It goes without saying that some stories are better told better with the help of professional design. So once you’ve constructed the story that you want to tell, consider these tips from a professional graphic artist in order to create presentations that make a difference.
Tip No. 1: Keep elements consistent
How you lay out slides is up to you—just aim to be consistent throughout the presentation.
Whether you’re recapping Q3 profits or onboarding new employees, a clear, uniform layout sets audience expectations and reduces confusion, they can focus on the content, not finding their way around the slides.
For example, it might be tempting to place your copy or images in a different order or format from slide to slide as your story grows. But it’s better to err on the side of caution, as your audience may subconsciously pay closer attention to how you present information versus the story itself.
Tip No. 2: Start with an agenda
An up-front agenda slide gives your audience a sneak peek into where your story will go and sets expectations about what they’re about to learn. This lets people know the order in which their concerns or questions will be addressed, and helps them relax into the content. Rather than skipping ahead with their own issues or worrying that you won’t cover what they’re most interested in hearing, they can engage with the story. They’ll also know how much you have to get through, so they may be less likely to derail a long presentation.
Tip 3: Use video carefully
Videos can be a great addition—when they are relevant and work properly.
We’ve all seen presenters frustrated by videos that don’t play. And sound and lagging issues are even more common in the era of virtual meetings. Audiences lose patience, and engagement, quickly in these situations.
Before you add a video to a presentation, ask yourself if it’s critical. If it is, practice playing the video within your preferred presentation platform, meeting channel, and the actual computer you’ll be using before you try it live. Know that embedding a video in presentation software can have unexpected issues, as the size can be quite large and slow down your whole presentation.
If you’re planning to play a video that’s hosted online, open it in a separate browser tab. And be sure to add a link in the notes, in case things go sideways.
As we’re talking about audio and video, just stay away from adding slide transitions and sounds. Sure, the platform may offer these little add-ons, but they get old fast and can slow down if your file is too large. Just keep it clean.
Tip 4: Tee up content with slide headers
Think of a slide headline as you would a newspaper headline—underscore the key takeaway from your slide. For example, if you’re introducing yourself, “How XYZ Company Helps Partners Grow” is a more compelling lead-in than “About XYZ Company.”
Some people will only read the headline before tuning out, so make sure they get the essence of what the slide is about.
Tip 5: Use hi-res images
Adding images to your presentation brings your story to life. However, low-resolution images can look unprofessional or unpolished. Use high-resolution images to elevate your presentation’s overall quality.
Get free images from sites like upsplash.com or gettyimages.com and be careful not to stretch them out of shape, or blow them up so large that they get grainy. For products or logos, a quick Google search may turn up a hi-res PNG or JPG file.
And if you need to show multiple images, break your content into multiple slides—especially if the slides have text. Stick to two (three, tops) to avoid creating a too-busy slide. While the information may look clear to you, the audience who is seeing this the first time can easily be confused and overwhelmed when they don’t know where to look.
Tip 6: Keep text brief
For most business presentations, text may be the most important element. It’s vital that you keep it clear and concise. Just like a book, people will read your slides from top to bottom and left to right, even if you try to force them to do otherwise with bold text or reverse arrows.
Make sure you consider:
Length: Avoid text-heavy slides. Use bullets and keep the long sentences for your talk track. They should be listening to you, not trying to read small type. Remember, your slides aren’t there for you to read aloud. They’re just to summarize and support your story.
Font: Choose a single, easy-to-read font and use it throughout. Keep the text large enough to read easily, and make sure there’s enough contrast between the text and the background so people aren’t struggling to read along. You never know when someone in the audience may have color blindness or low vision, and anyone over age 40 is likely to have difficulty reading small type.
Tip 7: Number your slides
This may seem basic, but unless you’re giving a TED Talk, numbering your slides can help people track as you progress through your story or need to back up—especially if your presentation is long.
Make sure the text size is small and experiment with making the text color a few shades lighter than the background color. If your background is white, try light grey. And keep the number in the same place on every slide. This will keep the number discreet, so your audience will barely notice it unless they need it.
The bottom line.
Every story ever told has its own perspective and purpose. But even the most well-woven tale can benefit from putting the audience first. By following these tips, you can turn your unique story into a great presentation.
If you’d like help crafting a presentation that resonates and motivates, reach out to FATFREE. We’re happy to help.