Top tip 1
The slides are there for your audience. They are there to bring your content to life, to make it easier to understand and easier to remember.
Top tip 2
The slides are not your script. They are not there to guide you through your presentation. You must not be reliant on your slides in order to deliver your presentation. There are two very good reasons why you mustn’t be reliant on your slides:
- If you are reliant on your slides to guide you through and act as your script or prompts, there is a very strong probability that you will stop looking at your audience and look at your slides instead. It doesn’t matter whether they’re on a laptop in front of you or the screen behind you, you’ll lose eye contact with the very people you’re talking to. In the worst case, you’ll end up with your back to the audience, reading your slides word for word. I’ve seen it happen many times – and I’m sure you have too.
- Projectors, screens, laptops and connectors have a horribly regular habit of not working. If just one part of the set-up fails, you have no slides. If you are reliant on your slides to present, suddenly you have no presentation. No presentation = no objectives met.
Top tip 3
Less is More.
The biggest problem with slides is that people try to cram far too much information on each slide. When you start designing a slide (and try to think of slide creation as ‘designing’ rather than just ‘writing’) ask yourself: What’s the one thing I want the audience to take away from this slide? Is there one fact, one figure, one idea – or one mood or tone that you’d like them to experience or remember? Then concentrate on that one thing and remove everything else. To my mind it’s better to have 20 slides with one idea or figure on each than 10 slides crammed with information – you just move through those 20 faster, which makes your presentation feel pacier, too.
Top tip 4
Let each piece of information breathe, let it sing out to the audience, then they’ve got far more chance of remembering it. Don’t cram too much onto each slide. The best and most effective slides often have no words at all. In fact a well-chosen image can express more than words and it’s a far more engaging way of making a point.
There’s also some great tools to help you design great slides!
PowerPoint is a powerful tool when you know what you’re doing with it. But I think it has ‘feature bloat’ that makes it less than ideal to use, and many of the templates and design features are looking dated and encourage boring slides.
Keynote (www.apple.com/uk/mac/keynote). If you’re an Apple user, make sure you’re using this in preference to PowerPoint. It’s easier to get to grips with (it behaves like most other Apple apps so feels more familiar than the Microsoft equivalent), and with much more modern templates and styling it creates far more visually appealing slides.
Prezi (https://prezi.com/). Slide decks can be created with the feel of an animated film, sweeping from slide to slide, zooming in and out to the slides, showing graphical representations of the whole presentation. It helps to get you away from strictly linear presentations, as you design on a ‘canvas’ rather than in a sequence. Used badly, however, a Prezi presentation can make an audience feel seasick as the screen swoops and whirls, and the animations can look a little tricksy. It has a steep learning curve, too, but those who spend the time to do it well can produce excellent slides. Be aware that your slides will be stored online and are searchable if you don’t take a paid subscription.
Haiku Deck (www.haikudeck.com). I love Haiku Deck. In my experience it’s virtually impossible to create a boring slide with this simple-to-use online tool. The defining feature is the use of full-screen images with minimal text. You start with a slide that allows a maximum of two lines of text – perhaps a headline and subtitle, or even just one word. Once you’ve entered your text, Haiku Deck will suggest a gallery of relevant images, culled from photo sharing site Flickr. Cleverly, it will only suggest images that are covered by Creative Commons licenses, so are free to use.
There are lots more tools and it’s worth experimenting and exploring to find the one that suits you and the presentations you want to give. Powtoon (www.powtoon.com) creates animated videos and presentations with a cartoon feel. Canva (www.canva.com) has some beautiful slide templates and uses great images. Phonto (www.phon.to) is a mobile app that’s useful for adding words to images. WordSwag (www.wordswag.co) is another great app for adding text to your photos, with some beautiful fonts and templates for a very professional, designer look.
One of the advantages of using these tools is that your presentations really stand out from the morass of identikit presentations, just by looking different. Don’t feel you have to redesign your slide deck from scratch in one go, either. Just dropping in some more creative slides made using tools such as these will really help lift your existing presentation.