Part 1 focussed on how to prepare and deliver your best presentations – without playing second fiddle to your visuals or boring your audience. Now let’s get into the actual slide design. What are the common visual aide blunders to avoid? And what are some simple ways to give your slides an instant makeover? Here a 5 more dos and don’ts.
6. Don’t: use white backgrounds or low-contrast images
White backgrounds are too bright and distracting. Our eyes are drawn to bright objects. The background should not be more visually striking than the speaker, the text or the images. Of course, there are some exceptions where a white background offers the best contrast for the image. But I would typically avoid using white as the default background colour.
Don’t use low-contrast images/text. You need contrast to make your visuals “pop”. Here’s a slide lacking contrast. (It says “this is hard to read”)
Do: use black (or dark) backgrounds and white text; pump up the contrast!
7. Don’t: use low-resolution images
Do: use high-resolution images… obviously
8. Don’t: frame photos within your slide
Do: go “full-bleed” or limit the appearance of edges as much as possible
“Full-bleed” means that the edges of the image extend past the edges of the page or screen. This is the best option for aesthetics.
Of course, it’s not always possible to go full-bleed but at least try to make the image blend into the slide. The above example is an eye-sore because the image has a dark background in contrast with the white slide. Just matching the two makes a big difference as you can see in the example below.
Sometimes, you need to display separate images on the the same slide (as in point 7). In that case, you can get away with edges as long as they are aligned for symmetry.
9. Don’t: use tiny and/or weird fonts
Do: use a simple sans-serif font; 36pt minimum; no more than 3 sizes and 2 colours
10. Don’t: show irrelevant information
Suppose you’re talking about the structure of your department. Showing the structure of the whole company is unnecessary and overwhelming.
Do: omit or de-emphasise unimportant information; highlight the key details
Cut everything that detracts from the point you are making. At the very least, fade the unimportant details and highlight the most important details, like so.
The same applies to tables, graphs, charts, etc. Be tactical about what you show and what you don’t.
Show them everything and they’ll see nothing.
Have your say
Do you have anything to add to the list? Do you have your own “before & after” examples? How have these tips worked for you? E-mail me or leave a comment below. I’d love to hear from you.