Whether you're an experienced or first-time speaker, knowing how to create easy-to-follow and engaging presentation slides can be a challenge. While I personally enjoy creating my own slides and often invest a significant amount of time in drawing icons or charts, the reality is that designing visually appealing slides doesn't have to be difficult or excessively time-consuming. In this article, I will share with you my five simple tips that you can use to improve your existing slides or create new ones from scratch.
Follow these 5 tips to improve your slides
A better way to use charts, icons and emojis
Pick a colour scheme
Choose a color scheme as the starting point for your slides. It's an excellent way to achieve a professional look in a smarter way. Moreover, it sets the tone for your presentation and gives you a framework to work with. Several free platforms such as Canva, Coolors, and Colormind are available to help you with this task. These platforms enable you to create a random, beautiful color palette or one based on your favorite color or image. However, be careful, if you are anything like me, you might find yourself enjoying this part so much, that before you notice, you will end up spending way too much time perfecting your palette, and then it can quickly become a time-consuming task. This is why, I came uo with some considerations to choose a color scheme quickly:
Less is more: If you're not a design expert or don't have much time to experiment, stick to a few safer colors.
Pick 4-7 colors: Picking at least four main colors provides flexibility in designing your slides. However, avoid using more than seven colors, as it may distract from your presentation.
Start with background colors: Adjust your background colors based on the presentation room. Ask the organisers if you are unsure what the room will look like. For example, if the room is dark, using white or light backgrounds might cause eye strain for your audience. Alternatively, use vivid background colors to make a point or grab attention.
Contrast and accessibility: Choose the font and background colors that contrast well, making it easy to read your slides. You can use WebAIM's contrast checker to ensure your color scheme is accessible.
Choose accessible fonts
Font choice is another critical aspect to consider while designing your presentation slides. Siteimprove suggests that Tahoma, Calibri, Helvetica, Arial, Verdana, and Times New Roman are among the most accessible fonts. However, slab serif fonts such as Arvo, Museo Slab, and Rockwell are also considered to be accessible, although they're more suitable for headers than body copy. Since it's recommended to keep your slides text-light and mainly focused on headings, these fonts should also work well.
It's essential to check with conference organisers for the recommended font size, as it may vary depending on the room's screen size.
A better way to use charts, icons and emojis
Charts and icons help tell stories better as they help explain context. When incorporating these in your presentation slides, it's important to do so effectively. Here are some tips:
Clean up your charts as much as possible. Avoid using screenshots or downloaded reports. Instead, try to download the original data in Excel or Gsheets and rebuild the chart with a better visualisation that is less cluttered, highlights the main datapoints and matches your chosen color scheme. Alternatively, for simple charts you could also use shapes in your slide editor. I.e. recreating a bar chart and make it look much cleaner. You can use a screenshot as a guide to ensure that the bars match the original chart, but rebuilding it with shapes will give you more flexibility to customize it with your own colors, highlights, and text.
Icons can provide more context to your story, just like pictures, but they make slides still look clean and professional. Consider using them to build a flowchart or to give additional context to your message. If the company you're working for has its own icons, see if you can use them. Otherwise, you can find websites such as flaticon.com that offer a vast selection of free icons. Remember, if you're using free icons, always attribute the creator by mentioning them on your title and thank-you slides. Using icons that match in style will give your presentation a more professional look.
Emojis can also be used in a brilliant way instead of icons (and you likely won't need to worry about crediting it). If you decide to use emojis, make sure to download a high-quality image of it. I recommend using Emojipedia. You can use either version of the emoji, but make sure to stick to the same version (Google, Apple, Samsung, etc.) for the whole presentation so it is consistent.
Highlight your key message
No matter the length of your presentation, it's important to ensure that you're clear on the key points you want your audience to remember. These points should receive special attention in your design as well. Highlighting a key message means that it deserves its own slide. If the point is so important that you want people to remember it, you definitely want your audience to have time to read this slide and potentially take pictures. This will help encourage potential social shares as well, which means your key message can be seen by more people than just your audience.
There are various ways to highlight key messages, but here are two easy ways to do it:
High-contrast background slide with accessible font. Use a different color to highlight key words, either by underlining, using a colored font, or by adding a highlighted shape behind the font.
Use an image as a background. Ensure that the image is high-quality, matches your color scheme, and is not too cluttered so that your message is still accessible, and your key point is easy to read.
Find your own style and create a template
By going through this process, you can not only find your own style and see what works for you, but you can easily apply this to create your own reusable template. If you often create presentations (whether that’s for conferences, client pitches, or meetings) templates can definitely save you a lot of time. So when you start developing slides, do so by creating a template that includes your preferred fonts, colours, and layout, you can easily apply it to future presentations and ensure consistency in your design. You can always easily change colour schemes and fonts if you’d rather create different themed presentations for different conferences.
To help you get started, I've included a free presentation template in Google Slides that you can use as a basis for your own design. It incorporates some of the tips mentioned in this article.
Feel free to copy the template and use it as is, or customise it to your liking by changing the colour scheme, icons, and images. With a little creativity and attention to detail, you can create engaging and memorable presentations that will captivate your audience. If you have any questions, don't hesitate to get in touch!