Why Design Is Important
In the 1990s Powerpoint became the industry standard for doing presentations. It was the latest technology, it looked impressive and it helped to make company presentations look modern and professional.
Unfortunately, nobody really took the time to think about how what we put on a slide affected the people watching and listening to the presentation. Soon, Powerpoint became the presentation and the presenter was just a person who read the slides and pressed the next slide button. This soon led many people to believe that a presentation was just another thing they had to attend that was boring and uninformative.
Yet, a presentation done properly, with careful thought given to an audience, can be one of the best ways to communicate a message. It has the power to entertain, educate and inform in a way that a written document cannot. Sadly, that power is very rarely used, and the humble presentation has become a byword for boring, boring and more boring.
But it does not have to be that way. A good presentation gives thought to the following three things:
Clarity of message
The content is the information you put into your presentation. It is the examples, the images and the subject all put together. Too often, a presenter tries to put far too much content into their presentation and so the content becomes unclear and vague, leaving the audience wondering what the purpose of the presentation is. A presentation should not be crammed full with detail, it should contain just enough information to inform and to educate the audience. In a sense, your goal should be to leave your audience wanting more.
It is amazing that when a person is asked to do a one hour presentation, they immediately think they have to stand up and talk for one hour. Nothing could be further from the truth. If you have one hour for a presentation, then your presentation should be no longer than forty minutes, leaving ten to twenty minutes for questions.
For detail we have a ‘handout’. A handout is where you can put all the additional charts, information and data, that while important, is not absolutely necessary in your presentation.
The content of the presentation should be just enough to educate your audience and give them an understanding of what you are presenting about.
Because of the power that a PowerPoint or Keynote presentation can have, the design of your slides needs to be used to enhance the power of your message. Unfortunately, too often presenters try to put far too much on a slide leaving it looking untidy, illogical and making it difficult to see the message. In a presentation, less really is more. Instead of copying and pasting a full paragraph of information into a slide, a single word or a three of five word sentence can have much more power, it is much easier for your audience to read and it leaves you, the presenter, to give the full force of the paragraph with the words that you say.
Design is one of the most overlooked parts of a presentation, yet quite possibly, it could be one of the most important parts of your presentation. A presentation that has clear simple slides, with good quality, large – preferably full screen – images keeps your message simple and easy to understand, and this makes it much easier for your audience to follow your message.
Clarity of Message
The message you want to give to your audience is the whole purpose of your presentation. And simplifying your message is one of the most important parts of preparing your presentation. The handout is where you put the detail, the presentation is where you give the overview. An overview is a method of conveying a message in a simple way. A way that has your audience understanding what it is you want them to understand without overloading them with too much detail and data.
To make your message as clear as possible does not involve cramming slides with charts, diagrams and graphs, it involves careful consideration at the planning stage and then taking out all the unnecessary things, leaving in the core point and message you want to give. Filling your one hour presentation with facts, data and line upon line of text is only going to confuse, bore and ultimately irritate your audience and an audience that is confused, bored and irritated is never going to remember the point of your presentation.
Get the content, design and clarity of your message right and you have a way of communicating a message that is powerful, compelling and informative, leaving your audience feeling like they have been educated and informed. And an audience that feels educated and informed is a happy audience.
Take the time to think carefully about the design of your presentation, if possible ask your company’s designer to advise you, or if you have friends who are designers, ask them to help you. The difference between a good slide and a bad slide could be as little as placing an image 5 pixels to the left. While this might not be noticeable to you, it would be very clear to a designer.
So, when you prepare your next presentation, remember: “less really is more”