You Don’t Need to Be a Designer to Create a Good-Looking Presentation

Whether building a presentation for a boardroom or a large audience, there are a few key factors to keep in mind, according to Presentation Guild President Bethany Auck.

It’s long been said that there’s an association for everything, but you might be surprised to find out there’s even one for people who design presentations.

But there was definitely a need for it. The Presentation Guild, founded in 2016, has a noble and specific goal: helping its members learn better presentation strategies when using tools such as Microsoft PowerPoint and Apple Keynote.

Bethany Auck, president of the guild and founder of the presentation design consultancy SlideRabbit, said the group emerged from a desire by some in the field to have a path for professional training in an area that is generally treated as a secondary skill.

“Many people who end up in presentation writing, strategy, design, and production learn the skills on the job,” she explained. “We wanted to create a space for these professionals to come together to hone their craft and collaborate.”

Auck shared a few tips for building presentations that might come in handy.

Focus on Persuasion

Auck says a key goal for all presenters should be to make a successful case to their audience—which requires tight writing and editing and strong delivery. (This could be an area, she added, where a presentation consultant can help.)

“Associations often need to inspire their members and others into action, which means that when you are presenting, your main goal is likely to be persuasive as much as it is informative,” she said.

Create Compelling Visuals

The biggest components of a presentation are the visual appearance of the slides and the overall structure of the messaging.

While noting there is some consensus on things you shouldn’t do—overdecorated slides, too much text, and poor data presentation among them—Auck said the finer details are up for debate among the guild’s membership, as taste can be subjective.

“I’d bet that each professional in the guild could give you a different perspective here,” she said.

One place to look for ideas is the guild’s set of industry design standards, which help highlight different skill sets needed to build a good presentation. Among the considerations are data visualization, typography, and motion animation.

Auck was quick to point out, however, that a presentation’s success depends on much more than its appearance.

“There are so many ways to be more effective in presentation than just the design on the slides,” she said. “Our professionals range from writers to speaking coaches to virtual event producers and beyond.”

Stay Creative Within a Template

Many associations put on events where speakers are asked to stick to a design template, which some may find restrictive. However, there is value in building presentations using templates, Auck noted.

“Templates are great tools to speed up the production and to maintain cohesion between many presentation producers,” she said.

Even if you are required to use a template to build a presentation, there’s still room for creativity through tactics such as visual design and pacing.

“Users should stick to theme colors and fonts and use the correct layouts,” she said. “However, including more visual aids like diagrams and graphs can keep things more interesting and informative. Even icons provide visual interest while enhancing the memorability of the content.”

Consider the Screen Size

Another factor to consider is the audience—and not just the one in the room with you. Given the rise of virtual presentations, creating simplified slides driven by large text and high-contrast visuals is increasingly important. Also keep in mind that presentations might be viewed on smartphone or tablet screens.

“Remember, you can no longer test or control how the end viewer’s display will treat your slides,” Auck said.

This means that graphics and text should be large and easy to read. Depending on the use case, you may want to change the resolution of your presentation or even export it as a PDF, Caitlin McGuire of the firm Ethos3 explained in a blog post.

“As a presenter living in the digital age, optimizing your presentation is a vital part of your design,” McGuire added.

(Mindful/E+/Getty Images Plus)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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