Top tips for creating a visually appealing slide deck

A few months ago (I know, pre-COVID 😉), I attended a presentation from a renowned sleep specialist. I was excited and couldn’t wait to learn about how sleep (and sleep patterns) affected not just performance in the workplace, but overall health and the general population.

I sat down with my colleagues (this is at my day job BTW), took out my notebook 📓, and prepared to be awed with amazing facts and information.

I’ve attended many seminars and webinars in my time, I’m sure we all have. They’re huge and they’re getting bigger, what with the rise of virtual meetings, training and more people working from home than ever before.

I never realised how important slides were in a presentation, until that fateful day.

The presentation content was gripping. I learnt a lot. But the overall experience was disappointing and, I’m ashamed to say, there were times I felt my eyelids drooping 🥱.

The slides were the downfall (of course they were, otherwise why would I be writing this blog?). I’m very sorry Mr Presenter, they were awful.

What was wrong with them?

  • They were chock-a-block full of text

  • They used medical and scientific terms I did not know

  • They contained detailed diagrams that I didn't understand

It made me realise that everyone can get over-excited when preparing information for a big talk. The downfall is usually wanting to provide too much information. You want your audience to know as much as possible in as little time as possible. But this information should not be presented on a slide, it should come from you!

Presenting a visually appealing and engaging slide show is, of course, an essential part of your seminar/webinar, but remember that the presentation is the supporting tool. It's supporting your verbal content with information, graphics and supplemental points.

Your slides are not the STAR of the show, you and your content are 🌟.

Enter - my tips on how to ensure you're creating a visually appealing deck of slides.

1. Keep it simple

Having simple, easy to read slides is essential in allowing your audience to absorb the information without being too distracted. Distraction results in loss of attention, confusion and misunderstanding.

Limit blocks of text by using bullet points

Using the 6x6 rule (6 points per slide and no more than 6 words per point) you will highlight important information without overloading.

Maintain white space

White space on a slide helps draw attention to important points and is easier on the eye.

Keep your graphs and diagrams simple

Using simple graphs will help your audience understand the information you're giving them. If your diagrams are a little more complicated consider using animations to build in stages, as you're explaining.

Avoid over-styling

This could almost fall into the next tip but I prefer to look at it under keeping things simple.

Bold, underline and italics are great to emphasise certain words/ideas but using too much on one slide can confuse the eyes.

2. Type/Font

The typeface, or font, is underestimated more often than not. Choosing the right font is important and the perception of your font could influence the audience's impression of you and/or your brand.

Professional doesn't mean boring, btw! In presentation terms, using an 'exciting' font could present reading difficulties for your audience and can distract from your message because your audience is too engrossed in trying to figure out what it says!

Typically, professional fonts are split into 2 categories, sans-serif and serif fonts. Sans-serif is generally understood to be easier to read on screens and serif fonts are easier to read on print.

Lastly, when it comes to fonts/types, ensure you're giving an easy read.

It is generally agreed that a 30pt font size is the minimum size you should be using. It will ensure your audience can read the slide from wherever they are in the room. The last thing you want is the people in the back squinting and being unable to read!

3. Use colour sparingly

Colour can be a great option to highlight a point or word but especially bright, or out-there colours, can cause eye fatigue, and quickly.

Stick to simple colours.

Light fonts work on dark backgrounds and dark fonts work well on light backgrounds. Ensure there is enough contrast between your background and font. This will make the text easier to read.

As a standard, branding colours are best used sparingly and not as the text colour. Think about representing your brand in borders, headlines and image tinting.

4. Use relevant images

Images should be:

  • Relatable to the topic

  • Good quality

  • Supportive but not distracting

You should also ensure that you’ve thought about the symbolism in a picture. If you think outside the box and think like your audience, what image is going to support your point? Generic shots are not always the best option - be brave.

Lastly, effects and filtering should be consistent throughout, unless you’re making a point.

By sticking to these main rules, when creating slides, you’ll be able to get your point across and still keep your audience engaged, whether it’s online or in person.

If you’ve got a slide deck that needs refreshing, you can always get in touch with me! I can refresh, reformat, copy edit and proof your slide deck to ensure that it’s ready for your audience.

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