A Design Philosophy for Effective Presentations
You may be asking yourself why a blog focused on web design and development is suddenly giving tips for presentations. Breathe easy, this isn’t going to be an introduction to PowerPoint. It will, however, be an introduction to ways of putting together compelling presentations to supplement your proposals, projects, etc.
Web designers need presentation skills. The good news? You’ve already got a fantastic foundation simply by having the design taste for web color schemes.
The Big Three
Slide based presentations are made up of three separate (but equally important) pieces. Neglect any one of these three, and you’re starting with a severe handicap.
- The Presenter
- The Audience
- The Slides
Let’s start with the people aspect of things:
Don’t be Unnecessary
There is a difference between presenting and reading. Are you interested in narrating the presentation, or contributing?
If you walked away from your presentation and the audience just read the slides, would they get the same thing out of it? This isn’t an exercise in narrating for the audience. If your only purpose is reading the text on slides, it’s not a very good presentation to begin with. Do something your audience can’t.
Why are you the best one to give this presentation? Do you have experience, skills, or related anecdotal stories? Share them without making a slide. It’s not diluting the subject — it’s added value.
Present in the Language of People
Don’t write off common sense. In my experience, people tend to get much more out of a presentation they have become interested in. Keeping it dry and boring may feel productive on surface level, but there is often a difference between professionalism and effectiveness.
Be human. Speaking in the language of people is not always dangerously casual. Speaking for humans is making sure that the content is genuinely understood. Sometimes it’s a real world metaphor and not an industry buzzword that get the point across.
Now that we’ve got the people aspect covered, we’ll take a look at the visual component of presentation slides.
You’re a web designer. You’re live for putting together websites and information in ways that make people go “wow!” Why should your presentations be any different? Start with the fundamentals, and you’ll have a killer presentation with aesthetic appeal to boot.
Unified Color Scheme
First and foremost, pick a color scheme. Even if you don’t trust your own design eye, there are plenty of places on the internet to help you out.
If you’re in need of some inspiration, head on over to ColourLovers’ top palettes for a guaranteed good starting point.
Images When Appropriate
Google Images is not a backbone to any presentation. The interesting thing is that when I say to be visual, this does not mean overloading with images. It’s not the same kind of visual, but it’s simple all the same. Consistency has a surprisingly positive outcome to the overall appearance. You don’t need to gratuitously place images which seem to relate to the current topic.
Times New Roman is the font choice of the cubicle warrior looking to show the quarterly financial report. Some typefaces give everything a much better look simply by being present. Go for something neat, clean, and good for layouts. The nice part? You don’t have to worry about web safe fonts or SIFR to use your favorite one.
It’s a Conversation Piece
Here’s a chart to start the analysis. A presentation is not an opportunity to turn a textbook into slides. It is an opportunity to break it apart into tiny bit size pieces. Add as much value as you can without getting overwhelming.
High Slide Count Isn’t Bad
Having a large presentation isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially if slides are quick title cards or other visual aids like the ones highlighted above. There are no rules for minimum time that a slide must be displayed, and using title cards can be a great way of breaking apart a presentation for only a few seconds at a time.
Think of Speed Reading
If you’re familiar with any online speed reading tools, you’re aware of the basic concept they operate on. Speed readers take blocks of text and break it down into single words at a time. Give one a try now to get a visual before continuing.
Get the picture? This is a great concept to apply to your next presentation. Split up related information over a span of slides. Take the following examples for instance:
Use this method to highlight the stuff that matters. While method A may be good for getting through certain secondary information, method B will give individual attention for important pieces. With this philosophy of presentations, you enable for larger amounts of information to be shared without overwhelming the audience with large blocks of text. It’s easier to care about one thing at a time.
Examples of Great Presentations
Now that we’ve spoken about the fundamentals to a design oriented presentation, take a look at some of these examples for more inspiration:
You’ll notice that in the presentations linked above, the presenter is absolutely key to the success of the message.
What works for you? Share a presentation you’re particularly proud of with us in the comments via Google Documents if possible. To get things started, here’s a presentation I did several months ago on the history and background of modern blogs that fits this philosophy of presenting well enough.