At last check, my hard drive currently contains about 8000 PowerPoint presentation decks. I’ve seen a lot of presentations over the years, both virtual and in-person. My role as a designer is not only to make a presentation visually pleasing but to filter out any noise and make sure the messaging truly resonates with its intended audience.

5 Tips for Presentations That Perform

I find myself adjusting the same types of miscommunication a lot, so I wanted to share this short primer for avoiding common mistakes and missed opportunities.

1. Know your audience

Every other tip relates directly to this one. I’ve repaired volumes of self-focused presentations boasting a particular mantra or vision but fall short of connecting with their audience. I can assure you no one is interested in your list of credentials or how you intend to “disrupt” anything. They are looking for a connection in values and evidence of your demonstrated expertise against their priorities. Make sure to know and understand those priorities when crafting your presentation.

2. Lose the lingo

Any potential client or partner already expects you or your company to be strategic, innovative, industry-leading, professional, etc. Using valuable slide real estate to puff yourself up with overused buzzwords only renders them completely meaningless and the perceived focus on yourself might even turn off your audience completely. Instead, focus on the unique value that only you or your company bring to your audience. How are you serving their needs? What problem are you able to solve for them?

A simple, authentic voice focused on your audience can help you find meaningful connections and stand out in a crowd of jargon jockeys.

In some instances, industry shorthand is needed or even expected within internal teams. Do you use a lot of acronyms? Make sure to spell them out at least for the first instance. (Also, see Number 1.)

P.S. As a personal favor to me, can we agree never to use the phrase, “Now, more than ever.” ever again?

3. Get to the point

Similar to the point above, be sure to lead with your main headline followed quickly by how you’ll make a unique impact. You have only a finite window to grab (and keep) your audience’s attention so make sure your content is concise and properly targeted. As a music lover, I often think of the phrase, “Don’t bore us, get to the chorus!”

4. Less is more

Presentation slides are a visual medium, often more effective for retaining information than emails or phone calls. To use this to your advantage, each slide should contain 1 main idea with minimal text which you elaborate on through your spoken word. If you place your entire thought on the slide, your audience is no longer listening to you. They have disconnected while they read ahead and are simply waiting for you to finish.

Resist the urge to “over-design” and cover every inch of your slides with filters, effects, images, and animations. Give the eyes some room to breathe. A little well-positioned blank space is OK, I promise.

5. Don’t discount design

Visual aesthetics are important both for capturing your audience’s attention and organizing your information to make it easier to understand. If you can, seek out a good designer to help polish your presentation for maximum results. I can’t count the number of times a well-designed deck has dissolved any friction and inspired immediate action.

Good luck with your next big presentation!

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