Designing Top-Notch Slide Presentations

The macro version of slide presentations entails figuring out which piece of your presentation goes on which slide and how to connect them all into a cohesive whole.
This post discusses the macro version. In a future post, we'll talk about the micro version of slides, or what each slide should look like. So stay tuned!

Remember the presentation structure we talked about in our previous post? Everything you put together in that step now comes forward to this step. Got everything within reach. Okay, let's go.

1. Translate your presentation structure into draft slides. You'll need an opening slide (usually an inspiring image or quote) and an agenda slide (a kind of table of contents for your presentation; this is a bit different than the quick synopsis of your key points, which is part of your presentation. An agenda outlines the slides for your presentation). Then you'll need slides for all your main points and backup slides (at least one or two) to support those main points. And finally, you'll need a closing (or summary) slide. So how many slides total does that give you? Use one piece of paper for each (or if you're already using your slide software program, map out the number you'll need there).

2. Connect the agenda and the main points and backup slides. Use the same wording throughout. For instance, if you describe the employee handbook as the "Employee Guide," use that throughout your presentation so as not to confuse anyone. Keep the typography and graphics, spacing, amount of text and size of text as similar as you can throughout all the slides. Another idea is to repeat that agenda slide throughout the presentation, each time you switch to the next main point in your agenda. But only if your presentation is quite complicated and really requires people to focus on how each main point relates to the other.

3. Choose colors that don't overwhelm or distract your text. If you use Powerpoint, you'll have to avoid the templates that come with the program, according to PowerPoint critic Edward Tufte, who said, "No matter how beautiful your PP readymade template is, it would be better if there were less of it." Design your own template and then keep it consistent, as mentioned in step 2. Use a solid background, without patterns or textures or graphics that move. More light, go lighter; less light, less light, a cool color such as intense bright green, blue, or maroon, as the color won't glare like a lighter color.

4. Keep the typography simple, and ignore the urge to add animated or convoluted graphics. Less is much more; trust me. I recently took a multimedia presentation class and realized that every single presentation I've ever given was a disgrace to the name presentation. I love animation and graphics and pretty colors. by the time I got out of that class, I knew that I would never again subject my audience to a dancing cartoon character or a headline that flickers on the screen. Please trust me when you think just one fancy graphic or animation will add some pizzazz to your boring presentation. Just don't be a boring speaker (or don't procrastinate) and you won't absolutely infuriate your audience.

Next time, a micro approach to slides: how much text, how to title, how to use graphs, and more!