Basics of Presentation Design

I see a lot of presentations. In meetings, webinars, and conferences I am frequently sitting in a room or watching something online trying to receive some sort of message from another individual in the form of a presentation. Nine times out of ten, this other person does what most do and show slides that have a big bold title like “strategy” or “features” and bullet points like “Vision, Mission, or Keys to Success”. During this time not only am I completely ignoring what the person saying as I read ahead, I am also degraded to a 5th grade level where I have someone basically reading each bullet to me as if I can’t do that for myself. This isn’t a presentation, these are presenters notes being displayed and as an impatient consumer of information, before the presenter is done with their rambling about their first bullet, I have consumed it all and am on twitter or facebook looking for something more interesting.

You may say I just need to suck it up and pay attention, to not read ahead, and to put my phone away (ha!). Well, sorry, I’m impatient and refuse to waste my time listening to someone regurgitate for 60 minutes what I could consume in 10 seconds via 140 characters or less. Correction, I am not sorry for this, but I am sorry for those presenters who after it’s over, have people congratulate them for puking useless commentary on otherwise completely predictable and expected talking points.

All that said, I am a humanitarian at heart, and in a selfish effort to avoid having to sit through your boring presentations again, have some basics for you to follow when designing your slides. I didn’t come up with these and I’m no expert. But I have read a few books on the topic and been through the Duarte Slideology 1-day training which is fantastic, and if you have the chance will be the best money you spend all year on training, trust me, I’m an expert.

So, if you’re designing a presentation, for the sake of your breath and your audience’s sanity, please at minimum follow these guidelines. These are closely based on Duarte’s 5 rules of presentation design (link) and Garr Reynolds Presentaiton Zen philosophy (link).

I thank you in advance.

Presentation Design Standards:

– Use large images/screen shots
– Show short videos
– Give live demo’s
– Display diagrams
– Use less than a 30pt font on any slide
– Use any amount of bullet points
– Display more than 6 words per slide
– Have more than 1 message per slide
– Use fancy animations (simple animations okay)


The 5 rules of presentation design by Duarte

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