Three out of every 5 people are visual learners. The human brain processes visuals 60,000X faster than any amount of text. And we remember 80% of what we see, compared to 20% of what we read and only 10% of what we hear. That’s why presentation design – from the intentional stringing together of text into a compelling narrative to the precise selection of relevant and attention-grabbing visuals – should be an essential aspect to any presenter’s agenda. There is a science, an art, a simple list of best practices to designing a presentation with impact. Below are five Do’s and Don’ts of presentation design that every presenter needs to know:
1. Do use the Rule of Thirds
The effective employment of this design tactic doesn’t involve experience with design software, much less a background in design.
Envision an image or slide as a grid, which is split up into three chunks of equal size horizontally and vertically. If you want to elevate yourself from amateur to professional presenter, utilize the vertical Rule of Thirds and place the object of an image to the left or right side. With an image of an animal or a person, always put the eyes in the horizontal upper third of the imaginary grid.
This design principle helps a presenter effectively harness the influence of their deck’s visuals, while creating opportunity for more white space.
2. Do include visuals
Minimal text, more images – every presenter’s new design mantra. Rightly so, considering that images increase retention by 42%.
To enhance whatever message you are trying to get across to an audience, always incorporate a relevant visual. Research has determined that if you present a piece of information with just text or in a verbal manner, your audience will only remember 10% of it three days later. However, include a relevant image and members will remember 65% of the information a few days after the presentation.
3. Do choose stock photography wisely
Have you ever witnessed a presentation where most every slide looked like the designer was trying to choose an even stockier photo than the one before it? Selecting the most appropriate stock image for each slide can seem like a daunting task. The ability to spot the differences between an insanely hokey stock image and a professional and alluring one separates the savvy from the lazy.
When searching for a stock image, you will likely have to revise your search terms until you receive a solid search query. Instead of searching for office desk, try office desk black and white or office desk modern.
4. Do continue learning
Just because you may not have adequate presentation design skills now, doesn’t mean you can’t ever obtain them. Take advantage of low-cost online education opportunities like those offered through Lynda.com and enhance your design software capabilities.
Start small by learning how to precisely crop an image in Photoshop. Or start big and learn how to design a data visualization in Illustrator. Virtually anything you desire to know is literally at your fingertips.
5. Do update old presentations
Busy professionals and presenters likely don’t have gobs of time to devote to producing embellished, wholly unique content for every media channel that exists today. The good thing is, all of the time spent on one deck isn’t in vain if you continue to revisit it in the months and years following a presentation. Update the design to reflect current trends. Then, use the deck and elements of it to distribute quality content on social media and LinkedIn.
1. Don’t overload slides with text
Take a cue from human psychology and minimize the amount of text you put on any one slide. According to Cognitive Load Theory, the more complex information a presenter places on a slide, the more easily our brains will become overloaded as we try to process the information chunk.
A simple way to cut down the extraneous load of content starts with providing an overview of what your audience can expect to hear throughout your talk. According to Matt Abrahams of the Stanford Graduate School of Business, audiences can retain structured presentations 40% easier than freeform presentations. Other strategies include presenting one idea per slide, eliminating jargon from your deck, and of course, utilizing visuals.
2. Don’t use bullet points
The whole premise of bullet points is that an individual is attempting to display more than one piece of information on each slide. Therefore, if you are adhering to the guidelines outlined in Don’t #1, you should have no use for the dreaded bullet points at all. If that isn’t enough to persuade you away from those little dots, take into account this 2014 study, which discovered that audience members experience enhanced difficulty paying attention to bulleted lists, as well as agreeing with and recalling them.
A relevant, high-quality visual will relay whatever point you want to make more effectively and efficiently than any bulleted list could even dream of accomplishing. Friends don’t let friends use bulleted lists…and we consider you our friend.
3. Don’t rely on templates
Presentation templates are tempting. But don’t give in to their ease and conveniency. Once you get started working within one, you’ll swirl into a rabbit hole of bullet points and lackluster slide designs.
On top of that, templates convey one ugly truth to your audience. That you don’t care about the presentation you are giving. That you didn’t even try. Swap the restriction of a template for a bold background image and a little bit of large text.
4. Don’t use low-resolution images
Spreading low-resolution images and subpar photography throughout your presentation will only set a negative tone. Primarily, it will project unprofessionalism, a lack of expertise, and an altogether lack of enthusiasm in your own ideas and thoughts.
All of that to say… Put the time and effort into selecting high-resolution images and well-intentioned photography. Because the majority of your audience will be visually-driven, the clarity and quality of your images is paramount to the ultimate success of your presentation and message.
5. Don’t abuse charts and graphs
You’ve seen it before. Some presenter has shown you an atrocity of bar and line graphs and pie charts (oh my!). Despite their best intentions, you probably didn’t retain the message they hoped you would from that slide. According to a recent study conducted by Harvard and MIT researchers, people prefer unique data visualizations over traditional formats. Consider displaying information with a clean, crisp, creative data visualization.
You can design an engaging, professional, and elegant presentation – whether you graduated with a degree in graphic design or have never opened up an Adobe Creative Suites program. If you keep these 10 tips and tricks in mind, you will be one step closer to delivering a compelling, creative, and timeless deck.