If you’re sailing in entrepreneurial waters, sooner or later you’ll find yourself needing to create a presentation to show future and current partners, potential customers, and colleagues. Aside from practicing effective presentation skills, clear verbal communication, and good body language, it’s important to think about the technical side of the presentation itself, ie the layout and design of the content you’ll be presenting to your audience. If you’ve opened PowerPoint but haven’t moved past the first slide, don’t worry! We’re here to give you some useful tips.
The first and last slides
Make sure that you make as good of a first impression as you can! The first slide of your presentation has to familiarise your audience with the topic of the presentation, but also with you, the speaker. Therefore, your first slide should feature a prominent title (usually the topic of your presentation), your name, and position within your company/business – but it’s not necessary to have the date of the presentation nor the venue where it’s taking place. You should definitely also have an impressive and relevant picture or graphic so as to instantly attract the audience’s attention.
You should also take additional care with your last slide as it will serve as the conclusion of your presentation and will cement the lasting impact it has on your audience. Many presentations end with a little “thank you” and the question “are there any questions?” but you can do it a little differently. Throw in a striking quote, an appropriate picture that sends a lasting message, or even something humorous if the subject and the context allows it. However, with a more formal presentation, you’ll want to end with a summary of your points, contact information, or a related question to your audience that will stimulate discussion.
Less (text) is more
A common mistake many people make with their presentations is that they pack their slides with paragraphs of text, thinking that all of the information is vital for the audience. Do not do this, or you run the risk of losing your audience’s attention. Even celebrated marketing guru Seth Godin once said that there should be no more than six words on a slide. Alas, being quite so concise may not always be possible, but the sentiment is clear: be sparing with your use of text, as the main element of your presentation is the verbal communication of your ideas. It is best to think of the text in your slides as headings and titles that will accompany the oral part of your presentation.
It’s nothing without pictures
Don’t even think about making a presentation without including strong visual elements. Pictures and graphics attract attention, hold the interest of the audience, stimulate emotions, and stick around in the audience’s mind for longest. Therefore, you should dedicate a lot of time to choosing attractive images (for this, you can use any one of many free stock image services, for example, Pixabay) which you should use to illustrate the points you are making. However, don’t forget the important rule: high-resolution images only!
Unless it’s really necessary, avoid generic graphs and charts and try to represent quantitative information in the shape of simple but visually appealing infographics. If you don’t have a designer in your team, for the creation of infographics I can strongly recommend free and user-friendly services, for example Canva.
Little things that matter
When creating a presentation, make sure there is a visual cohesion between the slides, though this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t play around with different colours and backgrounds so as to see what is most visually interesting and dynamic.
Take care that all the letters are large enough and visible as not all members of the audience are sitting at the same distance from the projection. The size of the font should be at least 30, and when choosing a font stay away from the “boring” Times New Roman and give a chance to, say, Helvetica or Futura.
Forget about sound effects and clip art animations because they just look childish and silly. The use of video content within the presentation is perfectly alright, but don’t overdo it with the length of those videos as your audience is primarily there to watch and listen to you.
And finally, don’t view making the presentation as a “necessary evil” or as a dull activity, but instead as a creative and inspiring task. The final result may just pleasantly surprise you.