Visual presentations, whether through PowerPoint or whatever platform you may choose, are more than important for any professional. What often happens is that many can ‘get by’ with PowerPoint, let’s say. But not many are aware of the design and ‘rules’ of drafting a good visual presentation, especially one that will have a lasting impact.
First though, I want to talk about reasons to have strong visuals in your presentations. If your boss, your professor, an organization or entity asks you to do a presentation, they, most often than not, expect that you will come with visual support, whether you grasp the ‘why’ of it or not. Here are 4 reasons why you should be bringing good visual support to your presentations:
Good visual support to your presentation will make your presentation far more interesting, especially if the topic you are choosing is perhaps not as exciting.
Good visuals for your presentation help the audience retain, take notes, and follow along. If there is important data to be communicated, visuals help you communicate that information with clarity and allows your audience the opportunity to preserve that data for themselves as well.
Finally, the process of creating visuals for your presentation, especially if done well, allows you to better structure the flow of your overall presentation. As you prepare, you are much more aware and intentional about how you will introduce the topic, support the topic, expand on the topic, and conclude it.
Now that you know the ‘why’, let’s talk about the ‘how’. How do you create strong visuals for your presentation?
A. Plan the structure
Just as you plan the structure of an essay or dissertation, plan out the structure of the presentation: Introduction, Body, Conclusion. Think of it as though you were a pilot on a plane. The Introduction is like the plane taking off, the Body like the plane in full flight, and the Conclusion like the plane landing. All 3 aspects of the plane ride are important; a plane can’t land if it hasn’t taken off, it can’t fly forever, and must land at some point. In the same way, all 3 aspects of the presentation structure are important.
Now, sometimes, it’s even more helpful to start with the Body. Within the Body, choose how many areas will you break down the presentation.
Then, move on to the Introduction. There, you want to grab the audience’s attention. This can be done for example by highlighting a problem the audience faces, that you will bring a solution to in the Body. This can also be done by telling a story, or by making the audience laugh, or introducing yourself. Know your audience, who you’ll be speaking to, what they might respond better to. And know yourself; for example, if you’re not great with jokes, maybe avoid telling jokes.
Finally, draft a strong Conclusion. Use the conclusion as revision, an opportunity to summarize key points in your presentations, points you want your audience to leave with. Don’t be afraid to make them repeat them along with you. Leave ample time for questions they might have and, after the Q&A time, thank them as a way to close off the presentation.
B. Choose a platform
For a long time, Microsoft PowerPoint has been the go-to when it comes to presentations (SOURCE). But, things have changed. There are many more options nowadays. Let me provide some of them for you:
1. Google Slides
One of the advantages of this platform is that it is available on the cloud. It can be downloaded when necessary but also accessed online as well.
2. Canva (canva.com)
Canva offers a variety of great designs for presentations. The only downside (for non-Mac users) is that presentations can only be exported in pdf.
Prezi offers unique and interactive animation in its presentation templates.
C. Choose a visual theme
When choosing a visual theme, depending on the platform, you’ll have more or fewer choices. However, what you can keep in mind is that, whatever theme you pick, make sure that the background is not distracting or competing with the text, that the look leans more towards clean and simple than complex and busy.
D. Apply basic design rules
Whether you realize this or not, by creating a visual presentation, you are essentially 'designing'. So, in order to do this field justice, here are some basic rules you should know and follow (before deciding to keep or break them):
You should be consistent in your colors. If you select a theme with specific colors, keep using those instead of random other ones.
The theme you picked will provide you with certain fonts. Make sure that you, either keep or change the fonts (if you don't like them). What's most important is consistency. Use the same 1-2 fonts throughout the entire presentation.
Your titles should be larger than your sub-titles, and those larger than your paragraphs. Your text itself shouldn't crowd the background; 1-2 lines to develop an idea is plenty enough. This will allow you to increase the size of the words so they are clearly visible, especially from afar.
If you are looking to learn more about design, join my online workshop 'The Basics of Design' today.
E. Source the right media
As you are preparing a visual presentation, having visuals will be important. One of the easy rules for using media is this "If you didn't make it, it doesn't belong to you". So, if you want to use photos, for example, one of the ways to obtain them is to create them.
Now, if you have no time or energy to create photos or illustrations, you can use platforms that will give you permission to use media others have created. Here are some of these free platforms:
2. Google images (simply taking images listed there will not do; click on 'tools', then 'user rights' to select the right license giving you the permission you seek)
3. Canva.com (when using this design platforms, they allow you access to a library of photos and illustrations)
F. Bonus: save and export
If there's anything I've learned the hard way, it's that saving whatever I'm working on is crucial. You don't want to work on something, only to find, if something goes wrong, that all your efforts were in vain. Whatever platform you're using, make sure to verify that your work is saving properly on multiple occasions.
When saving and exporting, title your document well. I recommend this format: Title - DD-MMM-YY - First name LAST NAME. For example: Creating Beautiful Presentations - 05-JAN-21 - Mélissa JEANTY
Overall, we've looked into why presentations with strong visuals are important. We are visual creatures, we grasp with visuals. Having visual presentations also helps in our brainstorming and structuring process while also helping the audience take notes and retain the information.
We've looked into how to create strong visual presentations, in planning a good structure, choosing a visual theme, applying basic design rules, sourcing the right media, and saving to export properly.
If this was helpful in any way, share this with family, friends, and colleagues that might also benefit from it.