Project Runway: The Presenters Guide To An Awesome Design

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 “To succeed as a presenter, you must succeed as a designer…” – Nancy Duarte (Slide:ology)

We are all inclined to the aesthetics of life – we love to look at beautiful people, the intricate strokes from a painting, the vivid colors of the flowers. It’s human nature. But, sometimes we just try so hard to make things “pretty” that we often neglect to see if it all actually fits together.

This problem weighs down on most presenters — a lack of balance and harmony. If you haven’t taken up an art class, or if you’re not a keynote speaker at a presentation seminar, or even teaching mass communication, then understanding this element would naturally be difficult to grasp. But, believe me, it’s much more easier than you think.

The blame lies with the software available to users like you and me. With all of the millions of combinations of patterns, gradients, borders, and colors, who wouldn’t be at lost to find what fits and what doesn’t  Might as even well use a clip art here and a smart art there since it’s available, right?

That’s where everybody gets confused. It really would be hard to figure out which actually works with all those choices. And with “real world presenters,” either asking for support, persuading a client, or trying to sell something, experimenting is definitely not an option.

I think that the real problem lies with the approach. Most have become “decorators” trying to improve a template while losing its true essence as a communication tool. Here’s what you should do: remember that a design should have a purpose. You should add a color, a shadow, or change a font not because you can, but because it has a purpose. If you can’t think of one, then don’t. It’s as simple as that. Think FUNCTIONALITY.

The following are simple tips to guide you on designing your presentation.

  • Design is not synonymous to decoration. A design has an obvious purpose, which is devoid of any unnecessary clutter. You can convey your message and make it more accessible to your audience by just simplifying it. 
  • Each slide should have a goal. Not only that, but every piece of your slide should have its own goals as well. Ask yourself, “what is its purpose?” This is the only question you should answer before using any sort of aesthetic such as a background, label, border, etc. When in doubt, simply take it out. 
  • Don’t let your audience read your presentation. You’re there to present and not just stand there pushing the button to advance to the next slide. Focus on your core message to determine what to actually show. It really doesn’t matter if you use a picture, text, or combination of both. What’s important is that you portray your message. 
  • Highlight information that is more important. This allows the audience to zero in on what you want them to focus on. One easy way to do this is by changing the color, or by enlarging the font size. Make sure that you only highlight one concept, because, if you were to highlight two separate concepts on a single slide, then you’ll risk losing your focus. 
  • There are no absolute standards on the number of words per line and lines per slide. So whether you adhere to the 7×7, 6×6, or 4×4 rule, what’s important is that you focus on your core message. 
  • Keep fonts big, simple, and readable. Choose a nice contrast and don’t have it fade in the background. If you must have a break in the current style, then choose a separate font. But, don’t ever change fonts and colors for every slide. 
  • If there’s a simple option, use it. Sometimes, a Venn diagram is more effective than a complex visualization when trying to compare something. 
  • 2-D or 3-D? Sure, a three-dimensional design looks good, but presentations aren’t exactly Hollywood-type material. Choose 2-D since it’s more concise. It has the ability to portray something directly while not adding any extra layers or effects. 
  • Images should be used to connect with your audience on an emotional level while illustrating your actual message. If possible, use your own photos to add more authenticity, but don’t just use any photo for the sake of having one. If you can use an abstract illustration, then go ahead because this helps focus on the main message, itself. If you were to use stock photos, then avoid clichés or find an innovative way to use them entirely. 
  • Make sure that the image you’re using is big enough to fit the screen. Never stretch it out to fill in the spaces as this will affect its quality and will surely loose audience interest and focus. 
  • Don’t use up precious slide space by inserting the same repetitive logo on each slide. You can achieve the same branding effect by using the logo’s distinctive color palettes and fonts. 

All you need to do is to follow these simple tips and you’ll be designing your own slides with a sense of power and control that you’ve never had before.