Plan Your Presentation Before You Make Slides
Learn your pitch and practice it.
A lot of people use their slides to plan their presentation and stay on track during their presentation. They stuff their slides with everything they want to say and end up reading off the slides.
This is a recipe for a presentation that puts your audience to sleep. They read your slides faster than you can present, then they wait for you to get to the next slide. They might even leave the webinar if you take too long to catch up with them.
If you want to deliver a powerful presentation, it should come organically from what you have to say, and be supported by extremely visual slides that emphasize your points.
The secret to getting away from the “boring” style is all in your preparation process. Start by outlining what you want to say in a text document. Write down your key points on a few notecards. Then practice your presentation with your notecards.
Practice for a few hours, and do it all out loud.
Then, once you know what you want to say and you have a good idea of how to say it, you can start making your slide deck.
I like to write down all of my slide ideas in a text document. I edit the document until I have all of the text I want in my presentation. Throughout my outline, I note in parenthesis what images I want to support each point.
Then I start copying and pasting my material into a slide deck. Then I format the text. Then I add the pictures. Then I practice the presentation with my slide deck.
The slide deck comes last, not first.
Create a Lot of Slides
You should have 1-2 slides per minute. Flicking through slides is going to help you hold your audience’s attention, just like how changing shots pull you into a movie.
Create slides for every transition, every feature, every bonus, every time you preview a new section, and every time you wrap up a section.
If you share a quote, make it a fullscreen slide. If you ask an important question, make it a fullscreen slide.
Because you’ll have so many slides, most slides should not have more than a sentence of text.
Some slides can just be a photo, or a photo and a phrase. This is the opposite of complex bullet-ridden slides.
This style keeps your audience’s attention on you and makes your presentation more engaging and memorable.
Taking some time to polish the graphics on your slides can help you come across with more professionalism on this webinar and any future presentations you make.
Choose your presentation software.
If you have Mac, I recommend Keynote. It has great animations, and the interface is clean and easy to use.
Otherwise, Google Slides and PowerPoint are both great presentation software. Google Slides is completely free, so that’s a plus.
Software isn’t going to make a big difference in your final product. Just pick a tool that you’re comfortable editing in so that you can focus on your content instead of the software.
Select the correct aspect ratio.
Modern sides should be in 16×9 (widescreen) format. If your software allows you to set exact dimensions, try the HD format 1920 x 1080.
Use a Sans Serif font.
Sans Serif fonts look more modern than Serif fonts, so they’re a good fit for most brands. If you take a look on SlideShare.net, most of the best decks use one Sans Serif font.
Open Sans is my favorite font. Designers are never going to fault you for picking Open Sans, Helvetica, Futura, or Avenir. No matter which one you choose, they’ll look great to your audience.
Pick four text styles.
The secret to making your font look great is to define your text styles and use them consistently.
Each text style should pair with a different type of content. Text styles are useful for creating hierarchy and order in your presentation. That makes your presentation look nice and keeps it easy to follow.
Choose one style for your title. In web design, we’d call your biggest title your “H1” title. Generally you might only use your H1 title 3-5 times during your presentation. These titles indicate to your audience that you’re entering a major new section of your presentation. You might use an H1 title on your product name or on “Questions and Answers” when you transition to those parts of your presentation.
Next, choose a style for your major points. (We’d call this an “H2” title in web design.) Use this font style when you print the names of your features and bonuses. You can also use this for the titles of your slides. Limit your H2 titles phrases to 1-5 words so that they’re always impactful. Put your other information into H3 or body text.
Now choose a style for your secondary information. When you show a testimonial, you might might put your client’s name in the H3 text style to make it stand out from the rest of the quote. If you want to put a sentence in bold, try applying your H3 text style to make it stand out from your regular body text.
Finally, pick a text style for your body text. This is the text style that you’ll use for 50-75% of your presentation’s text. It’s the text style you use on bullet points, or any phrases or sentences that support your main points.
Here’s a set of text styles for an example. You’re welcome to steal this for your presentation.
- H1: Open Sans, 48 point
- H2: Open Sans, 36 point
- H3: Open Sans, 24 point
- Body: Open Sans, 14 point
If you want to get more creative, you could also try something like this:
- H1: Open Sans (Light), 56 point
- H2: Open Sans (Regular), 36 point
- H3: Open Sans (Semibold), 20 point, upper case
- Body: Open Sans (Semibold), 14 point
The second option is similar to what you might get if you hire a designer to craft your typography. However, it’s not necessarily better than the first. Many companies only vary their text style by choosing different fonts.
The key is all in implementation. Take some care to use the same text styles consistently throughout your presentation.
Each slide will generally have 2 (maximum 3) text styles. If you have a slide with an H2 title, a couple H3 titles, and some body text with supporting information on each of the H3 titles, then you probably have way too much information on the slide. Try breaking the slide into multiple slides. Show your title first by itself. Then go to a new slide with the first H3 title and the body text that supports it. Then show another slide with the next H3 title and the body text that supports it.
Good text styling is one of the biggest “secrets” to making your deck beautiful and easy to follow. Take the time to get it right and your deck will really shine.
Use the same text color (with one exception).
I’d encourage anyone to either use black text against a light background or white text against a dark background, and keep the same theme throughout your entire deck. Black or white text will give you maximum contrast and simplicity. It will also work well against any background photo you might have. You can see this technique used effectively in the presentation linked below.
I have one exception to my “one color” rule. A great way to design slides is to use fullscreen photos. This is especially useful during transitions or while telling a story. (During these times you can switch from your usual theme to something different, before switching back to your usual thee.)
Sometimes your photos are going to have a dark area or a light area that you need to put text against. In these circumstances, it’s ok to flip your usual color. For example, if you have a slide with a dark photos background, go ahead and flip the text to white on that slide.
If you happen to be putting text over a fullscreen photo that has a lot of contrasting colors (so that the text is hard to read in both black and white), don’t break the theme. In these case, make your text white, add a subtle black shadow (20% opacity), and lower the exposure on the photo by 10-20%. Don’t worry about adding the shadow to your other slides. (In fact, maybe never use a text shadow except in this context!)
Get pictures from Unsplash.
Photos are a great way to add emotion to your presentation. For maximum impact, consider just using photos to emphasize key points. If you overload a presentation with photos, it can get overwhelming for the viewer.
You can source all your photos from Unsplash. Unsplash photos are clean, beautiful, open-source, and they feel more authentic than generic stock photos.
I’ve spent a lot of time searching for stock images on other marketplaces, and I really think Unsplash is that good. Think about the 80/20 rule. Yes, you can get marginally better images if you search every marketplace for every image. But it’s not likely to increase the quality of your presentation enough to be worth the time searching.
Remember, no one is going to fault you if they decide a picture on a slide is less than perfect. Go with your gut. Make decisions quickly. Take an hour and go slide by slide. Download one image for each slide, and keep going until you finish collecting images for the full presentation.
So long as an image support your point, go with it. Don’t second guess yourself. You’ll have plenty of time for audience feedback or A/B testing later.
Mix up the visuals you share.
If every photo is a person working at the computer, your audience can get bored.
When I’m talking about achievement, I might show a picture of someone climbing a mountain. When I’m talking about fear, I might show someone hiding under the covers.
Use analogies to search your favorite stock image website for creative pictures that illustrate your points.
Get icons and illustrations from Flat Icon and Free Pik.
Icons and illustrations are great for illustrating processes, steps, or tools within your presentation.
FlatIcon has over 2 million vector-based icons. Just search for a keyword and download one of the free icons. (Right now FlatIcon distinguishes their paid icons with a crown.)
I usually download icons in SVG format for websites, but PNG format works better for image-based presentation software.
FreePik is my favorite resource for more decorative or full-color illustrations. On their website, click the dropdown menu next to the search bar and select “vectors,” then type in a keyword and search.
Choose the best image that works for you and click Download. It’s a pretty easy site to use.
Illustrations can be useful when used selectively for parts of your presentation. But you don’t want your presentation to start to feel like it’s made with clip art.
Here are a few quick tips to help you use illustrations judiciously.
- Stick to 10 or fewer illustrations in your presentation. While illustrations can help to illustrate a concept, photos are generally better at connecting with people, so the bulk of your presentation should be illustrated with photos.
- Make sure your illustrations all have the same style. Sometimes you can find a sheet of 5-6 illustrations that are all drawn by the same illustrator, which is perfect.
- Be careful that you don’t select images that are too cartoonish, as these can detract from a professional tone. If you don’t find any great illustrations on FreePik, stick to icons from FlatIcon.
Create a visual roadmap.
Good webinars go into depth, but this can lead to your audience feeling overwhelmed and deciding to take a break. (They don’t usually return.)
One way to deal with waning attention spans is to add visual markers to your presentation. This is usually a set of dots at the top or bottom of your slides.
You can highlight what marker you’re on by adding a label to it or by making the other markers semi-transparent. You can also introduce a pyramid, wheel, or other diagram at the beginning of your educational segment. then you can return to it after each segment and show the diagram getting filled in like pieces of a puzzle.
This strategy helps people keep track of what they’re learning. It’s also a fun way to gamify your webinar. A lot of people won’t want to leave if they see that they’ve learned Secret 1, Secret 2, and Secret 3, but are still missing the last two secrets.
Many presenters don’t include the Q&A and offer in their roadmaps. It’s optional whether you include all parts of your webinar in the roadmap or just the educational part.
Simplify your data.
You can sometimes find clean infographics by running a Google image search for a piece of data you want to refer to.
However, my favorite way to share data visually is to just show people the takeaway statistic in large font (H3 text style) and then indicate the source in small font (body text).