PowerPoint presentations have been around seemingly forever. Case in point, it’s hard to find someone who doesn’t relate to the feeling of being stuck in a meeting, hostage to someone slowly flipping through slides and reading directly from them. Not only is that scenario an ineffective way to share information, but it’s also a surefire way to put an audience to sleep. And, unfortunately, it’s still a common practice.

As an event or meeting planner, you already know the power of drawing in an audience and using compelling elements (especially visual ones) to keep them engaged. So when you set out to design a PowerPoint presentation, you already know more than the average Joe. But I hear questions all the time (even from savvy professionals like yourself) about how to up the ante with digital presentations.

So whether you’re using a deck to show off your services to a prospective client, to reveal your vision to an existing client or for some other purpose entirely, I can help. As the founder and CEO of Design Pickle, unlimited graphic design for a monthly flat rate, I’m tapped into achieving goals through powerful design. Allow me to lead you through the steps necessary to producing your most perfect PowerPoint presentation (alliteration, anyone?).

Out with the Old

Let me start by clarifying something right off the bat. I’m using the term PowerPoint, but I highly advise you leave this old system in the dust. PowerPoint is limited in its functionality, and will end up giving your presentation an outdated look no matter how fancy you try to get with it. Run away, and don’t look back.

Instead, get on board with newer, more highly performing software that can hook you up with an impressive look and feel. I like to recommend Keynote or Prezi, but there are other options out there that will also fit the bill. Just, please. Do me (and yourself… and your audience…) a big favor and do not use PowerPoint.

Clear and Concise

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s talk for a minute about the decline of America. Kidding – well, sort of. Blame it on whoever or whatever you want, but the fact remains that our collective average attention span has somehow been reduced to about eight seconds. That’s a very short period of time if you haven’t noticed! With this in mind, your presentation should be as brief as possible.

Since you naturally want to retain your most important content, parsing down can be tough for some. One way to start is by creating the presentation with all the information you think it needs, and then once you’re done – cut it in half. It may seem impossible (and painful) at first, but you’ll find ways to get down to the bare bones. This will only serve to make what’s left even more powerful.

The other important factor to keep in mind is how much you put on each slide, in the way of verbiage and images. The rule of thumb I’ve found to be most effective is to limit yourself to one sentence and one idea per slide, maximum. This will hold your audience’s interest, and discourage you from falling prey to reading your slide. Instead, it gives your listeners something visual to look at but doesn’t bog them down with reading material. They’ll be tempted to read whatever is on the screen, so if you limit this, they’ll zero in on what you’re saying. Then it’s your job to naturally and conversationally present the information. And did I mention to do this without reading from the slide? Just double checking.

Become a Storyteller

I understand that the reason many people read from their decks is because they’re nervous and don’t want to ad lib, for the fear that they will mess something up. But here’s the thing – you’re going to do better than you think. And even if you flub a couple sentences, people are going to appreciate the fact that you’re actually speaking to them rather than reading at them. If you’re struggling with how to deliver real impact through your presentation, turn to stories. Look to the massively successful TED Talks for inspiration on how telling stories throughout a deck can pack a mighty (and memorable) punch.

First, don’t tell a story for every slide you have, as this is far too time-consuming and will lessen the appeal of hearing a story. Second, think about your audience. If the people in front of you are C-level executives from a software corporation, they’ll likely be interested in hearing how your event planning will satisfy their technology needs and affect their bottom line. Plan to tell a couple (true) stories along these lines that reinforce the information you’re conveying, and weave them into the presentation at appropriate times. They’ll know you’ve practiced, but you want to appear as off the cuff as possible. Your audience will react more positively if they feel like you’re conversing with them at a cocktail hour.

Keep it Real

I’m just going to come out and say it: Stock art and stock photos are the worst. I’m well aware of their prevalence, but I also have seen time and again how much they turn people off from websites and marketing collateral. That same girl laughing as she gazes off beyond her computer? Yeah, we’ve all been there. Seen that. It doesn’t tell us anything new, and certainly doesn’t make us feel anything.

Unsplash is the best new site I’ve seen that offers free high-resolution photos you can use for practically anything. Either plan to use pictures from a resource like this or real photos taken of real people (or real landscapes) by a real person. See the theme there? Real is your goal.

Consistency is Key

Something else you want to remember as you design your presentation is to keep your slides consistent, one to the next. Recruit the same person or team to design your slides so that your brand’s identity will be a constant throughout the presentation. This is something that can be outsourced to an individual, or to a company like mine. At Design Pickle, we consider ourselves a secret graphic design weapon to you. We can create compelling digital presentations that retain consistency and project the precise company image you’re seeking. A lack of uniformity looks unprofessional and makes your audience question your credibility.

Details Matter

Now that you’ve taken care of the rest, it’s time to zoom in to the details of your deck. What will make your presentation noteworthy? For one, use big-ass font sizes. You’re not trying to cram a lot of words onto one slide, after all, so take advantage of the space you have. Bigger means easier for your audience to read, which means they’re more likely to retain your message. Don’t be shy.

And second? Let’s talk ratios. The old 4:3 ratio is dead, unless you’re presenting on a tube TV at your grandparents’ house. Go with a 16:9 slide ratio (a.k.a. widescreen). It’s just one more detail that will make you look like you know what you’re doing.

So there you have it; all the essential tips for designing the perfect PowerPoint Keynote or Prezi presentation. I highly recommend you share this with all of your presenters coming to your event to ensure you have Perfect Presentations all around! Have any questions? You can find me at www.designpickle.com. Happy presenting!




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Russ Perry

Author Russ Perry

Russ Perry is an Arizonan native and has spent the last 10 years working with brands such as Apple, LG, Morgan Stanley and the Harlem Globetrotters. In 2014 he founded Design Pickle, a startup that provides unlimited graphic design help for only $195 per month. Russ believes there is a better way to get your day-to-day graphic design done and it doesn’t have to cost you a small fortune or even worse – take up all your time. Learn more about Russ and his startup at DesignPickle.com

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