3 Non Obvious Ways to Improve your Slide Deck

Let’s face it: we’ve all seen slides that suck. Business meetings, sales pitches, conferences, you name it, someone brought a terrible deck with poor colour contrast and tons of text, maybe written in Papyrus or C**** S***.

Luckily those days seem to be over, or at least close to their end. At the last conferences I’ve been to I’ve mostly seen good slides, even from not-designers – slide design is an art on its own: it requires a fairly wide variety of skills (communication, psychology, design itself), and needs you to be familiar with software you wouldn’t use on any other situation.

These are some nice tricks I’ve recently discovered while working on my presentations. The overall idea is to help the audience focus on things that matter. Great slides support your story without stealing too much attention, and are easy to remember and understandable at a glance.

Play with opacity

Let’s assume you have a slide with a full-screen image, followed by some content about it.

This is our team at Human Made.

human-made-team copy

This is the following slide, containing our logo and some information about us:

hm_text

Here’s an improved version of the second slide. It features the same text, but has the previous image on the background, with opacity set at 33% and your deck branding colour behind:

hm_pic_logo

33% is a number that feels most of the time right to me, but it’s not a rule. Play with your image and see if you need a lighter or darker effect.

The transition is quite smooth and pleasant:

TqfOy1

Use the no-shift effect

You may have two slides that look almost the same except for some details. Here’s the idea: duplicate the slide (cmd+D in Keynote) and edit only the piece of content that actually changes.

Let’s get back to the previous sequence, and let’s say we’ve got another slide with more information on Human Made, i.e. some products we have built:

products

The transition highlights the new information.

EakbAx

Respect brand guidelines

If you look at the previous slides, you will notice that I haven’t typed in Human Made or our products’ names. Instead, I’ve dropped logo files in Keynote and adjusted size and position. Let’s do the same when we mention external brands.

Many products these days have brand guidelines on their site. Here’s Slack brand guidelines for instance, and that’s a really good example of a company explaining how to use their brand assets.

Look at the difference between these two slides:

slack

Slack with logo

Whilst the first one may follow your deck branding in terms of fonts, there’s no doubt that the latter stands out more. Logos are designed for people to remember them, and the visual support for a presentation has pretty much the same goal. Take advantage of brand guidelines to increase the chances your audience remember and recognise the object of your slide.

The folks at Slack also explain when to use the coloured logo or when to opt for the white or black monochromatic version instead:

The colored version of the Slack hash logo can ONLY be used on a white background. If you are using the Slack logo on any other background color, use either the black or white monochrome logo.

Brand guidelines are not just annoying requests product people make. Think of them as reasonable design decisions they’ve taken for you.

I really look forward to reading your feedback on these points. Although I’ve spoken quite a few times over the last year, I’m still working on improving every aspect of public speaking. However, if there’s one thing that is clear to me, is that a slide deck you’re happy with design-wise has a huge impact on your confidence and therefore your delivery.

(photo header credit: Yann Ropars)

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