Have you ever attended a lame presentation? You know the kind I mean. The presenter limps from slide to slide, and the audience can hardly wait for it to end. If it’s an in-person presentation, the audience may be reluctant to walk out. But online . . . . one click and they’re gone. A presentation should reinforce your brand — and you may need a little help from your friends. So let’s chat about that inside.
Think of your presentation as a swimming pool with lots of diving boards around it. Now think of each presentation slide as one of those diving boards.
Depending on your audience, you may decide to do a fancy back-flip-with-half-a-twist, or maybe just a simple jackknife. The choice is yours.
Each slide is a jumping-off point for your real presentation, which is the one that comes out of your mouth.
Contrast that with the lame presenter who reads each wordy slide to the audience, adding a tedious, unnecessary explanation.
That’s not a slide show, it’s a teleprompter.
But logic is key, right? And data persuades. So your slides have to include a lot of text and data, right?
Of course logic and data are important, but many presenters handle them poorly. They use logic to paint the audience into a corner, overwhelming them with facts. And the data provides irrefutable proof — at least on the surface.
But too often, here’s what really happens:
“A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.” — Ben Franklin
To persuade, you need to address your audience’s minds and their hearts.
Less is more
At the end of your presentation, which feedback would you prefer to receive?
“Your logic was inescapable, so I guess I’m convinced.”
~ Or ~
“Where can I learn more about your subject?”
I’ll take the second kind any day.
So dump those text-heavy slides. And dump the spreadsheet slides.
You can still present your logical content — verbally. People want to be convinced by a person, not a slide.
And you can present data. But please, no dense spreadsheets. Instead, show your conclusion. Maybe one key value is all you need.
Verbal + Visual
What will people say after your presentation?
“Oh, how I wish you had provided more text on your slides.”
I doubt those words have ever been spoken, in any language, anywhere in the known universe.
That’s because listening and reading are similar mental activities, like talking and typing — it’s tough to do both at the same time.
A presentation is an auditory experience, enhanced with visuals.
Too many presenters get that concept backwards.
Designing an experience
So when you cleanse your slides of text-heavy logic and mind-numbing data, what’s left?
Use great design to create a worldview — an intimate environment for your ideal audience.
Set goals of creating a sense of belonging, of engendering loyalty, and of inspiring in them a burning desire to take the next low-risk step, even if that step is simply to learn more.
The value of design
Is design important to your audience? Consider this:
People could go from place to place on a bus or bicycle, yet they buy luxury cars.
They could protect themselves from the weather in a shack, yet they invest in the most comfortable, beautiful home they can afford.
They could cover their bodies with strategically placed fig leaves, yet designer clothing is big business.
So if you want your audience to choose to attend your presentation, design may be one of the smartest investments you can make.
Elements of design
For presentations, design includes 3 main areas:
- Visual Elements: your color palette, font styles, background designs and images
- Arrangement: how your content fits together, using space, proximity, contrast and hierarchy to create a sense of unity and flow
- Movement: the timing and pace of your presentation, making allowances for eye flow and direction
When you make consistent design choices, your presentations reflect and enhance your brand.
Investing in design
If you’re a designer, you probably have knowledge and experience in these critical areas. But what about the non-designer who needs to tackle presentation design?
If you lack skills in a particular area, you can either learn the knowledge and skills yourself or you can hire a pro.
I understand that your budget may be too tight to hire a graphic arts designer. So in coming weeks we’ll present design ideas you can implement immediately.
And if you decide at some point to hire a design professional, you’ll be able to discuss design issues intelligently and create a better working relationship.
Either way, your audience will thank you for using design to create the best presentation you can.