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5 Tips For Better Presentations

17 OCT

N.B. This blog was originally published in Oct 2014 and has been updated with refreshed content.

(this blog has a backstory, you see. Bear with me…)

Picture me, a rainy Friday night many moons ago. I am rammed into a corner seat in a crowded sushi restaurant with a group of friends. I am sitting across from a very nice young man I have never met before, and we make small talk about, obviously, our jobs. I quickly understand, as his ears almost visibly prick up when I explain my role, that I have just encountered my first ‘PowerPoint hobbyist’ (you would never have thought so, he looked so normal).

As we inexpertly pincer California rolls between our chopsticks he asks me, eyes shining with barely concealed excitement, for my ‘top presentation tips’. Not wanting to go into the level of detail that would bore the rest of the table to tears (i.e. any) I promise I will write a blog about it. So, earnest young Powerpoint fan (you know who you are), this one’s for you...

PowerPoint and Keynote

Making better presentations

Designing beautiful, clear and memorable Presentations isn’t easy (fortunately for us). It takes time, experience and an eye for design to produce a truly professional slide deck. 

However, for those of you panicking about producing a decent presentation for that job interview or internal meeting (or you’re one of those hobbyists that I now know exist) you can vastly improve your slides by following a few simple rules. These design tips will help your presentaions looks great, whether you're using PowerPoint, Keynote, Google Slides or Prezi.


1. Essential text only

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The number one, most schoolboy of errors, is mistaking your Powerpoint for a Word Document. Really, you just want essential words, phrases, figures or quotes, the key messages you want your audience to take away (which they are much more likely to read and remember if they aren’t being bombarded by a screen full of text).

Too much text on screen is confusing, difficult to read and looks plain awful. People often cram their slides full of bullet points in lieu of speaker notes. Your notes shouldn’t be on screen. Have them on a separate screen - a prompt screen, laptop or tablet -  for your eyes only (or, hey, plain old paper works too).

Many presenters forget, the slides aren’t for you, they’re for your audience.


2. White space is your friend

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Too much text is a no-no. So are too many images, charts or graphs. Avoid producing a headache on a slide by giving your content room to breathe. One decent sized image or chart will have a lot more impact than several smaller ones, vying for attention.

Don’t get too hung up about how many slides you have. It’s far better to split one eye-wateringly busy slide over two clear, informative, legible ones. Don't be afraid of leaving ‘white’ (or red, or whatever your template colour is) space. In this case, less really is more.


3. Use high quality images

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'A picture’s worth a thousand words'. Whoever said that (Wikipedia’s not sure) probably didn’t have some blurry, stretched photo with a whopping great watermark across it in mind.

It’s a bummer when you’ve found an image which perfectly illustrates your point, only to find it’s terrible quality and dead small. Still, I strongly advise against wanging it into your deck regardless. Move on, it’s over, find a new image. If your picture needs to be big on screen, it needs to be a high resolution image - don’t scale them up beyond recognition.

Check out our blog all about the best free stock photos and other design resources to help you find some gorgeous, pocket-friendly images. 

Think Outside the Box Stock

Another point on photography, there a millions of stock photos out there so avoid using the same cliched ‘business imagery’ you’ve seen in every presentation ad nauseum. Try to think outside the box (a good start is to never, ever using the phrase ‘think outside the box’ or any of the related imagery).



4. Animations & Transitions

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It’s easy to get a bit excited about animations. That title can spin on, that picture can grow and bounce, let’s make this sentence sparkle!

Animation overkill is a sure fire way to make your presentation look like it was made by one of these happy kiddos.

As a general rule, we stick to nice simple fade transitions between slides, keeping animations minimal and only two or three types of animation throughout the entire presentation.

There’s really no need to animate every individual thing on your page separately. Use animation to emphasise certain pieces of information, or to create a certain mood.


5. Be consistent 

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The easiest way to make your presentations look professional is to make sure they’re consistent. Check to make sure you consistently use:

Autofitting in PowerPoint
  • Fonts: Just one or two (one for titles, one for body text) throughout the presentation. Keep your sizes as regular as you can too. Watch out for PowerPoint’s Autofitting. By resizing your text to fit the space it can make your presentations look inconsistent. Sometimes it’s best to disable Autofitting and just split your text across a number of slides (or, dare I say, cut it) to keep your text regular and your slides readable.
  • Colours: Pick a few theme colours and run with them. Make sure to use the exact same ones too - many a time we’ve spotted a grey subtly change from slide to slide. Set your theme colours in Slide Master to ensure consistency.

  • Spacing and layout: Use guides to keep your text and pictures in line, and consistently placed across slides.

Professional service, professional results

Using professional presentation design service (like us!) is always going to yield the best results. If you’d like to discuss how we can help you produce better presentations, just drop us a line.


Why not check out our other presentations blogs: