Posts Tagged ‘ Design

Slidedocs – The Answer To All Our Communication Needs.

Nancy Duarte of Duarte and the books Slide:ology and Resonate has launched a new book. This time the book is in PowerPoint format and explains the need for a new form of communcation, one many companies have been using, but sadly, been using in the wrong way.

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The title of the new book is “Slidedocs – Spread Ideas With Effective Visual Documents” and it explains how we can utilise software almost everyone has – PowerPoint or Keynote – to make beautiful, visual documents that we can share via email or printed copies.

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As the introduction to the book says:

Slidedoc (n.) a visual document, developed in presentation software, that is intended to be read and referenced instead of projected

The problem with the way we use PowerPoint or Keynote today is that for the most part people think these tools are for make presentations only for projecting onto a screen, yet these tools can be used effectively to create beautiful documents that can be printed off or emailed to participants of a meeting that gives the full explanation to the subject you want to discuss without the need for projection. It is a great way to avoid the persistent problem of too much text and information that leads to boring, very boring, presentations.

By making full use of slidedocs, you can then create presentations that only highlight the key information and we can all start using our communication tools as they were originally intended.

You can download your free copy here as well as some sample templates.

I hope this is the start of a revolution in companies to get people to use the best form of communication for each situation and to put an end to boring, over texted presentations.

Using A Laser Pointer is a Sign of A Bigger Problem

If you need to use a laser pointer in your presentation, your slides are too complicated.

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if you have designed your slides well, then you should never need to use a pointer in your presentation. Each slide should intuitively guide your audience to the right part without having to show them with the aid of a pointing device. Keeping your slides simple and only having one element or point on each slide will guide your audience.

On occasions where you need to highlight a number or a word, you can always use a transition to change the colour of the number or word, or even use an animation to underline or circle the area you want highlighting.

Pointers are distracting and are a symptom of a greater problem with your slides. So if you feel you need to use a pointer, then go back and make your slides simpler. A pointer is never the solution.

Designing a Twenty-First Presentation – Part 2 Designing a basic slide

Here’s a short (8 mins) video showing you how to create a twenty-first century slide.

In this video I show you how to set up your slide, and what you should put in there, and what you should not.

I apologise for the quality of the audio. Unfortunately, my microphone decided not to work.

Designing A Twenty-First Century Presentation – Part 1: The Introductory Slide.

The introductory slide is the slide your audience see when they walk into the room. It is the first slide in your slide-deck. This is where the 1990s style presentation destroys your presentation. Often this slide contains the title of the presentation, the name of the presenter, the date of the presentation and in some cases the name of the room the presentation is being delivered in!

Often, the slide also contains your company’s logo, their website, the presenter’s email address and telephone number and other completely useless information. And all this is surrounded by a plain white background.

The problem here is one of too much useless information. I have never attended a presentation where I did not know which company was doing the presentation, the presenter’s name and who they were. This information is not really necessary.

A twenty-first century presentation’s opening slide is used simply as a ‘curtain’ behind which the main message of your presentation is hidden until you are ready to reveal it. Thinking of this slide as a curtain will help you to keep what you put on there to a minimum.

Here is an example of a 1990s style presentation opening slide. On it we have the company’s name, the title, date and room number on a white background in a standard Microsoft typeface. Very uninspiring. As an audience member, I would be feeling quite drowsy and I would be hoping my mobile phone’s battery is charged enough to get me through this presentation.

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Below, are two alternative opening slides you could easily design to create a much better atmosphere for when your audience enter the room.

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In the first example we have a simple slide containing only the company logo on a grey background. Nothing else. Remember, this slide is a ‘curtain’. It does not need to carry any real information at all.

The second example contains both the company name and the title of the presentation in a modern, crisp typeface (Helvetica Neue – Medium) on a grey background. This is only the very basic of information, and would work for a small group presentation to your co-workers or managers.

In both these examples, I chose a grey background because grey and red compliment each other very well.

To summarise:

In order to transform your 1990s style opening slide into a twenty-first century opening slide, remove the unnecessary information, try to avoid using a plain white background and select a different typeface from the standard PowerPoint list.

Next time we will look at another type of slide and how we can change that to be more appealing to your audience.

Designing A Twenty-First Presentation – Introduction

A twenty-first century presentation is a presentation that has been designed to capture an audience’s attention. A presentation that delivers a strong, simple message in the shortest possible time using whatever medium works best for that particular message.

Over the next few weeks, I shall be writing a number of posts on the subject of presentation design and how to create a twenty-first century presentation design.

I have decided to do this because it has occurred to me that nobody is ever taught how to design a slide for the 21 century. Instead, most presentations created follow the default PowerPoint setup. This is not only ugly, it also damages the impact of your message because from the very first slide, your audience are hit by the overwhelming feeling of boredom and complexity of a 1990s style presentation.

Before we begin, let us define what a twenty-first century presentation is.

Since the turn of the century in 1999, we have seen the incredible rise of digital devices. Mobile phones have become more advanced. In fact so advanced, they are now called ‘smart phones’. Many millions of people are using tablets to consume their news and read their books, and this is done on trains and buses as well as airplanes. Almost everywhere we look now we are confronted with digital moving images and text.

A consequence of this change is our attention-span has decreased. We are no longer able to concentrate on one thing for any long period of time, we are constantly distracted. We are distracted by beeps, alarms and moving images on a poster outside the window. We a distracted by the constant attention for our time by other people, ringing telephones, email and text messages that demand our immediate attention.

What does this mean for the humble presentation? It means that the default, non-designed format many people use to deliver their presentations worldwide just cannot compete for your audience’s attention. Most presentations begin with an introductory slide that is so uninspiring that the audience immediately begins tweeting or facebooking. Before you even begin, your presentation has failed.

So a twenty-first century presentation is a presentation that has been designed to capture an audience’s attention. A presentation that delivers a strong, simple message in the shortest possible time using whatever medium works best for that particular message.

The first part of this series follows this post.

21st Century Presenting

At the end of last year, Garr Reynolds, author of Presentation Zen, and the blog PresentationZen did a TEDx presentation in Osaka entitled: Story, Imagery & the Art of 21st Century Presentation. This presentation was a high energy, visually journey into the world of a modern presentation.

Garr is a great presenter and he managed to get across to his audience, and the world at large, the importance of visuals, and in particular the moving image. Whether that be through the use of video or a simple Ken Burns effect to an image in your slide.

We live in a world where visual stimuli is everywhere. Living is Seoul, I am faced with moving visual stimuli on almost all tall buildings. We have large video monitors in the subway and at bus stops, and it would be impossible to escape all this visual excess. As a result of this, if I were to attend a presentation where the presenter was showing me slide after slide of text and flat, poor quality images, I would be finding it extremely hard to maintain my focus on the speaker and his or her message.

The takeaway here is that in order to create a 21st century presentation you need to think like a movie director. How best can you present your story? How best can you visually create the emotion in your audience to take notice and act on your words? The old 1990s style of presenting with copy and pasted Excel files. line after line of text and no images is dead. Those kind of presentations really are no longer fit for purpose.

Presenting Charts

Often when we have to do a regular business presentation, we have to present data in the form of a chart. These charts are typically filled with either text or numbers. Because of the nature of many charts, these words or numbers are usually squeezed into small boxes in the slides and most of the audience cannot read the small text.

The question I am often asked is: how do I make these charts more audience friendly?

The thing to remember is that a presentation is never for the convenience of the presenter. A presentation is always for the convenience of the audience. Because of this you, the presenter, have a duty to make your slides more friendly for your audience and therefore you have a lot of work to do so your audience doesn’t have to.

Let us look at a couple of different examples of showing charts using Stephen Covey’s Time Matrix chart:

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This first example is the way 90% of bad presenters would show this chart. Everything placed into one slide, whereupon the audience will inevitably begin reading the whole slide from left to right immediately it appears on the screen. The audience stops listening to you, and they just read. A completely useless way to explain or demostrate this chart.Alternative 1

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Rather than showing all the data at once, bring in each item one by one. The downside to this method is time. It will take quite a few minutes to go through each item and explain it. If you are on a tight time schedule this method will probably take too long. However, if this chart is the main point of your presentation, it is probably worth taking the time to explain it in detail.

Alternative 2

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Fade out the areas of the chart you are not talking about and only leave the area you are focussing on highlighted. This method would overcome the issue of time and allow you to go through each section step by step. The advantage of this method is that it keeps your audience’s attention on the part of the chart you are discussing.

Alternative 3

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Zoom in the area you are speaking about so that it fills the slide. At the same time fade out the rest of the chart so that it is almost hidden away in the background. This is really a matter of aethetics rather substance and is essentially just a variation of alternative 2, but it does give you an idea of another way to show data in a chart.

Alternative 4

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You could introduce the full chart briefly at the beginning of this part of your presentation, then as you introduce each part you move on to the next slide which only shows one of the boxes. This would then allow you to introduce each part line by line. At the end of the fourth box, you show the full chart again, but longer to allow your audience to absorb the full data. Again, the issue of time would come up, but it is another alternative of showing this data in a way your audience can follow.

The take away of this is that when you are presenting charts you need to avoid putting too much data up there on the screen at once. Charts and slides with too much text cause your audience to turn off their attention on you, and place their attention elsewhere. The best case scenario is they stop listening and start reading, the worst case, and often the most common case, they just simply stop listening to your presentation altogether. Your job as the presenter is to keep your audience’s attention on you. These alternatives can help you to do that.

But We Are Different!

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the need to make sure that the images you use in your presentation are relevant to the subject matter you are talking about. Linked to that is an excuse I often hear given for poor quality and boring presentations: “But we are different”

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This excuse is usually given after someone has explained to me that they know using images and less text is important, but their business or their subject matter does not allow using clear, relevant images and few words on a slide. Frankly, it is possibly the worst excuse I have ever heard! The worst because if they know using less text and more visuals makes a better presentation, then why do they insist on boring their audiences time and time again? Do they not understand that it is their duty to find a better way to present their message?

The simple truth is that slides full of text will be immediately forgettable. Not only have you wasted your time, but more worryingly you have wasted the time of your audience as well. And that, as a presenter, is unforgivable!

And yes, all of you in the world of academia and medicine – listen up – You are not exempt either. Just because your subject matter is complex and technical does not mean you have an excuse to fill your slides with boring text that is too small to read. You are NOT different. (see here for an excellent post by Dr Simon Raybould about medical presentations)

A great presentation is not about deciding what to put in, it is about what to take out. Your audience does not have the capacity to remember everything you say, so you have to keep your message simple and memorable and to do that you have to keep your words and points to the minimum, not the maximum. Relevant and clear images are much easier to remember than row after row of bullet-pointed words.

There is no excuse for slides filled with unreadable text, no matter what you are presenting about. So stop doing it. The next presentation you create focus on taking out and not putting in.

Make Your Slide Images Relevant

One of the best things I have seen over the last twelve months is the increasing use of images and the decreasing use of text in presentation slides.

Unfortunately, this has led to considerable misuse of images and in particular images that are simply not relevant to the subject of the words. Often presenters use images of their favourite sports star to illustrate the fighting spirit needed to increase sales. Sadly, the audience have no idea who the sports star is or how being like him or her will help increase sales.

Other times I have seen images of cute animals with the words “teamwork” plastered over the top of it. To most people cute animals are just not associated with ‘teamwork’

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When using images in your presentation slides they really need to be relevant to the topic you are talking about. They also need to be easily understood by your audience. Yuna Kim is a famous figure skater in Korea. But figure skating is not a famous sport on a global scale. So using an image of Yuna Kim in a presentation to a group of business people from Australia, for example, is not going to work. Your Australian audience will not know who she is. Likewise, JiSung Park may be famous in Korea and certain parts of Manchester. But as football is not a big sport in the US or Canada, images of him are not going to resonate in a presentation to a US or Canadian audience.

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You also need to avoid the use of ‘cliched’ images. These are images that have been used over and over again and have become boring. An image of two businessmen shaking hands for example to show partnership, or one of a group of people from different ethnic backgrounds to show that your company is a global company. These have been used too many times and are very boring.

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So, choose your images carefully. Make sure they are relevant to the subject you are trying to illustrate, try to use only one image per slide and make sure that whatever images you do use, your audience are going to know what it is about.

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This slide is a good example. The image evokes emotion and helps to focus the mind.

Simple Way To Improve Your Slides

Here’s a quick New Year tip to help you instantly improve the look of your slides.

Often, presenters like to include a quotation or perhaps their company’s mission statement or some other form of ‘motivational text in their slides. The problem is that making simple text look interesting on a slide is actually quite difficult. Or, perhaps the presenter does not think about the aesthetics of the slide when they create it and ends up having a slide that looks unprofessional.

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The above slide is typical of a presentation slide where the presenter has not thought about the design and look of their slides. All they have done is used the default typeface and the default place holder and simply typed in the quote that they wanted to use. It is really not very inspiring.

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In the second slide above, you can see that although the words are exactly the same, the way the words have been arranged, the use of large and small letters and a different typeface helps to bring the slide to life. It makes the whole slide much more interesting and it also gives the audience the feeling that the presenter has given some thought to their content and that they actually care about their slides.

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Finally, the above slide is taking it another step further. By adding an image that relates to the words, the presenter has given the slide a completely new life. The image helps to convey the feeling the presenter wants the audience to feel and it helps to give a stronger meaning to what the presenter wants to say.

It really is quite easy to improve the design of your presentations with just a little thought. It does not take a creative genius to create more compelling and interesting slides.

People talk a lot about ‘telling stories’ in your presentation and a quick simple way to tell a story is to allow your audience to create their own stories by using images with your words. Each audience member will interpret each image in their own way based on their own experiences, and this will make your presentation resonate with each person in your audience. All it needs is a little thought and a little application.

That thought and that application is what your audience deserves.


Slide 1 – Times New Roman

Slide 2 & 3 – Helvetica Neue Light