Slide Design

May 3, 2011

For main busy executives, the idea of taking time out to plan the design of their presentation slides is a foreign concept. But a little bit of thought and consistency can go a long way.

If you are one of the many who picks a PowerPoint background at random then it is time to thing again. All the backgrounds provided by Microsoft have been used time and time again. As soon as someone sees that perennial blue fade background with the wavy lines across the top, they instantly remember the last boring presentation they sat through and assume yours will be the same.

To create an original looking background to your presentation, try using a relevant photograph. The only problem is that most photographs have a combination of light and dark, which can make any text laid on top difficult to read. By making the background image a “watermark” or giving it a high level of transparency, you can create a unique a relevant background without interfering with the legibility of the slides.

Another option is to add the text in a text box and then fill the text box with a pale colour and set the transparency level to about 50%. This makes the text more readable but the underlying picture still shows through.

One thing that I approve of in the later release of PowerPoint is the concept of themes, which include a range of colours, and fonts for each theme. To the design illiterate like me, it means that at least I can be confident that the various standard colours I use through the presentation match, and that there is a consistent use of fonts on every slide.

As for individual slides, the smallest font you should ever use is 24pt, with most text being 32pt and titles even larger. Do not mix lots of different fonts throughout  your presentation, two fonts should be sufficient. See the Fonts entry for more advice on your choice of fonts.

Try to have just one concept for every slide. If you have 5 points to make, rather than having 5 bullet points, have five different slides, each one with a descriptive and appropriate image. See my related article on Bullet Points.

My one final point on design concerns animation. Animation should only be used if it actively contributes towards the meaning of the slide. In particular don’t use the spurious animation techniques PowerPoint provides to move from one slide to the next.


Do It

January 5, 2010

Confucius once said

I hear – I forget.

I see – I remember.

I do – I understand.

And not surprisingly, he is right.  Have you ever noticed that if you drive to a new destination, somewhere you have never been before, the next time you go there you will remember the way.  But if you were taken there by someone else, the likelihood is that you could not find it again without resorting to the map.  The difference is that as the driver you actually did it, while as a passenger you literally just went along for the ride.

Are you good with people’s names?  A tip I learnt is, after you are introduced to someone, try and use their name in conversation, when you are talking to them and then again when you say goodbye.  It will help you to remember their name.  This is because you were using it, you did something with the name not just hearing it and forgetting it.

Get your audience involved in the presentation, if you can ask them to do something, they will remember it far better and longer than if you just tell them about it.

This is why entertainers, particular in that great British tradition of pantomime, encourage the audience to shout and cheer.

Hands up who has come from xxxx?  Putting your hand in the air as you say this reinforces the action that you want the audience to copy and encourages them to put their hands up.

Try to think of ways you can get your audience to participate rather than just sitting there as passengers.

One technique I have used is to ask your audience to write down on paper the top three issues they have with the particular topic of the presentation. Then ask people to call out what they have written down and write it up on a flipchart. There answers should not be a surprise to you and you can refer back to them during your presentation. This technique means that your audience had to think of the issues not just listen to you stating them. It has the added bonus of making the whole presentation seem more impromptu and more relevant to the audience.

For some audiences and some presentations, it is impractical to get them all under taking a physical activity.  However, you can always get the audience thinking, which is the next best thing to doing.  Use a rhetorical question – give them time to think about the answer.  Ask them a question and get a show of hands.  Get them to imagine a situation and think through how they would handle it.  In effect, they are doing it in their heads, which may not be quite as good as actually doing it but is far more memorable than just listening to it.

When you ask them to imagine a situation, make it personal and try to include as many of the senses as possible, i.e. what it feels like, how it sounds, what it tastes like, what they can see and smell. Bringing in all the senses helps to create a strong image that people can associate with.

Presentation Training and Coaching is available from the author of this blog. Please visit my presentation training  website.

Give me a day and I’ll change your presentations, forever


January 5, 2010

What you should wear when giving a presentation all depends on the nature of the presentation and the dress of the audience.

Given that you are your single biggest visual aid in getting your message across, it is important that you look good.

When you look out of place it will affect how well your message is taken.  Although many businesses have a dress down policy, if you are presenting to a business audience, it is usually advisably for a man to wear a suit and tie and ladies to wear a suit or similar business attire.  Shoes should be polished, as it is surprising how much is assumed about a business person, based on the state of their footwear.

When addressing a group of factory workers, who are all dressed in overalls and whose behaviour you would like to influence, then a more casual appearance may be beneficial.  You will appear less like one of the managers and more like one of the team.  Every situation is different but there is never an excuse for not caring about your appearance.

In Britain, many men take the view that what they look like should not matter.  Looking different from others is just part of their eccentricity.  Being eccentric is fine, being lazy is not.

If you feel good in the clothes that you are wearing, it will help to boost your confidence.

Presentation Training and Coaching is available from the author of this blog. Please visit my presentation training  website.

Give me a day and I’ll change your presentations, forever