5 Ways to Design a Killer Slide Deck

Illustration of a presentation with a killer slide deck

Your next conference appearance or internal presentation is coming up, and if you want to keep your audience engaged, you’ll need a presentation design with striking visuals that enhance your message. To create a killer slide deck that gets your audience talking, follow these 5 guidelines.

1. Simplicity is key.  

A polished slide deck starts with concise content. Remember, not every word of your presentation should appear on your slides. Instead, text elements should be like visual aids, helping your audience to follow along. 

So when writing text for your presentation, make sure to: 

  • Break dense paragraphs into brief phrases 
  • Focus on high-level concepts and support with key data points
  • Cut or transfer nonessential information to appendix slides as needed
Example of a slide that uses minimal text
A second example of a slide that creates a dramatic effect with minimal text

For example, the above slides from a presentation by Reid Hoffman show the power of simplicity. They let the visuals communicate just as much as the copy, and the text can be read in a matter of seconds. 

A survey of successful startups by DocSend suggests that an effective pitch deck averages about 19 slides. However, there’s no one-size-fits-all rule to follow. Every slide deck should be tailored to the presenter’s speaking style and audience, and every situation is different. Regardless of your presentation’s length, embrace minimalism in the design of individual slides for your presentation.

 2. Build a narrative around problems and solutions. 

An effective slide deck should begin with an overview of a relevant problem you aim to solve. This establishes your expertise and primes your audience to hear your solution. 

As you do this, keep these strategies in mind:

  • Don’t spend too much time on the problem; 1–3 slides is usually enough
  • Clearly articulate your main idea or value proposition in just 1 sentence

Your audience already knows what problems they need to solve. So your presentation should include just enough detail to demonstrate your thought leadership. Then you can lead your audience to a “high point” where they realize why your solution is right for them.

Curious what visual communication can do for you?

3. Include effective data visualization.

A well-rendered chart or graph can be an invaluable tool for presenters, if designed and placed well. So when including data visualizations in your killer slide deck, make sure to:

  • Look for opportunities to visualize key data in each section 
  • Save your most detailed slides to describe your solution
  • Use data to show how and why your solution works 

For example, take a look at this example from a presentation by LinkedIn about wearable technology features: 

example of a killer slide deck visualizing data on a smart watch

It’s an inventive data visualization that’s easy to interpret. When data is presented creatively and in a way that’s visually striking, your audience will find it anything but boring. 

 4. Tell a story with your presentation design. 

The key to keeping audiences interested isn’t in flashy slide transitions. Instead, focus on creating a cohesive visual story. That is, your slides should look like they belong together. 

To tell your story effectively, your presentation should:

  • Maintain a consistent color palette, design style, and typography.
  • Include charts and graphs to support your story at key junctures.
  • Stick to a visual theme, such as a story told in small illustrations, or a repeated motif.
Killer slide deck with unified color palette and shape motifs
An example of a killer slide deck with unified visuals

The slide deck shown above, part of an internal educational campaign created for Cummins Electric Power Systems, shows how unified visuals can elevate a technical presentation. The pop of red and geometric motifs are present on every slide. 

Your audience will be drawn in by the consistency of your presentation design. This shows professionalism and confidence in your message. In short, a few simple visual storytelling techniques can go a long way. 

5. Put your audience first if you want a killer slide deck.

When choosing what content to include on your slides, which data points to visualize, and what tone to create with your visual story, keep your specific audience top of mind. Make sure to ask:  

  • How should your audience’s industry affect the style and tone of your presentation?
  • What type of “hero” character would they relate to? Or will they prefer a straightforward emphasis on data visualizations? 
  • How can you help them solve the problem(s) that matter to them? 
  • What do you want them to walk away with after your presentation? What will make them feel satisfied that it was a worthwhile talk to attend? 

Whether your audience consists of coworkers, industry peers, or potential customers, the right presentation design will make sure that your next talk connects and inspires. 

Sheridan Prince

Author Sheridan Prince

Sheridan Prince is a content editor for Killer Visual Strategies. She grew up in Indianola, WA, often exploring the woods with a book in her backpack instead of a map. She has a BA in English Writing, a collection of beloved plants, and a passion for concise, evocative communication in all forms. Before joining Killer, Sheridan worked as a content strategist in the sphere of higher education, and as the editor in chief of a journal for emerging authors and artists in the Chicago area. As part of the Killer team, she believes that the keys to crafting powerful stories and forming strong client relationships are to ask the right questions and listen well. On the weekends, she gets her creative fix from watercolor painting and floristry, and gets her fresh air by gardening, hiking the outdoors and learning about the native flora and fauna of the Pacific Northwest.

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