Category Archives: Presentation Skills

Presenting Basics: SlideRabbit at the Boulder Technology Summit

Pushing PowerPoint: Presentation by SlideRabbitLast week we were lucky enough to participate in the Boulder Technology Summit, coordinated by the Non-Profit Cultivation Center and the United Way. The Tech Summit is a resource for non-profits where technology experts come, share, teach and trouble shoot.

Not surprisingly, we presented on presenting. We discussed the basic dos and don’ts of using visual aids, taught our 20-minute template (a fast and easy way to brand your slides quickly), and trained up our class on using presentation software to create branded documents and marketing pieces. We also took a quick look at Prezi and when it makes more sense than traditional slides – and when it doesn’t!

Check out the full deck:

**SlideShare doesn’t want to maintain our hyperlinks to supplementary content, like the Prezi, so if you’d like a working copy of your own, please feel free to email me!**

Part of our mission at SlideRabbit is to bring high-quality design to every industry at affordable cost levels. We love and support the non-profit community with lower rates and fixed fee projects. Through our work in this sector, we’ve had the occasion to work with some fantastic organizations around the country. We were so pleased to be able to share our expertise in a hands-on workshop and hope to offer more training in the future. If you’d be interested in presentation-focused webinars, please let us know in the comments or by direct email!

Non-profit or not, contact us today and let’s chat about how we can help you bring your presentations to the next level!

Slide Design: How to Build a Powerful Color Palette

With sight dominating our senses, it is no surprise that colors have come to hold so much meaning and importance in our culture. Consciously and unconsciously, we use color to signify our feelings: a red rose for our love, a yellow one for a good friend. With colors so closely tied to emotion, and emotion so effectively increasing memory retention, it follows that colors are instrumental to powerful and memorable communication.

When selecting a main color for a presentation template, take into account the emotions that the content should produce. Is the material meant to excite the audience, rile them up to a new product that changes the game? Use a bright warm color (red, orange, yellow) to capture the energy of your message. If the material is about a trustworthy medical or financial service, use blues to convey reliability and fortitude. For more ideas on the right colors for your content, check out this awesome infographic from The Logo Company on how brand colors speak to our emotions:

Color Emotion Guide | The Logo CompanySource: http://thelogocompany.net/blog/infographics/psychology-color-logo-design/

Whether the starting point is a predetermined brand color or a color selected to do some emoting, the next step to building a palette involves color theory. There are several different methods used to combine colors from the color wheel to produce a pleasing look & feel. Here’s a look at the basic color wheel:

SlideRabbit, color wheel, VisualSugar, Color

Different color combination methods, or harmonies, produce a different feel. Here’s a look at some common harmonies:

Complementary & Split Complementary palettes are vibrant and striking. Complementary colors are across the color wheel from each other and provide high contrast.

SlideRabbit, color wheel, VisualSugar, Color

Analogous palettes are pleasing to the eye and feel comfortable because they often occur in the natural world, like a sunset of pinks, reds and oranges. Analogous colors are next to each other on the color wheel.

SlideRabbit, color wheel, VisualSugar, Color

Monochromatic palettes are built by selecting different saturations of the same color. They feel simple and elegant, but lack contrast.

SlideRabbit, color wheel, VisualSugar, Color

Triadic, Tetradic & Square palettes use simple geometric shapes (triangle, rectangle & square, respectively) superimposed over the color wheel to determine color harmony. These palettes offer rich contrast.

SlidRabbit_VisualSugar_Triadic_Tetradic_Colors

For quick help selecting the right colors, use an online tool like Adobe Kuler.

The easiest harmony to execute well is the Split Complementary palette, which is both pleasing to look at and easy to work with. This palette has three main colors, one of which should be dominant. The other two will be used as secondary and tertiary accent colors. Just as we borrowed from photography’s Rule of Thirds for compositional balance, borrow the 60-30-10 Rule from interior design to maintain color balance in the design. Sixty percent of the color on a given slide will be the dominant color – use it for big shapes and common themes. The secondary color should make up about thirty percent of the color, while the tertiary color is used only for small accents to grab attention.

SlideRabbit, color wheel, VisualSugar, Color

Whether website, marketing collateral or presentation, a good color palette begins to tell the story immediately and subliminally. Evoking emotion through color increases the effectiveness and memorability of the content. Selecting the right color palette for the message and the content is vital to communicating to the audience on both an intellectual and emotional level.

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Simplify Your Presentation

VisualSugar, Presentation Design Services, Custom Slides, PowerPoint
When is the topic of simplification more salient than during this season, as we all scramble around to get organized for the holidays and dawning of a new year? With  the constant conflicting demands of stressful professional lives and hectic personal obligations, it can be easy to forget to step back, breathe in and simplify.

Simplification not only soothes our souls, but also our minds. Our brains are drawn to information presented in a simple and straightforward way: Simple information rises above the noise. Organizing information primes it for easy consumption, but the further step of simplification can make information even easier to recall. When presenting make sure to use understandable and simple communication. When presenting data, refine and reduce the information on the slide.

Simplifying Language

The key to an understandable presentation is understandable language. When writing a script, be sure that the writing reflects normal speaking styles. Use small words, direct sentences and the active voice. Even when presenting to an educated or specialized audience, using large words, jargon or complex sentences decreases the rate of comprehension. The audience may still be processing the last point as new information is presented.

When sending out a presentation that the audience will read on their own, remember that most Americans read at a 7th or 8th grade level. (source)  Microsoft Word has a built in readability tool, based on Flesch-Kincaid readability tests, that grades copy as it’s written. Shoot for reading ease of 70% or higher.

Simplifying Data

It is always tempting to include the “full picture” when displaying data. Complex concepts often mean charts with two vertical axes, annotations or multiple data sets. Put a data display visual to the test by asking, What is the ONE point of this slide? If the answer has an “and” or “unless” in it, your data is too complicated and should be broken onto two slides (or built in with animation). And of course, always make sure to use the best format for your data.

In our busy world of constant information exchange, a simplified presentation is a breath of fresh air. Rise above the din by, simplifying your language and data. Always live by the “One point per slide” rule and extend it to your sentences. Straightforward information in bite size chunks has the best chance of being heard, understood and remembered.

“Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify, simplify.”
― Henry David Thoreau

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Designing for Display

SlideRabbit Presentation Design

In the last few months at SlideRabbit, we’ve dealt with some pretty interesting display methods: the giant mega-screens at Jay-Z’s 4040 Club, large rear-projection screens in courtrooms, aged monitors and even personal computers. The truth is, even if intended for a certain venue, a presentation may hit several different display methods in its lifetime.

Here are a few failsafe precautions you can take to insure that the time and money you put into your final product isn’t wasted by a bad display.

Hi-Res Images
Always pay attention to the size of your images. Image searching services like Shutterstock or Google Images list the pixel size, which can be easily converted to inches or centimeters. While a photo or icon may look fine on your monitor, once your presentation is on a larger screen, a low res image may not have enough detail information to look crisp and clear. When choosing an image size, err on the side of larger. A hi res image will look good on a smaller screen, but a low res image will look grainy and unprofessional on larger displays.

Size Set Up
As time and technology march on, more and more display screens have dimensions of 16:9. It’s important to know the dimensions of your display screen and design slide layouts accordingly. PowerPoint, Keynote and other presentation softwares allow the designer to change the slide canvas dimensions manually. Although there is a limit on how big you can go, setting the canvas to the largest equivalent dimension will allow you to design your slides for your screen, rather than hoping your content will scale up nicely.

Of course, 16:9 and 4:3 aren’t the only options. Page set up options also allow for custom canvas dimensions. Great for trade-shows or marketing events, producing a show in a non-standard size provides the chance to use an exciting or unexpected display method, adding interest for the audience.

Test, Test, Test
Go to your presentation venue and test the equipment there. Color balance, brightness and contrast settings can vary greatly; checking early and often insures that the design team can adjust to compensate for different displays.

If you’re sending a slideshow out, rather than presenting live, you may never now just how the final product looks. While you can’t control the display settings for a remote audience, you can do some due diligence. In advance of finalizing your presentation, test it out around the office. Play the show on multiple computers, large monitors, projectors and any other methods available.

Converting a slideshow to a video file is a great way to safeguard against non-standard font issues or hinky software version problems. If video isn’t an option, it may be important to click through the file on both a Mac and a PC. If permissible, send the file to a trusted friend or associate at another company to make sure that the fonts you’ve used are standard.

A lot of hard work, time and money go into producing strong presentations. Nothing is more disheartening than watching all that effort go up in smoke due to bad display. Splurge on high quality images, adjust page set-up settings to the display method and then test, test, test to make sure that your viewers get the full effect of all your hard work.

Data Display: Which Format Fits Best?

In almost every slide deck, there’s at least one assertion requiring the back up of solid data. Presenters are faced with the challenge of how to display this data in a way that supports the conclusion offered in an easily understood way.

When choosing a format for data display, ask yourself the question, “What does this slide have to prove?” (Then, make that answer your title.) Explicitly identifying the main argument will help you evaluate whether your chart choice is doing its job. Let’s take a look at some common data display formats* and how and when they are best used:

Tables

Tables get a bad rap when it comes to informational design, but that’s only because they are often used when another format would have better represented the data. True, tables fail to make trends and patterns immediately obvious, but they still have value.

Custom Slide Design | Table Slide | Presentation ServicesTables are great at comparing detailed information about several related items at once. Take this table slide: The table delivers a lot of information about the importance of the various application capabilities across a range of application categories in a matrix format. This data does not need to convey a trend or pattern through numbers; it needs to show similarities across categories. This is when a table work best.

Line Graphs

Slide2Often line graphs are used to compare too many elements at once; the result is a cacophony of lines squirming all over the slide. A good rule of thumb for choosing a chart type is to select the chart type that will prove your argument most simply. Line graphs are best for showing simple trends over time. 

Bar Graphs

Slide3Bar graphs are a great choice when the information is a little more complex but needs to be easily compared over time or between groups. In this example, each bar represents overall stock value, and the stacked sections give more detail about where that value is coming from. Although it does represent change over time, using a line graph for this data would look chaotic.

Pie Charts

Pie charts take a lot of heat in the design community, but I firmly believe they have their place. They must be used carefully, as it is true that it is harder for the brain to judge the differences in area than differences in length. Pie charts should be avoided when the specific numbers represented are vital, when there are only small value differences among data points or when there are more then 5 or so data points.

Slide4However, pie charts excel at showing general percentages in the break down of a larger whole. This pie chart gives a quick and easy to understand overview of the make up of a company’s patent portfolio and uses color to speed understanding of finer points: the blues group the U.S. patents against the foreign patents, and the paler colors group the pending patents against those already granted.

Selecting the right format for your data is crucial to proving your point and persuading your audience. Special attention should be paid to whether the data is displayed powerfully. Does it address the assertion in your title? Is it easy to understand quickly? Are your annotations and labels meaningful or extraneous? Good graph design is like any other good design. Everything that appears on the slide must have a reason for being there and it all must work together to create meaning.

Visit our portfolio for more slide design examples!

 *All slides in this post are taken from the body of work for one particular client. Sensitive information, including company identity, has been withheld. 

Slide Design: 5 Tips for Hardworking Titles

Strong_Slide_Titles_Slide_Design

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.