3 Secrets to Stunning Presentation Design

Basics of visual communication design illustration

Historically, the art of presentation design was easy to overlook in the workplace. PowerPoint made simple slide-deck design accessible to everyone from accountants to IT specialists. So long as people could combine text with a few pieces of clip art and a splashy transition wipe or fade, departments were happy with basic presentations. 

But visual communication is increasingly important, and the slide deck is no exception. Today, even a typical department meeting benefits from a presentation as polished as the ones delivered onstage at SXSW, CES, and other big events. That’s because people are communicating visually more than ever before. This leads them to expect and crave visual content in every aspect of their lives. Moreover, visual content increases understanding and retention

All this doesn’t mean you have to hire an agency to produce every single presentation your company will make for the rest of its days. Depending on your goals, you can produce 1 brand-specific deck or a aeries of campaign-specific decks. These can serve as templates for all your future presentations. 

To create the right template, you should first know the qualities that make up a stunning presentation design. Here are 3 (by no means exhaustive!) guidelines to enhance your slide deck.

1. Create a Unified Presentation Design

Imagine that 7 folks in accounts receivable all need to add their own slides and also critique each others’ slides prior to next week’s presentation. In this situation, your best efforts at consistency might fall apart. It can be nearly impossible to keep typefaces, font sizes, colors, and imagery consistent when everyone’s just doing their best to hit deadlines. Yet a coherent look and feel is essential. Without it, your audience may focus more on the unexpectedly bright purple header on slide 8 than on the slide’s revenue numbers.

If your presentation isn’t centered around a unique campaign or within a particular sub-brand, your company brand guidelines are the place from which to pull your tone, colors, fonts, etc. On the other hand, if the presentation is related to a sub-brand, an upcoming conference, or a new product or service, consider first developing a unique visual language to help set it apart from your brand as a whole. If there is some lead time prior to your presentation, this is a worthy exercise that sets you up for long-term success.

A visual language may reference your brand guidelines, but it wont’t stop there. It will consider the unique audience and goals of a specific campaign. It will provide a unified, distinct aesthetic that serves as a guide for all future presentations, infographics, videos, and other visual content in that campaign. 

Visual Language

Check out our ebook, Developing a Visual Language for Your Campaign, to see how it’s done.

2. Show vs. Tell

It’s tough to incorporate visuals into your internal presentation when you’re not a designer. However, based on the responses of 76 managers who had viewed a presentation as part of a recent study, when you incorporate visuals in your presentation, your audience is … 

  • More engaged
  • More likely to be persuaded
  • Better primed to retain information

To look at it from another angle: without visuals in your presentation, your audience is …

  • Disengaged
  • Unconvinced
  • Likely to forget the information

This is true even if you condense your text down to bullet points, rather than including full sentences or paragraphs. Regardless of the density of your text, the addition of visuals is still what makes the difference. 

Of course, quality visuals make the difference. Enlist a visual communication agency to help elevate your presentations without resorting to stock imagery.

Curious what visual communication can do for you?

3. Embrace Minimalism

Jumping back to tip 2 — your slides themselves should be showing, not telling. As the presenter, you should be doing the telling. If your slides are trying to tell the whole story with tons of text and a jumble of images, your audience will tune you out while trying to process the slides.

You might want your deck to include all the details, but the result can have the opposite effect. Clutter detracts from your message and can even be downright confusing. This is why it does your information a disservice to try to fit as much as possible onto a single slide. 

So take a critical eye to your deck. Those 2 slides might allow your oral presentation to pull its due focus if you split them into 4 slides.

Of course, there’s much more that goes into a stunning presentation design. Creating effective visual communication means going far beyond the basics, requiring specific training and practice to succeed. Work with a trusted partner to be sure your efforts on your next presentation don’t go to waste by failing to engage your audience.

Lucy Todd

Author Lucy Todd

Lucy Todd is the Chief Process Officer at Killer Visual Strategies. She is a Seattle native and Western Washington University graduate. Her degree in Creative Writing and her customer service background both inform her work daily. A Killer employee since 2011 and executive since 2014, Lucy has researched for, written, and/or project-managed over 4,000 projects for the company, affording her key insight into our processes and projects. This experience is invaluable in allowing her to lead and empower Killer’s content and project management teams to success. Lucy enjoys managing the day-to-day at the office, offering a unique perspective when a team or colleague feels stuck, and learning from her peers and clients each day.

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