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PowerPoint Tip: Creating Custom-Shaped Placeholders

It’s not hard to come up with unique slide designs if you’re familiar with PowerPoint’s full potential. There’s more to PowerPoint than just bullet points and repetitive templates. With some creativity and experimentation, you will find that PowerPoint is a flexible presentation tool that allows for many design possibilities.

One of the many ways you can customize the look of your slides is by experimenting with picture placeholders. As you know, we use placeholders to quickly add elements on a particular slide. Placeholders are particularly useful for pictures, because it helps you ensure that alignment is consistent throughout. If you want to add an extra bit of detail to your pictures, turn your placeholders into .

Creating basic placeholder shapes: 

1.) Start with Slide Master 

Start in the Slide Master View and insert a Slide Layout. On the new slide, add a Picture Placeholder and adjust it according to your liking.

Select Insert Layout first, then click on Insert Placeholder and choose Picture.

2.) Change placeholder shape

Select your placeholder and click on the Drawing Tools Format tab. Select Edit Shape and choose from the pre-defined shapes under Change Shape.

Choose the shape that best suits your design concept.

3.) Make adjustments 

You can adjust the new shape by using the yellow diamond to refine corners and modify angles.

Click and drag the yellow diamond to adjust your shape.

You can also take it one step further by defining your own shape. If you want your placeholder to look a specific way, there’s a quick way to make your own custom and unique shapes.

Defining custom-shaped placeholders: 

1.) Choose a shape for a starting point 

Do the same steps indicated above to choose a shape that can serve as your starting point. Go with one that is closest to your desired shape, so that you can minimize the adjustments you’ll need to make.

2.) Enable Combine Shapes command 

The Combine Shapes command allows you to customize shapes by merging and intersecting them together. You can also “subtract” a portion of one shape with another. To enable the command, you will need to add it to the Quick Access Toolbar. Select the small arrow above the ribbon and choose More Commands.

When the dialogue box appears, find Combine Shapes from All Commands. Press “C” on your keyboard to find it quickly.

3.) Adjust by “subtracting” shapes 

To use the Combine Shapes command, start placing new shapes around the placeholder. Once you’ve arranged the shapes, hold shift and select the placeholder followed by the shapes around it.

Make sure you select the placeholder first.

Click on the Combine Shapes icon from the Quick Access toolbar and select Shape Subtract.

How the placeholder will look after “subtraction”.

Once you’re happy with your shape, exit Slide Master View and start designing your slides. You can create as many custom-shaped placeholders as you like. Since you made them using Slide Master, you can easily access the new layouts under New Slide.

Featured Image: Ben K Adams via Flickr

Perfecting Your Presentation Title Slide

We’ve been told not to judge a book by its cover, but first impressions are still hard to shake off. It’s in our nature to form hasty opinions. Whether we’re faced with new people or experiences, the first few seconds always matters. This is especially true in the world of business, considering how everything there moves at such a fast pace. If you really want your presentations to count, you have to do more than prepare yourself for audience scrutiny. You also need to prepare one of the first things your audience will see—your presentation’s title slide.

Here are three things to remember for a perfect presentation title slide:

1. Come up with a memorable title

Like with books and movies, the title of your presentation is extremely important. It will help your audience gauge what your presentation is about, allowing them to decide whether or not it’s worth their time. In a just a few words, the title should be able to embody the main theme and message of your presentation. It should also be unique and memorable. As Sims Wyeth writes,

You can afford to jazz up your titles a bit. A good title sets the audience abuzz as it anticipates being entertained or intrigued. And the speaker can come back to the title throughout the talk if it serves as a theme. People may not leave humming the melody, but they might leave remembering the theme–which is a feather in the cap for any speaker.

Here are a few suggestions by Wyeth:

  • “The Budget Surplus and the Bush Administration: or Gone With the Wind.”
  • “Creating Customer Loyalty: From Here to Eternity.”
  • “Comparative Online Dating Outcomes: or The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter.”

While these title might seem a bit cheeky, they can a bit of fun and creativity to your presentation. Instead of going with something that’s straightforward, try to think of an analogy or metaphor that can best describe your main message. As always, tailor your content to the expectations of the audience. Choose your title wisely, and make sure it blends well with the crowd you’re addressing.

2. Include an evocative image

A descriptive and memorable title isn’t enough. To make sure your title slide stands out, you will also need evocative imagery. As the old saying goes, “a picture is worth a thousand words.”  A single image or illustration is enough, as long as it echoes the theme of your presentation. Together with your title, the picture should be able to create an instant connection with the audience.

Take this example from the SlideGenius portfolio:


Notice how the picture can already tell a bit of a story. Always go for visuals that will instantly make a connection with your audience, especially for the title slide.

3. Add your logo

While it may seem like a small detail, your logo should also be part of your title slide. As we’ve mentioned in the past, the logo is the perfect visual representation of your company story. You can choose to integrate the logo as part of your slide design, like in this slide:

You can also use it in place of listing down your name and company position, cutting down the amount of text in your title slide.

Whatever you decide, keep in mind that your brand should always be perfectly integrated in your presentation deck.

If books are judged by the cover, presentations are judged by the title slide. Presentation expert Scott Schwertly writes, “Approach your title slide like a handshake: it should be firm, straightforward, and give your audience an idea of the kind of character they are dealing with.” Don’t neglect the title slide when you prepare to make a positive first impression.



Featured Image: Abhijeet Rane via Flickr

Visual Thinking: Do Images Fill Your Brain?

Do you have a hard time memorizing people’s names, but can easily place the face of a stranger? Is it hard to articulate your ideas and turn them into words? Do you prefer sketching out the details of a project? Do you love solving puzzles like this one? Those who are more inclined to visual thinking will likely answer yes to all these questions.

What is visual thinking?

Learn more about the unique ability to see the world in pictures and the skills it involves by watching these two videos:

Are You A Visual Thinker? by BuzzFeed Video

Visual Thinking 101 by Sean Griffin

Developing visual thinking skills

As we often discuss here, our brains are more inclined to process and retain visual information. This is why visualization is an important element in presentations. Complex concepts are better explained through the use of illustrations, charts, diagrams and pictures. Verbal or textual explanations can easily become confusing. People who are more inclined to visual thinking will know this for a fact.

While not everyone might be considered visual thinkers, others can easily develop the same set of skills. With a bit of practice, we can all achieve visual literacy. As Philip Yenawine of Visual Understanding Education writes,

It involves a set of skills ranging from simple identification (naming what one sees) to complex interpretation on contextual, metaphoric and philosophical levels. Many aspects of cognition are called upon, such as personal association, questioning, speculating, analyzing, fact-finding, and categorizing. Objective understanding is the premise of much of this literacy, but subjective and affective aspects of knowing are equally important.

Here are a few resources you can read to get started on your visual thinking journey:


Featured Image: Fons Heijnsbroek via Flickr

Themes: Customizing a Prezi That’s Unique to Your Presentation

We often emphasize the importance of design in delivering presentations. For this week’s Prezi Feature, learn how to create a Prezi that’s unique to your presentation. By customizing your Prezi themes, you can create visuals that perfectly match your message. 

By now, audiences are used to seeing the same presentation decks over and over again. If you really want to leave a lasting impression, you need to think outside the box and get creative. Prezi is a flexible tool that allows you to do just that. With Prezi, you can take control of your narrative and focus on every detail of your presentation. Best of all, you can easily create unique designs that will surely enhance the audience’s visual experience.

Customizing Your Deck

Customize Prezi themes quickly and without much hassle. Beginners will find it easy to come up with their own designs. With just a few clicks, you can add your own background image and change font types. Advanced users also have the option to take their designs even further.

Place your content on the Prezi canvas. Once you’re happy with how everything looks, you can start customizing your theme. Click on Customize from the top menu to access the customization sidebar.

prezi themes 08

Choose a predefined theme that suits your design concept.  To make sure that your prezi theme is one of a kind, scroll down and click the “Advanced” option to open the Theme Wizard. Here are a few tips to create Prezi themes that are unique to your presentation:

prezi themes 05

Change colors using RGB codes

prezi themes 09

You can customize colors by using RGB codes. You can use this site to learn the code that corresponds to a certain color. Copy the code from the site and then paste it to the RGB fields in the Prezi Theme Wizard.

Use the CSS editor to define more details

prezi themes 03

If you’re familiar with HTML, you can open the Prezi CSS Editor to add more details. Use CSS to adjust different things on your prezi theme. You can edit each element in your prezi canvas, like customizing the frames and changing the look of particular shapes. You can also use the CSS editor to define more font types and further enhance your color palette. You can take a look at this CSS crash course to learn more.

Add a background image

prezi themes 04

A background image can also add another dimension to your Prezi themes. Simply choose an image from your computer and upload it to Prezi. If the file size is too big, Prezi will automatically resize the image for you.

Save your theme for future use

prezi themes 07

After achieving your desired theme, don’t forget to save it for future use. This will be helpful for occasions when you don’t have much time to prepare for your next presentation.

Give your audience a unique visual experience. Take the extra step to customize your Prezi themes and create a design that perfectly matches your content.


Featured Image: Featured Image: Death to the Stock Photo / Prezi logo via Wikimedia Commons

A Step-by-Step Guide for Using Custom Fonts in PowerPoint Design

One of the easiest ways to improve PowerPoint designs is by playing around with typography. By simply changing up fonts, you can instantly create unique slides. You don’t have to stick with using standard fonts, either. If you really want to dabble in typography, there are plenty of custom fonts to be found online.

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Despite its many advantages, custom fonts can complicate your PowerPoint process. You will need to install the new fonts to your computer. You also have to make sure that PowerPoint doesn’t substitute your custom fonts with a standard one when it’s time to share the deck with others. Here’s a step-by-step guide in making sure the process is as smooth and easy for you.

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Downloading custom fonts

Choose 1 to 2 fonts from any of the following sources. Make sure you use the same fonts throughout your presentation. For more tips on choosing and combining different fonts, check out the infographic from yesterday’s post.

The fonts in these sites are OpenType fonts (OTF) and TrueType fonts (TTF). Download your choices following instructions provided in the sites. They will usually come in a ZIP archive, so make sure you have a software like WinRAR to extract the files you need.

Installing custom fonts

Once extracted, the fonts will need to be installed on your computer. Double click the TrueType or OpenType font file and click Install.

Installing Authentic Hilton by Maelle.K via

Head to PowerPoint and check if you can access the new fonts. If you can, you’re ready to experiment with typography. Work as you usually would and build your PowerPoint deck. Once you’re done, you’ll need to take one extra step to ensure your fonts will look the same in other computers. There are 2 different techniques to save custom fonts in PowerPoint. You can choose to embed fonts, or turn your text into pictures.

Technique #1: Embedding fonts

PowerPoint allows you to embed non-standard fonts as long as they are TTF or OTF files. All you have to do is head to File and choose Options. There, click Save and check the box for “Embed fonts in this file“.

Keep in mind that this technique will likely bloat your file size, so it’s best if you choose “Embed only the characters used in the presentation“.

Technique #2: Save text as picture

You can also save text as a picture instead. Simply right click on  the text placeholder and choose Save as Picture.

You can then replace the text with the picture afterwards. This will take a lot more time, but it’s a great technique if your chosen font is neither a TTF nor OTF file. It’s also the best way to ensure that your text will look the same way on any device.

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Your PowerPoint deck can greatly improve by simply using unique and custom fonts. Make sure your experimentation with typography ends a success by following this guide.

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The Creative Process: 4 Steps to Presentation Success

We like to think of creativity as something elusive. It’s either you have it or you don’t. But as we discussed in the past, creativity is not a special trait reserved for artists, musicians, and writers. Creativity is a vital for endeavors that involve communicating and connecting with others. Whether you’re working on a novel or pitching to investors, creativity is crucial for capturing the imagination. The creative process is considered elusive only because we don’t know how to navigate through it.

The science of creativity

The idea that creativity is black and white comes from the notion that the left and right sides of the brain are distinct. Those who use the left side of their brains are more logical, practical, organized, and analytical. On the other hand, “right-brained” thinkers are understood to be more creative, artistic, and emotional.

That means an entrepreneur who carefully plans his next step is left-brained, right? And a pianist practicing a sonata is obviously using the right side of her brain. Recent research prove that this is just a myth:

Creativity does not involve a single brain region or single side of the brain.

Instead, the entire creative process– from preparation to incubation to illumination to verification– consists of many interacting cognitive processes (both conscious and unconscious) and emotions. Depending on the stage of the creative process, and what you’re actually attempting to create, different brain regions are recruited to handle the task.

Importantly, many of these brain regions work as a team to get the job done, and many recruit structures from both the left and right side of the brain. In recent years, evidence has accumulated suggesting that “cognition results from the dynamic interactions of distributed brain areas operating in large-scale networks.”

In truth, the creative process involves several steps that happen in different regions of the brain. As indicated in the quoted passage, the brain is actually a complicated network that operates as a whole. There is no divide between the creative and logical. While some are more inclined to either one of these traits, both can be true for a lot of people as well. The creative process doesn’t involve magic. It can happen for an artist, as well as an entrepreneur preparing for a presentation.

The creative process in four stages

The social psychologist Graham Wallas described the creative process as a series of steps. According to Wallas, the creative process has four stages that involve both conscious and unconscious thinking. If you feel like your presentations can use a bit more imagination, you don’t need to wait for the muse to come. Just take note of the following steps to help you get started:

Stage One: Preparation

Creative Process 1: Preparation

The first stage involves laying down the ground work of your project. To prepare, you consult prior knowledge and experiences, as well as seek out other resources. In presentations, this is when you define the main purpose of your presentation. Upon figuring out your goals, do some research and seek out inspiration.

Stage Two: Incubation

Creative Process 2: Incubation

After gathering inspiration comes a period of “unconscious processing.” Here, you let your brain piece together what you were able to gather. Wallas describes it as “voluntary abstention” from consciously thinking of the problem at hand. Instead of trying to find a specific solution, you take a step back and consider different possibilities. If you remember our previous discussion on creativity, this is similar to creating “psychological distance” between yourself and your work. At this point, instead of letting yourself be boxed inside a specific line of thinking, try to explore other solutions through brainstorming and mind mapping.

Stage Three: Illumination

Creative Process 3: Illumination

As the name suggests, the third step of the creative process involves the moment when everything finally comes together. According to Wallas, this stage can’t be forced. It happens unconsciously, only after you were able to step back and consider different solutions. He describes illumination as the following:

[The] final “flash,” or “click” … is the culmination of a successful train of association, which may have lasted for an appreciable time, and which has probably been preceded by a series of tentative and unsuccessful trains. The series of unsuccessful trains of association may last for periods varying from a few seconds to several hours.

Stage Four: Verification

Creative Process 4: Verification

The last stage of the creative process involves carrying out your idea into the real thing. To ensure success, consult the goals and parameters you’ve determined in the preparation stage. For presentations, this involves finally building your PowerPoint deck, as well as the act of presenting in front of an audience.

Creativity doesn’t need to be magical and elusive. It can be accessible to those of who aren’t particularly inclined to artistic endeavors. Familiarize yourself with the different stages of the creative process and ensure that your presentations end successfully.



Kaufman, Scott Barry. “The Real Neuroscience of Creativity.” Scientific American. August 19, 2013. Accessed October 15, 2014.
Popova, Maria. “The Art of Thought: A Pioneering 1926 Model of the Four Stages of Creativity.” Brain Pickings. 2013. Accessed October 15, 2014.


Featured Image: Chris Isherwood via Flickr
All other images by Death to the Stock Photo

Design Crash Course: Color and Typography

Design is a crucial part of all presentations. With visuals that stand out, you can leave a more memorable impression on your audience. People respond to visual stimuli a lot more, and great design can help your audience process and retain information. Aside from integrating pictures and illustrations into your slides, you can also experiment with color and typography.

DesignMantic came out with 2 infographics that can serve as a design crash course for those looking to improve their PowerPoint decks. In it, they outline some useful tips to guide your color and font choices.

Design Crash Course 1: The 10 Commandments of Color Theory

This infographic breaks down everything you need to know about color theory. Aside from helping you choose colors that match the mood of your presentation, it also offers tips and tricks on how to come up with a solid palette.

Courtesy of; click on image for full view

Design Crash Course 2: The 10 Commandments of Typography

Typography turns the written word into a visual treat. For this infographic, DesignMantic breaks down everything you need to know about combining different fonts together. As you know, choosing the correct font type is crucial in PowerPoint design. Like color, it can contribute in setting the over-all mood of your presentation.

Courtesy of; click on image for full view

Get more design tips and PowerPoint ideas by reading back on some of our previous blog posts. To create the best slides for your presentations, always keep your core message in mind. Allow the purpose of your presentation to guide the choices you make when it comes to color and font type. Your designs should elevate the core message of your presentation. It should to highlight the goals you want to achieve, instead of distracting the audience. In other words, presentation design is both aesthetic and functional.

If you need more help, don’t hesitate to contact us and consult with our PowerPoint design experts.


Featured Image: Cropped from DesignMantic infographic

How to Tell a Better Presentation Story

As we already know, stories make for powerful presentations. Great stories can capture the emotion and imagination of an audience. Instead of a straightforward report of the facts, stories allow audiences to connect with a message. Stories allow mundane and impersonal data seem more relatable. A presentation story creates a more personal and engaging audience experience.

Whether you’re in the boardroom or in a meeting with potential clients, here’s a list of what you’ll need to tell the best presentation story:

The heart of the story

In literature, stories are told to reveal broader themes. While you’re not expected to philosophize abstract themes in your presentation, the story you share should also have a purpose. At its core, it should be more than just a story. Your story should be driven by a rationale that is essential to your story. In other words, it should perfectly illustrate the core of your message.

To get there, consider asking  yourself these key questions:

  • What is the significance of this particular story?
  • What is the underlying principle behind your presentation?
  • What is the main point you’re trying to get across?

The more you understand the key takeaway, the better you can deliver your presentation story.

The main players

Stories can’t move forward without a central character. The character is responsible for setting the narrative into motion. It is also the character that determines what kind of story will unfold. Most importantly, it’s with the character that the audience connects with emotionally.

It may seem odd to name a protagonist for your presentation story, but even the most mundane stories have its main players. It could be your customer. It could be someone who perfectly represents the demographic you’re targeting. You could even be the character of your own presentation story, especially if you want to talk about an experience that’s central to your key takeaway.

The structure

Beginning, middle, end. Whether it’s an epic hero’s journey, or a murder mystery riddled with flashbacks, all stories are anchored by this basic structure. As such, the same should be true for your presentation story.

According to‘s Aaron Ordendorff, the problem is that we often start our presentations at the very middle of the story. We don’t take the time to develop the narrative and provide proper context. At the same time, there is also very little discussion of the resolution and what should come next.

To structure your presentation story properly, start with the basics:

  • Beginning – While you’re not expected to give every detail of your presentation, you do need to provide the audience with sufficient context to understand your message. Begin your presentation story be introducing your character and the problem they’re facing.
  • Middle – Once you’ve provided enough background information, you can begin to detail the purpose of your presentation and how that relates to the conflict your character is facing.
  • End – After discussing the bulk of what makes your presentation, end the story by providing a resolution that reinforces your key message


Orendorff, Aaron. “Bring Your Presentations To Life With These 5 Storytelling Components.” Fast Company. September 15, 2014. Accessed October 14, 2014.


Featured Image: Death to the Stock Photo

How to Deliver Small-Scale Presentations

When we think of presentations, we often imagine standing in front of a large audience. But as JD Schramm points out in his article for Harvard Business Review, plenty of meetings and presentations involve a much smaller crowd.

Often, you won’t find yourself addressing an auditorium full of people. In truth, most presentation meetings involve less than 10 participants. Most of the time, presentations happen with you and the audience interacting closely with one another.

While you may think this is an easier scenario to handle, small-scale presentations can also have a few challenges.

What do you do with your slides?

In small-scale presentations, you won’t need to project your slides. But this doesn’t mean that visuals aren’t necessary. Even with a smaller group, your presentation will still need to connect and engage. As you would with any presentation, highlight your main points with powerful visuals.

So how do you share your slides then? You can prepare a printed deck. Build your slides as you usually would, but skip the animation and huge pictures. Instead, opt for interesting color schemes and eye-catching illustrations. As always, keep your content precise and concise. Another option is to make an iPad or tablet PowerPoint presentation.

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Should you sit or stand?

As you may have guessed, standing is a powerful nonverbal cue. When you stand while others remain in their seats, you show that you’re in a position of power and authority. This is important at the start of a presentation, and why you should stand as you begin your presentation. If the presentation meeting is more formal in nature, you can opt to remain standing as you delve into the main presentation and only take a seat when it’s time to answer questions. For meetings that are more casual, you can deliver the entirety of your presentation seated.

The seat you take is another crucial factor in small-scale presentations. As the presenter, you should be seated in a place that allows you to see everyone in the table. It’s important that you’re in a place where you can easily make eye contact with the group. If you’re delivering a pitch, you should sit close to the primary decision maker.

How should you speak? How should you move?

Even as you sit with the audience, it’s important to be mindful of your voice and gestures. As always, speak with a voice that’s loud and clear. A strong voice comes from the diaphragm, so maintain proper posture once you’re seated. Keep your back straight and your feet firmly on the ground. When you’re talking, you can lean forward slightly to show the audience that you’re engaging in a conversation with them. As you would in any presentation, maintain eye contact throughout. When taking questions, Schramm suggests that you can lean back into your chair to seem more approachable.


Regardless of the size of your audience, the goal of your presentation remains the same. You want to be able to communicate your ideas in the most efficient way possible.

When facing a small group, always be mindful of how you present yourself. You can still command authority and create an engaging atmosphere without the usual presentation set up.

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Schramm, JD. “How to Present to a Small Audience.” Harvard Business Review. August 20, 2014. Accessed October 14, 2014.


Featured Image: Sebastiaan ter Burg via

Coming Up with a Presentation Design Concept

Designing an effective PowerPoint deck involves plenty of preparation. There’s obviously more to it than choosing a random template and then putting together a bunch of slides. Each color, picture, and font type you choose should be governed by a plan. In other words, every single element that goes into your slide should correspond to a specific concept.

This concept will direct all your design choices, leading you to a PowerPoint deck that elevates your core message. Think of it this way: If great design is the destination, a design concept is the map you’ll need to get there.

Conceptualizing Design

According to Vanseo Design, we can think of design concept in two different ways. The first is the verbal concept, where you let a particular message dictate your aesthetic. For example, you might want your PowerPoint deck to exude innovation and professionalism to match the software you’re pitching. This gives you a more abstract starting point nbut allows you to focus more clearly on the message of your presentation.

The next is the visual concept, where you start with a specific image or “look” in mind. For example, you might want to work around the different shades of blue or feature geometrical shapes prominently. While it may give you a concrete picture of your design, it might also be incoherent with the presentation you’re about to deliver. To be effective, a visual concept needs to be grounded by a specific message. It needs to be enhanced by a verbal concept to become a cohesive design plan.

With that in mind, take note of the following tips to come up with a full-bodied presentation design concept:

1. Determine the purpose of your presentation

Before you start sketching away, figure out the main purpose and message of your presentation. Why were you asked to deliver this presentation in the first place? What do you hope to accomplish? What’s the one thing you want your audience to remember? All these questions will help you draft the main message or “take away” of your presentation—a crucial element in the verbal aspect of your design concept.

2. Turn to your brand for inspiration

As you know, your brand is representative of your company identity. It gives clients and consumers insight on your story and experience, as well as the goals you want to achieve in the future. But aside from that, it can also reveal how you can go about your design concept. Look to your brand story to inspire the verbal component of your concept, and then use your logo to sort out the visuals.

3. Do your research

Of course, you can also branch out and look for inspiration elsewhere. Do your research and read as much as you can about design. It doesn’t have to be particularly related to presentations. Try to read about the basic design principles, or look through graphic design tips. You can even browse through some infographics to see best practices on condensing  and illustrating data. Immerse yourself in the world of design by exploring different blogs and websites. Here are our top picks to help  you get you started:

4. Think of what your audience might want to see

It’s also important to consider the audience. After all, it’s them that you will need to impress. Try to think about what they might want to see during your presentation. The more you consider their point of view, the more you can be sure to create an engaging and memorable experience. Like you would when working on content, use these four questions to guide your presentation design concept.


Your presentation can thrive if you have powerful visuals that help highlight the core message. A design concept is a way to do that. In order to come up with an effective PowerPoint deck, you’ll need a concrete plan to follow.

These 4 steps are a crucial part of presentation preparation. Don’t forget to develop a complete design concept before you start working on your slides.




Bradley, Steven. “Thoughts on Developing A Design Concept.” Vanseo Design. December 23, 2010. Accessed October 13, 2014.


Featured Image: Cultura de Red via Flickr