“Having no slides at all is better than [having] bad slides,” according to author, speaker, and curator of TED, Chris Anderson. Yet the plague of bad slides continues. In the conference room, classroom, and on the stage, we see talented speakers and teachers bogged down by ineffective presentation media. We see presentations where visual information confuses rather than clarifies. But the following three tips can help you avoid some common mistakes involving presentation graphics.
Presentation media programs like PowerPoint and Keynote have templates that you can use to design your presentation graphics. But you should avoid these. When you use a template, your presentation looks like many of the presentations the audience has seen before. And studies show that the human brain actually craves and responds more positively to things that are novel. When we see something new, dopamine gives us a rush of excitement. So designing the same old presentation just won’t work for your audience. Another reason to avoid using templates is that a template might subtly pressure you to fill in pre-determined blanks rather than think creatively about your graphics. When it comes to starting your presentation, opt for a blank presentation with a black background. This blank “canvas” will allow you to think outside of the box, or rather, outside of the template.
According to the book TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking, “Sometimes a speaker will hit the audience with a slide of immense complexity. Perhaps he is unconsciously trying to impress with the sheer scope and nuance of his work. As he continues churning out the words, the audience is desperately scanning the slide, trying to figure out how to match what is being said with what they are looking at.” Without realizing it, the speaker has created a situation in which he has to compete with his slides for his audience’s attention. If the slides aren’t directly supporting or representing what you are saying, they are probably upstaging you.
Remember that the audience probably doesn’t need every single piece of data to understand the overall concept you are presenting. Nothing bores an audience quicker than when a speaker hurls them into a sea of statistics. So instead of filling up a slide with lots of data, think about how to creatively help the audience understand without torturing them with dense slides. Check out the way Hans Rosling creatively presented lots of data in a short time frame in the video below. It starts around the 4-minute mark.
Break out of the box of preset templates. Create visuals that cooperate with you instead of competing with you. And finally, design with a “less is more” mentality that will truly help your audience better understand the information you are presenting. If you can avoid these three pitfalls, you’ll be well on your way to better presentation graphics.
To take your presentation graphics to the next level, check out the award-winning presentation design and training services of Ethos3. We’ve been helping the world’s most admired brands share their stories since 2006.