“According to most studies, people's number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you're better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.”

Jerry Seinfeld

Yes, Jerry, that sounds about right.

Anyone who knows me well knows that I hate public speaking. Many of us do.  And yet we’ll still have to deliver a fair number of presentations during our careers.

Nervous presenters tend to cope with their fear of public speaking by overloading their slides with text. Perhaps their goal is to take the attention off themselves and place it squarely on their slides.

After all, people can either listen to you, or read your slides. They can’t do both.

Unfortunately, this approach will do nothing in the long term to ease your fear of presenting. Delivering painfully boring presentations will only reinforce your insecurities.

A much sounder strategy? Design impactful decks that bolster your presentation and turn you into a public speaking superstar.

Need help getting there? Here are eight essential tips in presentation design. You can also browse our companion deck:

1. Sharpen your message

A solid presentationdeck begins with an outline. A solid outline begins with asking yourself one question: “What key messages do I want people to take away from this presentation?”

Chances are that people will retain only three things from your presentation. Decide what those three things will be, and design your presentation deck to reinforce those messages.

2. Keep it simple

I have a theory that ‘bullets’ got their name because seeing slide after slide of them makes you want to shoot yourself.

If the text on your slides gives the whole picture, then you’re not needed.

Your presentation should not look like War & Peace in slide format. Instead, treat each slide like you would a billboard. Make it highly visual, and digestible in three seconds or less.

Design your presentation so that each slide should contain a single idea, even if that means more slides. As long as each slide is impactful and holds your audience’s attention, nobody will be counting your slides.

3. Make it visual

The images you use can make or break your presentation. Ban clipart and generic stock images. Instead, carefully curate a selection of memorable photos that take your audience on a journey, and create a mood.

Here’s a tip: these websites offer stunning free stock photos for personal and commercial use.

4. Make your data interesting

Even numbers geeks struggle to stay awake when they’re presented with table upon table of raw data. To shine the best light on your numbers, highlight important trends.

Select the right chart for your data set. For example, pie charts are a good option for showing a percentage. Use bar or column chart to compare several values in a range. And line graphs are ideal for showing trends over time.

Also, consider integrating infographics to make your data more visual and easier to digest.

FREE Presentation Design Cheat Sheet

Download our FREE cheat sheet to keep your message sharp and concise, make your data interesting, make the most of typography, adopt a clear structure, and much more.


5. Make the most of typography

Arial and Times New Roman are unoriginal. Experiment judiciously with interesting font pairings to make your presentation stand out.

6. Make good use of colour

Colours create emotion. Choose a harmonious colour palette that lends consistency to your deck. Find inspiration in photos you love. Give the Adobe colour wheel a spin.

7. Adopt a clear structure

Your presentation should tell a story. Adopt a clear structure to take your audience through your story without losing them. Your audience should always know where they are in their journey.

8. Be judicious with movement

I love PowerPoint animations and transitions as much as the next person. But I don’t love gratuitous movement. Animations should serve a purpose. Stick to subtle animations that support your presentation… rather than distract from it.

Have I missed any presentation design tips that you swear by? Please share in the comments below.

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