7 Tips That Will Bring Your Presentation to the Next Level
Guidelines for building beautiful and meaningful presentations
Formatting tricks will never cover up poor sharing. But poor formatting can ruin the listener's experience, no matter how good your sharing is.
At CakeResume, we have been inviting inspiring speakers to share their stories. Throughout these sharings and based on the audience's preference, I have brought together seven useful tips that will make your presentation look appealing and interesting to watch.
Although this article will primarily be giving tips on how to make your presentation look professional, still keep in mind one rule: content first, design second. Before you think about designing anything, you’ve got to finalize the content you want to display on each slide first.
1. Choose Your Fonts Well
Fonts communicate subtle messages in and of themselves, which is why you should choose fonts deliberately. Make sure your font matches the tone, purpose, and content of your presentation.
Follow these tips to have a better idea of how to use fonts:
- Use the same font set throughout your entire slide presentation, and use no more than two complementary fonts.
- Traditionally, serif fonts (Times New Roman, Garamond, Bookman) are best for printed pages, and sans serif fonts (Helvetica, Tahoma, Verdana) are easier to read on screens. These are always safe choices.
- If you’d like to add some more typographic personality and modern touch to your presentation, try exploring Google Fonts. The open-source collection is free, and you can download from more than 900 font families.
My top picks for modern-looking Google Fonts
Headlines or headings
2. Stick to 40pt Font or Larger
Many experts agree that your font size should be at least 40pt. Not only does it ensure that your text is readable, but it also forces you to include only the most important points of your message and explain it efficiently, since space is limited.
3. Keep the Colors Simple
If you are not an expert with colors, stick to simple light and dark colors. Exceptionally bright text can cause eye fatigue, so use those colors sparingly.
White color text on a black background or black color text on a white background will work well.
If you are presenting on behalf of your brand, check what your company’s brand guidelines are. Companies often have a primary brand color and a secondary brand color, and it’s a good idea to use them in your presentation to align with your company’s brand identity and style.
Here are a few no-brainers if you want a bit of a personal touch without learning the color theory. Check out these websites:
Once you get these colors (Hex), here are a few ways to make them actually show up on your slides.
For Google Slides
Background → Color → Custom → Enter Hex Color
For Apple Keynote
Background → Palette Icon → Color Sliders → Hex Color
For Microsoft PowerPoint
Design → Format background → Color → More Color → 🖋 (not sure what this is called) → Use this pen and choose the color you want
4. One Story or Data Point per Slide
In most cases, you can’t avoid meaningful statistics that provide the evidence for your pitch or proposal. But you shouldn’t overwhelm your audience with a barrage of data and numbers when they’re watching your presentation.
As a speaker, what could you do?
Here’s the simple hack: Stick to one number per slide.
One data point per slide, if it’s visually interesting, is sure to be memorable.
5. Use a Dark and Plain Background When You Want the Focus to Be on You
Use this technique when you want the audience to take their eyes off your presentation and have their focus shift towards you. It doesn’t have to be used at the very beginning of your talk. You could also apply it in the middle of your slides when you want to say something really personal or important.
Take a look at the first 40 seconds of this presentation and see how Steve Jobs masters this technique.
This easy technique draws all the attention to you, creating a very strong tension in the room. When used well in the middle of the presentation, it could really implant an idea in the audience's mind.
6. Just Use a Picture
You don’t have to pack your presentation with charts, numbers, words, etc. One of the easiest ways to tell a story is to just fill a slide with an entire picture. It could be a picture of team members you worked with or a photo of where your overseas working experience started.
Pro-Tip: Use images of people in your slides. Photography of people tends to help the audience connect with the slide on a more emotional level.
Another Pro-Tip: If you don’t want to resize your photo to fit the screen, just add a black background to it like this:
When this shows up on your presentation, no one will notice the black background, everyone’s eye will be focusing on the picture itself, a much better way than using a white background.
7. Don’t Use Icons if They Don’t Help
Icons are considered one of the key components that can spice up your presentation. However, please don’t use them if they don’t help your presentation. Your goal is to deliver an idea that’s worth sharing, not to impress the audience by filling up your slides with eye-catching but meaningless icons.
For example, the second slide below is much better than the first.
Keep in mind, less is more.
The Secret to Great Public Speaking
In the end, there’s no single formula for a great talk, but there is a secret ingredient that all the best ones have in common. TED Curator Chris Anderson shares this secret — along with four ways to make it work for you.
- Limit your talk to just one major idea, and make it the through-line of your entire talk.
- Give your listeners a reason to care. Stir your audience's curiosity. Use intriguing, provocative questions to identify why something doesn’t make sense and needs explaining.
- Build your idea with familiar concepts. Speakers often forget that many of the terms and concepts they live with are completely unfamiliar to their audiences. Metaphors can play a crucial role in showing how the pieces fit together.
- Make your idea worth sharing. If you believe that the idea has the potential to brighten up someone else’s day or to inspire someone, then you have the core ingredient to a truly great talk.
“Remember your number one task as a speaker is to transfer into your listener’s mind an extraordinary gift, a strange and beautiful object we call an idea.”
— Chris Anderson