How to Create Better Presentations

Thaisa Fernandes
Feb 7 · 8 min read

It has never before been so crucial to create compelling presentations. Since the pandemic, much of the world’s workforce has worked remotely. It doesn’t matter if it’s a pitch presentation, training material, report deck, or a sales presentation, maintaining your audience’s engagement has never been so challenging.

You don’t need to be a designer to create amazing presentations. While I used to be a designer, there’s a lot of good work that can be done using Google Deck and Keynote, and of course, using your company presentation templates as your baseline.

I’m going to list some things to keep in mind when you’re preparing for a presentation and designing your deck, no matter what tool you’re using.

▪️ Define Your Presentation Goals

Besides having the meeting agenda in the deck, I also like to include a slide with the meeting goals so everyone will be on the same page and have a clear understanding of what to focus on and work towards.

When I started to keep in mind the goals I wanted to achieve with the presentation deck, I was able to develop much better and more engaging decks. Consider what is the goal of your presentation, what you want to achieve, and inform your audience of that.

Presentation goals may include training, informing your audience of something like the 2020 report, for example, solving a specific problem and reviewing the data gathered and the assumptions to help this process, a weekly update type of deck with all the cross-functional team’s latest news. It can also be a product vision among other things.

▪️ Adjust Your Content to the Audience

Depending on your audience you might tweak the language, include more or fewer details, be more technical, or even be more straightforward if they are all aware of the situation. Always keep your audience in mind, and adjust the language based on them.

At the end of the day, people don’t want to waste their time. They want to contribute. They want to feel their ideas and feedback are heard and considered, and they want to know how that meeting can help them move the needle.

Spend time understanding your audience and their motivations. Based on that, think about how you can contribute to them, why they should care, and why they should engage with the content you’re presenting. Basically, consider why they should matter and reframe everything, thinking about your audience and what they care about.

▪️ Plan Your Storytelling

We all should spend a lot of time crafting our narrative and constructing our storytelling. This is one of the most important things to do while you’re planning for your presentation, as well as defining the presentation goals and adjusting your content to your audience.

You don’t want to spend all your time creating an amazing presentation, but when you actually present it to your audience, your storytelling is not so great. That would be like throwing all your work in the trash.

Storytelling is such a powerful skill. It can help you connect to your audience. At the end of the day, your narrative is something that will help you keep your audience engaged and invested. I’m a big fan of the Start with Why framework, and I always structure my narrative starting with the why, then I move to what we’re going to do, and lastly how it’s going to be made.

▪️ Use Presentation Design to Enhance Presentation Effectiveness

If you’re not a designer, people usually don’t have high expectations regarding the design of your presentation. Even if you are a designer, the most important thing is to ensure your message comes across in a powerful and compelling way.

Consistency and efficiency should be your priority. How can you spread your message and achieve your presentation goals in the quickest and easiest way? How can you optimize use of everyone’s time and get their buy-in during your presentation?

Focus on reducing the amount of text, ensuring consistency in design, colors, and font types. Don’t be afraid to use any type of visuals that will help you to communicate your message. Remember blank space is your friend, make sure your deck has breathing spaces.

▪️ Make Sure People Can Read it

You can always include additional slides to support what you’re talking about in deck or even speaker’s notes. Always make sure the slides you’re presenting are readable. Right now we’re all remote, so you’re not presenting on a big screen. If you can’t read it on your laptop screen, it’s not going to work, your audience won’t be able to read it either.

Of course, you can always highlight the most important part but with that are you really making your text concise and easily digestible by your audience? Avoid light and too bright colors because they are harder to read. Keep in mind, use 2–3 colors maximum in your deck, and avoid the use of all caps, which is harder to read.

At the end of the day, sharing your message in a concise and easy way is definitively the bigger challenge, but it’s also what’s going to yield the results. Consistency is also important, so don’t forget to check the font types, colors, and sizes you’re using throughout the deck.

▪️ Don’t Forget to Include Visuals

I can’t stress enough the importance of visuals. Sometimes they can be used as a breather or even a moment to laugh together, with a GIF for example. Don’t be afraid to brainstorm ways to visually help your audience to digest complex content.

Diagrams, charts, animations, team photos or stock images, videos, and infographics are an amazing way to help to make the data you’re sharing more understandable. Use these resources in your favor. Visuals are such a powerful means to bring emotions, assist with visualization of complex information, tell stories better, and add some humor, which I think it’s so valuable.

Your company probably provides some deck templates. Keynote also has really good options that you can translate to Google Deck. I also like to gather some images from Unsplash when needed, and GIFs can be appropriate depending on your presentation goal.

▪️ Include Speakers Notes

Keep in mind that one of your goals when creating a presentation is to help your audience digest the information and get what they need from your presentation. Always try to anticipate their pain points and when they might ask for clarification or more information.

We usually present the deck we’ve created during a meeting, and it can also be shared via email to a broader audience. Additionally, those folks to whom you presented may share the deck with additional team members. Always account for the scenario where your audience and stakeholders might not have a chance to ask you questions in real-time.

My suggestion is to always include speaker notes in your deck and additional slides to support what you’re talking about. This may include links. Additional slides can be hidden from the main presentation but people can still check them out if they want to learn more. Don’t be afraid to include additional context in your presentation.

▪️ Strive for Ideal Timing

The shorter the better. People don’t want to waste their time, especially now that the Zoom fatigue is real. Who doesn’t love when a meeting finishes early and you get all the information you need or gather the buy-in needed?

People don’t read presentation decks, they scan them. If the information in your deck can’t be scanned, you haven’t done a good job. Your work putting that slide together probably has been wasted because there is a good chance it won’t be fully consumed.

This is the hardest part because sharing a compelling message in a timely manner is a challenge. Some people say that after 20 minutes the attention span of your audience will decrease. Keep this in mind.

▪️ Use Consistent Style

I talked about that previously and I know for some folks consistency is not important or maybe something they don’t even pay attention to because it’s not something natural to them. I’ll argue that even if you don’t pay attention to it, consistency is something you intuitively feel that is more pleasing.

A few things to keep in mind — make sure you define the colors used in your slides. Don’t use more than two font styles and sizes in your deck. Follow a font hierarchy that will make everything easier to develop and scale.

Consistency also includes the deck visual style, which needs to be aligned to your brand, audience, and also the subject and goals of your presentation. After defining those points, make sure they’re consistent in all slides and styles you’re using, always ensuring it’s professional.

▪️ It’s OK to Skip Slides

I used to get stuck on a certain amount of slides, and in fact, this number doesn’t matter that much. What really matters is the message you’re providing in a timely manner, sharing your message, and achieving your presentation goal as succinctly as possible.

Don’t be fixed on a specific number of slides. You can trim the content. I always like to provide additional slides in case someone wants to dig deeper after the presentation, and it’s also a way to provide more context for those who receive your deck via other forms like email.

You can mark those additional slides as skipped, so they won’t be shown during the meeting presentation. If you want to have a slide number to keep in mind for planning purposes, you can think about one slide per minute of presentation.

I hope you enjoyed my compilation of tips. Feel free to share your thoughts and what has worked for you during your presentations. Don’t forget to plan your presentation well and rehearse it until you feel comfortable with the content, and it comes naturally. Don’t be afraid to include additional speaker notes to include extra context and in case you forget important

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