Monthly Archives: July 2013

Slide Design: 5 Tips for Hardworking Titles


There is no more greatly undervalued place on a presentation slide than the title field. Too often, title fields are filled with vague descriptors, packed with unnecessary verbage, or, worse, skipped all together (e.g. the Zimmerman trial prosecution slides). Slide titles have great real estate and should be put to use. Here are five rules of thumb for powerful slide titles.

1. Don’t Label

Labeling a slide with a vague descriptor may be the most common titling fail. Titles like “Revenue Chart,” and “Conclusion” are all too common and sometimes appear on several slides in a row. Nothing could be more useless for the audience.

A title is not a label; it is a headline. What specific information is this slide sharing? If multiple slides in the deck have the same headline, there are likely too many slides.

2. Argue

Even specific titles, while a vast improvement, fall short of their full potential. A title like “2014 Revenue Goals” is specific to its content, but falls short of driving home the argument of the slide. “2014: Increasing Revenue Via Product A” further clarifies the inherent argument of the data. Not only should a slide headline be specific to its exact content, but it should argue your point and lay bare a specific takeaway message. It should answer the question, What does this slide want to prove? What should the audience be learning?

3. Quantify

Most corporate communication uses deductive organization, which means the main thought must be stated and then supported. So take our title example one step further; “2014: Increasing Revenue By 25% Via Product A.” By quantifying the slide’s argument, the audience will receive all the information they need to assess up front. The data on the slide then serves as both proof and repetition, helping to solidify the point.

4. Use Action Words

Powerful writing uses the active voice. Active verbs are easier to understand, remember and summarize; thus, they are great for persuasive presentations designed to educate or convince. Titles are no exception.

5. Shorten It Up

Avoid the infamous 3 line heading. A title should be a specific and quantified argument. If you need more than 8 or 10 words to communicate the point, the slide concept may be over complicated. One point per slide!

During the review & finesse stage of your presentation production process, go back and examine each title. Is it unique to its content? Does it argue the point and lay out the important information? Is the wording active? Is it concise? It’s worth checking. Powerful titles make for powerful communication.

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The Value Of The Visual

Between the horrendous NSA slides and the disappointing prosecutorial closing presentation in the Trayvon Martin case, we’ve seen some pretty terrible slide design in the news lately. These recent examples might seem like the exception, but unfortunately, they indicate the underlying perception that presentations are not valuable workproduct. Visual communication is a huge opportunity in the business sphere. Even more than briefs and spreadsheets, great presentations can engagepersuade, and increase information retention.

The NSA’s PowerPoint presentation on the Prism Program was intended as an educational piece about electronic surveillance. Visual communication is a great approach to communicating data and complex ideas in an understandable way, but the NSA missed an opportunity when they neglected to prioritize the quality of their graphics. The template and graphics are so poorly designed that they come across as confused and convoluted.

NSA Prism Slide Original | Presentation Design

Below, we’ve simplified the template to focus on the main point: the diagram of telecommunication data exchange. To increase speed of comprehension, we’ve added visual cues and changed the configuration of the diagram to emphasize the US as the “backbone.”

NSA Slide | Prism Powerpoint | Redesigned

The slides from the Trayvon Martin trial were so poorly constructed that they received some harsh words in the press. This slide from the Prosecutor’s closing arguments looks slopped together.

Trayvon Martin Slide Design

It’s hard to imagine that any professional would feel comfortable with this slide, never mind a prosecutor with 20 years of experience. Some quick finesse adds credibility:

Trayvon Martin | Slide Design | Improved

In the age of life-like video games and multimillion dollar advertising budgets, great design is all around us and subpar design has never been so obvious. Poor quality visuals damage not only the credibility of the presenter and organization, but also that of the arguments. Failing to spend the necessary time and resources on visual communication is an insult to the audience.

From the classroom to the courtroom to the boardroom, presentations can be excellent tools for communicating complex ideas, arguments, and strategies in a way that is memorable and easy to understand. Investing in the design and development of visual communication is as important as ensuring quality in all areas of professional communication.

For more thoughts how to employ presentation design in business, pop over to our Expertise page.