Creating your visual aids

Don’t suck! – 3 easy ways to make sure yours is the presentation people remember

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DontSuckI was reading a blog post the other day. It was actually about overcoming marketing challenges (although that isn’t really the point – stay with me guys…).

In the good old days ‘content marketing’ (and many other jobs we now have) didn’t even exist. Nowadays the competition for your audience’s attention is enormous and, while producing content is easy, producing GOOD content is much harder (and much more important if you wish to survive). The challenge today is finding a way to make your message resonate with your audience – grab their attention and then keep their attention.

It struck me that you could just as easily substitute ‘Presentation design’, ‘pitching for business’, ‘communication skills’, or indeed no end of subjects in there and the problem would still be the same. How do you stand out from the crowd? In the context of that particular post Jon Morrow was quoted, summing it up perfectly:


Ok, so his is a TV analogy, (and then mine is a blog post analogy) but I think the principles – and the solution – are just the same:

“Don’t suck!”

I know it seems a pretty facile thing to say but actually, with a bit of thought and a bit of planning, you can make enormous strides towards that ultimate goal. Follow these 3 simple rules for creating great presentations:

1. Make  your presentation FIT your audience

What do they WANT to know? What do they NEED to know? Take time to tailor your presentation to your audience’s wants and needs then of course they’re going to more engaged.

Q: Why would they take time out from their busy lives to listen to you?

A: Because you’re going to make it worth their while.

2. FOCUS on the essentials that your audience wants or needs

Be ruthless about this. What is the very least you can say on the subject in the simplest way and in the shortest time AND still get your message across? Remember these are busy people. There’s been loads of research on it but it’s likely that tomorrow your audience won’t remember more than 10% of what you said. What part do you want them to remember?

3. Deliver it with FLAIR

Make it memorable. We talk elsewhere about the importance of a simple story structure so let’s just consider your visual aids for a moment. As Zach Holman quite rightly pointed out:

” A good set of slides won’t magically make your talk great. But a great talk is badly hurt by bad slides.”

We just said that an audience will only remember 10% of what you say. Add a great image and that’ll increase to 65%!

Sit back and take a totally objective (and totally honest) look at your last Powerpoint slides (or Prezi for that matter). How do they compare with (possibly) the worst slide ever?

Not that bad? I’m glad to hear it. But still need a little makeover? Then the quickest and most routinely reliable route to slide genius is to follow Robin Williams’ design advice for non-designers. Follow the basic rules of Contrast, Repetition, Alignment  and Proximity and, as if by magic, your slides will instantly look better. Trust me – it works!

Like everything, it does take practice but your presentations will never be the same again – they will fit the audience perfectly, be completely focused on your message and have that little bit of designer flair that will make you stand out from the crowd.

Jim Harvey

Jim Harvey

Managing Director at The Message Business
Jim is the MD of The Message Business, a company which helps FTSE 100 companies to sell themselves, and their products better. Speech writer, Prezi trainer and designer, coach and consultant, Jim also finds time to be a proud father and husband.
Jim Harvey


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