We’ve said before that simple slide designs are every professional presenter’s bread and butter. Whether they’re TED Talk speakers or Steve Jobs, all of them rely on slides that feature one visual and one caption, allowing them to get their point across clearly.
These slides aren’t used as scripts. After all, professional presenters use them to help the audience visualize what they say while they use an informal, conversational tone. According to brand communications expert, Carmine Gallo, they also support their speech with at least three important points centered on a main idea.
While we can talk about the benefits of simplified PowerPoint slide designs, it’s also important to know exactly how to do them.
Ad veteran Luke Sullivan cites top advertising professionals as those who make simple, effective advertisements by boiling them down to one main element.
Three Simple Questions to Answer
A typical PowerPoint slide contains an image, a headline, a caption, body text, and sometimes lists and bullet points. While they contain the information you need, slides like these can end up overloaded and confusing.
Reduce your slides to the essentials with these questions:
1. Can You Make Your Slide Work Without the Body Text?
Pasting text on the slide and reading it out ends up alienating you from your audience and cutting potential for interaction with them.
Don’t recite a script. Instead, tell them a compelling story and giving them reasons to invest in your proposal. Remove the text from your slides if your visuals can work without them, no matter how well-written they may be.
This will make your layout cleaner and let you talk more. Your presentation is there to help your audience visualize what you’re supposed to say, not give you an on-stage script.
2. Is Your Caption Bringing Any New Information?
Your caption should support your image.
Let’s take a look at one of Gallo’s examples — Steve Jobs presentations. The caption “1000 songs in our pocket” was superimposed with the image of an actual pants pocket to show the iPod Nano’s main feature.
This is similar to author Jim Aitchison’s example of the style used in the Volkswagen ad featuring a lunar landing craft with the caption “It’s ugly, but it gets you there”. These effective captions bring new information that’s not seen in the visual, but if your image can work without it, so much the better.
A print ad for The Economist only had the image of a keyhole with the magazine’s logo at the bottom.
While part of a campaign, this showed that the publication was the key to unlocking useful industry secrets and information that only its readers can enjoy.
3. Do You Need a Title, or Can the Visual Speak for Itself?
Sometimes, presenters use titles on top of their slides to separate different sections.
In theory, this sounds logical, but if your visual can speak for itself, or if you tell your audience what you want to talk about in the next part of your PowerPoint, why use a title?
A simple headline on the slide itself or a single image shown front and center works better.
Ensure that only one element is prominent in your slide. This makes it easier for your audience to read your text, and keeps their attention focused on you.
Keep the Audience’s Eyes on You
You can make PowerPoint slide designs comparable to those used by Steve Jobs and TED speakers by following this principle of simplicity.
This exercise is difficult when you’re tempted to paste everything into your slides. You’re the one giving the pitch, not your PowerPoint. Keep your audience focused on what you say.
To help you make simple but effective PowerPoint slides, all you need is fifteen minutes to get in touch with our presentation experts.
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Aitchison, J. Cutting Edge Advertising: How to Create the World’s Best Print for Brands in the 21st Century. Singapore; New York: Prentice Hall, 2004.
Gallo, C. The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs: How to be Insanely Great in Front of Any Audience. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2010.
“Reduce and Simplify Like a PowerPoint Professional.” SlideGenius, Inc. May 25, 2015. Accessed July 8, 2015.
Sullivan, L. Hey, Whipple, Squeeze This: A Guide to Creating Great Ads (3rd Ed.). Hoboken, N.J.: John Wiley & Sons, 2008.
“The Economist: Keyhole.” Adsoftheworld.