An often overlooked aspect in presentation design is the use of negative/white space. Anyone can admit to sitting through a presentation with slides filled to the brim with text or images.
Think back to the many slides you’ve seen that look more like pages of a book. No rhyme or reason behind the slide design. They are merely used as a repository of information that will be talked over during the presentation.
Slides like that come off as extremely cluttered and unintelligible. But more importantly, they are prime examples of why the proper use of negative space is so important.
What is Negative Space?
Negative space refers to areas that are devoid of any sort of design element.
While, by definition, the word “empty” may sound like it’s a bad thing, there’s purpose behind these spaces. Negative space is what literally defines and organizes the content featured on any given slide. Properly using negative space can greatly improve the visual impact of slides and further elevate the core message.
Creating Balance in Design
As mentioned earlier, a common mistake that many people make is to just fill slides to the brim with content. Just blocks of text or a mishmash of images thrown into a single slide.
Not only do these kinds of slides look visually sloppy, but they can also make things harder for audiences to understand what is being presented. Information overload is a very real concern that presenters should always consider. When there is just too much going on within a single slide, people will be left confused and unsure of what information they should be focusing on.
By applying the use of more negative space, it forces you to rethink and rebalance the content of your slides. When a slide looks too busy or loaded, consider trimming down the copy further or creating a new slide altogether to move information into.
This “less is more” approach gives you more breathing room to balance the content of your slides with its overall design. It will come down to a matter of what you are saying, not how much you have to say.
Guide the Eyes of Your Audience
If you find yourself staring at a crowded slide, remember this: When everything is being spoken loudly, nothing will be heard.
Negative space allows you to partition information and guide audiences to your desired message. There’s a greater sense of importance when content is singled out and given the space it needs to shine. When done right, negative space is a great tool for effectively developing a narrative within your presentation.
Imagine flipping from slide to slide in a quick pace with no speech to guide the presentation. By structuring content using negative space, audiences can identify key information from any given slide.
Negative space helps you establish a visual roadmap that guides audiences across your presentation. When audiences can keep track of what’s being talked about, it’s easier for presenters to effectively get their point across.
Despite being an “overused” term, minimalism remains a very effective design practice. From both design and copy standpoints, crafting a concise and minimalist presentation has greater potential to be memorable than one that seems to say too much.
The use of negative space is synonymous with minimalism because it provides structure and emphasis to the featured content. As naturally visual beings, humans are more likely to appreciate imagery that’s elegant and pleasing to look at.
While it is always tempting to pack slides with as much information as possible, taking a more measured approach is more effective in engaging people’s attention.
Stories are an intrinsic part of our experience as humans. They’re a vital part of how we communicate with one another.
That said, if storytelling is so essential to our daily lives, why do so few harness it in their presentations?
When we address an audience, we tend to focus on the important points we need to convey. We talk about data or explain a business model.
We concentrate on information that’s crucial to the outcome we’re hoping for. Yet despite this, we still forget to answer why everyone in the room needs to hear what we have to say.
Your presentation content has to be more than just a barrage of information and numerical data.
This is where presentation storytelling comes in handy—there’s nothing more compelling than a good story.
Just ask Dr. Zak, who carefully explains how the human brain responds to effective storytelling in this video:
Pretty cool, right?
The effectiveness storytelling lies in how your audience reacts to it.
As social beings, we’re naturally attuned to our emotions. It doesn’t matter whether it makes you sad, happy, angry, or nostalgic — our brains love a good story.
This is something TED presenters have capitalized on.
If you review the list of the most viewed TED Talks, you’ll see each of them has a story integrated into the discussion.
As Forbes contributor Nick Morgan points out:
“No matter how interesting the information, you’ll run up against the limitations of the brain and quickly overtax your audience. If instead you tell your audience a story, you get to jump right into the deeper parts of their brain, where emotion and memory work together — the hippocampus and amygdala.”
So the importance of storytelling can’t be overstated, but what can integrating a story arc do for your business presentations?
1) They Make Your Messages More Relatable
There’s a reason many of us filled our notebooks with doodles during our school days.
When incorporating storytelling, the right stories can make your message more meaningful and—most importantly—digestible.
This is especially true if you take the time to understand your audience and the type of life stories that will grab their attention.
2) They Help You Connect with Your Audience
Stories can help establish a bond between the storyteller and the audience.
They cut through the audience’s filter better than facts, giving you a greater chance of garnering more meaningful attention, earning their trust, and — ultimately — consuming your message.
Once you have a connection with your audience, you can have them hanging on every word you say.
3) They Make Your Audience Agree with You
When stories hit their mark, they can add a greater impact to your presentations, making it easier for the audience to agree with your points.
This happens because stories shut down whatever counter-arguments your listeners have, making them less likely to develop reasons to disagree.
Integrating Storytelling in Business Presentations
What is business storytelling?
According to Mike Murray, business storytelling is about “brands sharing their messages in ways that engage audiences and drive them to a desired action.”
This might sound like content marketing, but Murray maintains that the two separate, but related, things ideas:
“Business storytelling is a distinct content discipline that leverages well-crafted narratives in a diverse range of content types. Content marketing is much broader and speaks to the collective efforts that companies use to communicate with their audiences in an informative and engaging way.”
But how does one integrate storytelling into a business presentation?
Actually, it’s pretty easy to create a heart-warming story for a presentation. The real challenge is turning data into a narrative that packs an emotional punch.
First, Structure Your Presentation Like a Story
According to presentation storytelling expert Bruce Gabrielle, you’ll need to follow a simple but effective structure: Beginning, Middle, End.
Beginning: The Human Element
Start your presentation by letting your audience see there’s a genuine and relatable story behind what you’re presenting.
For example, identify a hero that your audience can relate to instead of leading with numbers or graphs. There is always a face behind all the abstract concepts and issues you’re taking on and that face will allow your audience to relate your topic to their own experiences.
Substitute “what” with “who do I really want to talk about?” For example, if you’re trying to discuss a marketing strategy, your hero could be a potential client. Describe the person you want to engage with your services. Talk about their demographics, traits, and values.
Middle: The Conflict
What would your favorite movie be like without conflict?
Like any good story, business presentations also need a bit of tension. Apart from his or her goals, you also have to identify the challenges and risks faced by your hero.
What are the things that bother your potential clients? What’s preventing them from engaging with your services?
End: The Resolution
After building conflict, offer your audience some reprieve by giving them a satisfying resolution.
At this point, you can put everything together and focus on data necessary to your discussion. While explaining the graph on your slides, keep referring back to your hero. What do these numbers have to do with the hero of your story? How does it solve the problems you identified earlier?
One thing to note is that although using stories in presentations will provide more impact, try to make use of captivating visuals, as well. While your narrative is certainly the most important part of your presentation, visuals remain to be an effective way to enhance audience immersion.
Let’s Take This A Bit Further…
To elicit even more powerful emotions from your audience, craft a story that follows the solid structure Gustav Freytag first envisioned 150 years ago:
In a literary story, this is where the author lays out some “ground work” by presenting the characters, setting, and basic conflict.
This is where you establish context for your presentation. Introduce the point-of-view you’re presenting and share some background information. If the story focuses on an experience you had with a client, set the scene and illustrate the important details.
After presenting the context of your story, it’s time to build tension and increase conflict.
Start identifying obstacles that prevent your character from feeling fully satisfied or happy. If your story is from a target customer’s POV, tell your audience about the challenges they face.
As the turning point of your story, the climax is the part where your character comes face-to-face with their problem.
This is where the conflict becomes fully-realized and a solution is seen on the horizon. For your presentation, the climax marks where you start driving home your core message.
Slowly, as a solution becomes clearer and clearer, your character takes a course of action towards the identified goal.
In the traditional sense, this is where the protagonist battles the antagonist. For your presentation, this is where you further flesh out your core message, expounding more on how it helps resolve the problems you introduced early on.
Finally, describe how your character meets their goals. This is where you explain how you and a difficult client came to an agreement. In another example, the conclusion is when your target customer finally achieves full resolution.
The Different Types of Business Stories
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 narrative should be driven by a rationale that is essential to illustrating your presentation’s core message.
To get there, consider asking yourself these key questions:
What is the main point you’re trying to get across?
What is the underlying principle behind your presentation?
What is the significance of this particular story?
The more you understand the key takeaway, the better you can deliver your presentation story.
In her book, “Whoever Tells the Best Story Wins,” Annette Simmons identified six kinds of stories that can help facilitate business communications:
While Simmons uses these stories to help frame interactions that are more straightforward, her insights can also be helpful to marketing presentations.
Particularly, it’s the first three that are important to presentation storytelling.
These are the type of stories that help reveal insights to build trust and establish rapport between you and your audience.
Obviously, you won’t be telling stories from your own personal experience. Instead, think of answers to “Who am I?”, “Why am I here?” and “What do I envision?” in terms of your brand and company identity.
Humans have always been storytellers. It’s our way of connecting with each other.
In whatever form, the core of all our communications is the primordial impulse to tell and hear stories. Why not use that to improve your presentations?
A Tale as Old as TED
As mentioned earlier, TED speakers are some of the best people to ask about storytelling tips.
Human rights attorney and public speaker Bryan Stevenson has received the longest standing ovation ever given at a TED Talk.
In March 2012, Stevenson held a TED Talk called We Need to Talk About an Injustice. He talked about his grandmother and other people in his life, allowing him and the audience to establish a personal connection.
What made it successful was its emotional arc—a compelling story of overcoming a relatable struggle. If you don’t have a personal experience to share with your audience, tell them stories about real people—previous customers that have benefited from your company. Relevant real-life case studies are irresistible because the audience knows these are from other customers and not just opinions based on your thoughts alone.
Does your brand have an interesting origin story? This could be engaging and entertaining, like Airbnb’s—three guys making a few bucks by letting attendees at a local conference sleep at their place.
Not only did this pay for the steep rent, but it also sparked a $30 billion-dollar idea.
TED Talks have stood out as an effective medium because it provides extensive information that’s easy to understand.
But what else makes TED Talks special?
Carmine Gallo boils its core elements down to three. He notes that the success of these presentations can be attributed to these three qualities:
Apart from these, top quality visuals are also necessary in engaging the audience. Consider consulting with PowerPoint presentation experts, it will prove a valuable step in the long term, especially for sales pitches.
The Other Half of Effective Presentation Storytelling: Visual Aids
So what about your presentation’s visual aid (typically a PowerPoint)? Should you bolster your narrative with visuals?
Humans are highly visual creatures. We’re naturally attracted to beautiful colors and interesting patterns.
In fact, our brain is able to process images 60,000 times faster than information presented in text. It’s also easier for us to retain visual information.
According to Dr. John Medina, after three days, we’re able to recall 65% of information if it was presented with images or illustrations.
So if you’re presenting information that’s bulky with data, the audience will thank you if you can integrate comprehensible illustrations. Take the usual charts and graphs a step further by weaving stories through imagery.
Let’s take a look at some facts.
According to a whitepaper published by NewCred and Getty Images, the following statistics are proof:
40% of people will respond better to information presented visually
83% of human learning is visual
44% of users are more likely to engage with brands on social platforms if they post pictures
Articles and blog posts that contain images get 94% more views than those without
It’s easy to see why images are important to presentations and marketing materials.
Through visual storytelling, you can create stronger emotional impact. Visuals convey a story that immediately allows your audience to connect with the message you’re sharing.
So whether you’re delivering a presentation or revamping your social media profiles, visual storytelling is the best way to go.
When selecting pictures to use, try to keep in mind the four key characteristics of visual storytelling:
The best stories come from candid moments.
It’s why photo sharing has become so prevalent in the age of social media. Replacing the super-polished stock photos are snapshots that allow others to see the world through a more personal perspective.
Take, for example, Dove’s Real Beauty campaign. Instead of featuring models that are photo-shopped to perfection, Dove featured everyday women and challenged today’s absurd beauty standards.
To find images that are more authentic to your story, focus on what your brand stands for. Look for images that convey your identity and experiences as a brand. Next, look for something that will resonate with your audience.
Think about the people you’re addressing and what might be authentic for them.
Visual storytelling should also take into account what’s happening in the world.
After all, your message doesn’t exist in a bubble.
It’s contextualized in a milieu—a world where billions of individuals are discovering new things every single day. Make sure your visual stories are relatable and relevant to the audience you want to target. Consider what Oreo did to make the most out of a blackout that interrupted the Super Bowl.
For your own visual story, choose images that evoke a sense of time and culture.
The only thing better than a picture is the real thing.
But since you can’t have real situations on a PowerPoint slide, you’re going to have to settle for the next best thing. Visual storytelling thrives on imagery that can heighten emotions and senses.
Close-up and macro shots are great for showing textures that audiences can almost touch. On the other hand, a long shot can also take your audience into a particular scene, allowing them to experience it through a wider perspective.
Lastly, the best of visual storytelling alludes to narratives that are practically as old as time.
If you think about it, you’ll notice that all your favorite stories are tied together by recurring themes and archetypes.
These are universal symbols—called such because they can be found across many different countries and cultures. For your visual stories to be a success, you need to take these symbols and turn it into your own.
Find an archetype that relates to your brand and make it your own. Get to know your own new character and find images that correspond to this new version of a well-loved symbol.
Visual storytelling is a great technique to use in presentations and marketing efforts. By weaving imagery together, you can create a story that speaks volumes about your core message.
Integrating Visuals to Enhance Your Core Message
There’s more to visual storytelling than sticking random pictures to your slides. You can probably guess what we mean by “visual storytelling:”
Your statistics won’t make much sense if the visuals you add only serve an aesthetic purpose. Visual storytelling is about using different media that contribute to the message you’re presenting.
As an example, here’s a small part of an interactive infographic by Collaborative Fund, Hyperakt and Start Up American Partnership:
The infographic showcases the positive effects of car sharing to the environment.
It offers a lot of statistics that are perfectly illustrated to create more impact. It’s hard to envision the difference a vague number makes but through this illustration, you can perfectly see how much carbon dioxide emissions have diminished.
Your text-based, bullet point-ridden PowerPoint design isn’t helping anyone. It’s not engaging your audience, and it’s not helping you get your message across.
Instead, you should consider taking inspiration from visual storytelling. Showcase and illustrate your key points with visual elements, and your PowerPoint design will have more impact.
Hopefully this post has conveyed the importance of storytelling in presentations from both the aural and visual perspectives. Ready to take your next high-stakes presentation to the next level? Schedule a free presentation consultation!
Make no mistake: when data is involved, a visual is essential. A well-designed presentation with ample data visualization is a surefire way to get your message across.
Plus, it’ll keep people engaged.
Nothing puts people to sleep faster than someone rattling off statistics or trying to explain quantitative change over time.
Having a contextual representation of the data helps presenters stimulate their audience, giving onlookers a reason to pay attention.
A quarterly boardroom presentation, the pitch for a merger or acquisition, an appeal to stakeholders, the next big company initiative—whatever the subject of your business presentation, it demands data visualization.
Without something to look at, your message may fall on deaf ears.
What is Data Visualization?
Data visualization turns quantifiable data into something more than graphs, tables and charts. It creates comparisons through images and makes sense of data beyond numbers.
More than turning numbers into images, data visualization connects them with three important context variables: Meaning, Cause and Dependency. These variables help audiences better understand what they’re seeing and connect them to the greater concept.
For those of you looking for a deeper dive into data visualization, check out our “Mastering Data Visualization” guide:
Why is Data Visualization Critical?
Humans are visual creatures! Hence, every business presentation involving data needs a slideshow.
Engaging your audience’s sense of sight, along with aural stimulation, is a twofold way to get your point across—especially if it involves data and figures.
Take a moment to think about math.
Most people can’t do a multi-step equation in their head. But, give them a piece of paper and a pencil and they’ll have no trouble working it out in short order.
The people viewing your business presentation may not have to solve any problems, but the concept is the same. Without visualization, it’s hard to come to a conclusion or contextualize data. Creating a visual makes it easier for the brain to digest information.
Take the following simple statement, for example:
“Customers were four times more likely to buy Product X than Product Y, and nine times more likely than Product Z.”
Hearing that statement might raise a few eyebrows, but it’s hard to visualize what that means in your head. Instead, attach those figures to pictures of the products or proportionate representations, and you’ve created context.
Suddenly, the data is about more than numbers—it’s about competition. It’s about market share. It’s about dominance.
Example: Visualizing the World’s Biggest Data Breaches
Here’s a great visualization of the world’s biggest data breaches:
As you can see, good data visualization connects figures to concepts in a way that provokes thought beyond the numbers.
Yes, simply saying “Anthem’s data breach affected 122% more people than Adobe but only 14% more than Target ,” provides important information that can be digested — however, proper visualization of the statement allows for the audience to pick up on trends and patterns more easily and quickly.
It gives meaning to the greater concept, reveals the cause behind the figures, and explains the dependency of the data, so people can make broader conclusions.
Data Visualization isn’t Always Easy
While data visualization is the key to getting your message across, creating it is easier said than done. It needs to walk the fine line of creativity, relevancy, and clarity, or people will miss the message entirely.
Keep this acronym in mind:
Clearly distinguish the data
Leverage powerful imagery
Explain the “in”
Allude to the bigger picture
Remove unnecessary elements
Remember that this is meant to make data appealing. Someone should be able to see the data, contextualize it, and connect it to a larger concept.
But more than that, data visualization should tell a story.
Let’s say you’re describing Total Addressable Market (TAM), Serviceable Available Market (SAM) and Target Market (TM) in a pitch deck.
It’s one thing to say “our TAM is 80 million people, our SAM is 40 million people and our TM is 10 million people.” It may be true, but it’s uninspiring. It doesn’t tell the story of your product, brand or abilities. Instead, consider the power of data visualization:
Data visualization has levels, too.
In the above example, you might use your brand’s colors to delineate the different groups or arrange the icons in the shape of your logo. It’s subtle nuances like this that empower data visualization and drive the point home.
For most people at the helm of a business presentation, it’s hard to conceive these nuances when designing a slideshow.
Business professionals are intent on delivering the message—they’re not as engaged in how it’s delivered. Only someone with a background in graphic design or media analysis understands how important the little things are in data visualization.
And while almost everyone has access to PowerPoint, few people have the design chops and creative ability to execute exceptional data visualization.
PowerPoint is the Gold Standard for Data Visualization
Let’s make one thing clear: PowerPoint is the premier tool for data visualization.
We’ve all seen our fair share of bad PowerPoint presentations, but that’s not representative of how powerful this software truly is. In the right hands, PowerPoint is a game-changer for any business presentation.
PowerPoint offers numerous tools to make understanding facts and figures easier, particularly when it comes to data visualization. In-suite table and graph generation makes it easy to turn data sets into basic visuals—color-coded, labeled and in myriad styles.
Drag-and-drop, resize and stylistic tools also make it easy to insert prepared images into the presentation itself. Animation keeps audiences engaged! While we don’t recommend the star wipe for a formal presentation, dissolves, fades and curls are all great options.
For someone with a graphic design background, PowerPoint is a playground for making even the driest facts and figures interesting and exciting.
Data Demands a Visual Experience
It doesn’t matter how interesting or important your data is, it’s not going to have the effect you want it to without visualization to make it real.
For a business presentation to be successful, it takes emphasis on data visualization and the design elements that make important information pop off the page. If you’re going to give a business presentation with a visual element, make sure the visual is truly engaging. Dropping text into a PowerPoint isn’t enough. Adding colors and transitions might make it flashy, but they don’t inspire your audience.
To take your presentation to the next level and drive home a true understanding takes data visualization, done right.
Sales presentations play a crucial role in growing your business. Having a well-crafted deck is an absolute must in landing new buyers, business partners, and investors.
However, despite the proven results of good presentations, many professionals still idly neglect the effort to make an effective sales deck.
At SlideGenius, we’ve worked with many of the world’s biggest companies. We know what makes a successful sales presentation. Having spent years creating decks that bring out the very best qualities of companies like yours, we know a little something about motivating clients to start buying ASAP.
Here are some tips on how to transform an ordinary deck into a sale-generating machine:
Bring Storytelling into Your Sales Presentation
Who doesn’t love a good story? In the complex world of sales, stories can leave lasting impressions on clients even more than facts. Statistics often lack context. Stories provide the context that make statistics real. A good PowerPoint presentation is the summer blockbuster of the business world.
Your presentation’s story tells your audience how you can help them be the hero. More than wanting to know the hard data, they want their problems to be solved in some amazing way, their performance to improve beyond belief. Your presentation shows them how your company will make that happen. This will help clients relate with your business on an emotional level.
Consider the three-act structure when building your PowerPoint. The first act is your introduction. It is where compelling problems are raised to contextualize and dramatize your presentation. These should be problems fine-tuned to be recognizable by your intended office. If they don’t feel the pain by the end of the first act of your presentation, they won’t connect to the story.
The second act of your presentation is your where things change, how you help your potential customer defeat this problem. Detail how your business solves the problems established in the introduction. Try pairing your solutions with real life scenarios to clearly illustrate the effects your business creates.
The third act is a strong call to action, how everything in your story begins. You’ll want to discuss financials. If this is an investor deck, talk about projected revenue and your milestones. If this is a sales pitch, discuss your pricing model and guarantees. Above all, know what action you want this person to take next and tell them to do it.
People retain information better with context. Developing the story of your presentation creates that context.
Be Smart with Your Words
Your choice of words says a lot about who you are. But how much you say determines how much people listen.
Don’t fill your deck with too much information. It’s hardly engaging when your audience is spending most of their time mentally interpreting all the information you’re spewing. Give your key points some room to be properly understood. It will allow you to speak at a controlled pace, making it easier to guide your audience as the presentation progresses.
A tightly written deck also gives you the space to inject impactful visuals into your slides. Some clients may have difficultly visualizing what you are offering. Do that job for them. Pairing your content with the right visual aid will effectively amplify your message while also raising retention rates.
Simple PowerPoint designs can deliver the biggest impact. We’ve all seen slides that are jam packed. When things start to look too cramped, don’t be afraid to break up the information into multiple slides. This gives your content room to breathe. Overcomplicating designs only creates unnecessary clutter, thus jeopardizing the clarity of your message.
Consider the color, layout, and imagery of your slides as amplifiers to your message. Striking visuals will always be more memorable than bland blocks of text. You can make bits of information easier to understand by translating them into tables or graphs. Having more visually oriented slides also removes the crutch of “script-reading”, a common mistake that happens when presentations are text heavy.
This doesn’t come easily for everyone. In order to get the job done right the first time, it may be best to hire someone. Professional help with your sales presentation can be both affordable and tremendously beneficial in terms of your long-term investment.
SlideGenius Creates Sales Presentations for You
When your work starts to pile up, and you just don’t have the time for it all, let SlideGenius take care of designing your next sales presentation! Whether it’s an animated marketing video, or a PowerPoint presentation, we deliver professionally crafted pitch materials that will help your business grow.
Our work is possible thanks to our phenomenal team of designers, writers, and animators. We’ve worked with over 3,000 clients, honing our design skills to always create exciting presentations that are consistent with unique standards.
The work we do has helped our clients raise hundreds of millions of dollars for their businesses. The achievements earned by our clients are our measures of success. Together, let’s bring your company up to brand new heights! Reach out now to get a free quote on how we can help.
Given the amount of information you cram into your presentation, getting people to remember all of it is a feat in itself.
This is why people have different ways of presenting. Some like to build an emotional bond with their audience while others provide hard data and analytics.
It doesn’t matter which type of presenter you are if the audience doesn’t remember anything about it. You have to give them something that will stick for as long as they will keep remembering your brand.
If you’re hiring presentation specialists, expect to receive a deck that is nothing short of impressive. This makes it easier for your audience to remember the information you’re feeding them.
People retain information in various ways and while there isn’t a manual on what works best for everyone, adults retain approximately 10% of what they see; 30%–40% of what they see and hear; and 90% of what they see, hear, and experience—this, according to the National Highway Institute’s “Principle of Adult Learning & Instructional Systems Design.”
The way your audience retains information is vital in presentation design because the more effective and engaging it is, the more people will remember it at the end of the week.
It’s worrying if you’re eyeing for a favorable business decision and you end up giving a mediocre presentation. This results in investors having already forgotten what you’ve said a week later, and likely that your information won’t be considered when they need to reach a decision.
The phrase, “Content is King,” may be overused, but it stays true, even for presentations. Make sure they remember a catchy headline, powerful quote, or striking image.
How exactly can you make your presentation more memorable?
Visuals shouldn’t distract the audience, but rather, reel them in and help them become engaged in the discussion.
Brochures, flipbooks, executive summaries—if you want to provide more information without taking much of your audience’s time, have handouts ready by the end of your presentation. That, or you can provide downloadable versions of your PowerPoint so they can look over it and check if they’ve missed anything. These provide notable facts and figures essential for business decisions that might have to be made in the future.
Stop filling your slides with fluff and instead, make your message clear and concise. Have your key points ready and focus on what you want to get across, and be prepared for whatever they might throw your way at the end of the presentation.
Make sure your PowerPoint presentation contains memorable features that will leave a lasting impression on your audience. If you want to make sure that it’s effective and engaging, rehearse, and apply whatever feedback you receive from peers.
When conducting a business presentation that revolves around finance, it’s important that the data resonates with the audience without it being too much to take in. While you want to be transparent and show them the big picture, you wouldn’t want to exhaust them by going over every figure.
Here are ways to make your financial presentation effective and understandable:
Clarify your objectives
Make sure you know what your presentation is for. Clarify what you want to achieve by talking about finance in a room full of people. For example, if you want to talk about yearend revenues, your objective could revolve around how this affects your company in the present and in the upcoming year.
As part of custom PowerPoint presentation planning, set an agenda, as this makes it easier for the audience to follow the flow of your discussion—it organizes your content into sections. With a sound agenda, you can set the financial scene and work toward the reveal of important data.
Having a clear agenda helps your audience save questions for the appropriate sections, which in turn benefits you in maintaining your momentum.
Don’t just show data—tell a story.
You can’t just project numbers and graphs on the screen and expect your audience to what it is and what it’s about—you need to go into detail and tell the story behind the data. This is where you can provide insight and share your business goals with your audience—you’ll want to discuss why these numbers are important to the company.
Pro tip: follow the three-part story structure and divide your narrative into three parts—the beginning, middle, and end.
Start by describing things as they are. That way, you create rapport with your audience and if you share an idea they are already familiar with, then that will engage them more.
Once you’ve laid all the facts, show them how things could change. Make sure that you cite reliable sources to increase your credibility as a speaker.
When it comes to the conclusion, make it inspiring—or as Nancy Duarte calls it, “new bliss.” This concept refers to telling the audience about how much better their world will be if they adopt your ideas.
Go beyond charts and graphs.
Presentation design helps make your topic become more understandable. Charts and graphs are great for representing important figures, including market shares and revenue for the quarter or fiscal year.
To win the hearts of your audience, however, simple graphics are not going to cut it—try experimenting with data visualization to communicate financial messages more efficiently.
Make your presentation a two-way conversation.
When your presentation becomes a monologue, your audience becomes less engaged—less involved—with your discussion.
Make your audience’s financial priorities a topic for discussion at some point in your presentation. Asking them questions and for their feedback helps them retain information better because they become directly involved.
How you communicate data has a significant effect on how your audience will perceive it. Discussing financial information is a hit or miss, especially when figures and complex data are flashed on the screen, which is why you need to present details in a manner they can relate to.
Lastly, remember not to dump data on your slides—stand back and think about what you need to include. Your custom PowerPoint presentation should only contain key financial statements and talk around them in detail later in the discussion.
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What else can you do to enhance your audience’s visual experience? Aside from customizing your prezi, is there any other way to add something more to your presentations? For this week’s Prezi Feature, we take a closer look at 3D backgrounds.
One of the many advantages of Prezi is the flexibility it offers. Unlike linear slide presentations, the prezi canvas offers vast space for storytelling. With Prezi, you’re free to transition from one point to another and follow any narrative structure you want. You can also add depth and dimension to your presentations. Give your visual metaphors a whole life of its own with 3D backgrounds.
3D backgrounds can give your visuals a more dynamic look. Prezi makes use of “parallax motion” to create a 3D-like effect as you move around the canvas. With this feature, your background automatically adjusts when you transition along the path. If you layer multiple images in the background, you get a cross fade effect as you zoom in and out of frames.
Check this presentation to see how it all works:
How do I add 3D backgrounds to my prezi?
You can add 3D backgrounds through the Theme Wizard. Access the “Customize” sidebar and look for the “Advanced” option at the very bottom. From there, all you have to do is upload your own images via the 3D Background “Edit” button.
You can have up to 3 different background layers. Drag and drop the thumbnails to arrange them in the order you prefer.
What tips should I keep in mind?
While working with 3D backgrounds, take note of these four things:
Image Size: Make sure your image is at least 3000 pixels wide. Any smaller and your background images might look pixelated once you zoom in your prezi. Be wary of your file size, as well. Larger files might cause your prezi to lag or crash. If your image file is too big, Prezi will automatically ask to resize it.
Similar Images: Since the layers change with a cross fading effect, opt for similar-looking images. If you don’t want to distract the audience, any variation between the 3 images shouldn’t look too jarring.
Readable Content: Keep your content readable by working with simple images. In other words, choose images with plenty of white space and aren’t too “busy”. You can also make use of shapes or the highlighter tool to create contrast between your text and background.
Zooming In and Out: When arranging your content, zoom in and out to transition from one layer to another. Try not to place anything in between transitions. Just keep zooming in until the image becomes clear.
Isn’t it great to venture back to the time when seminars were held in a large place, audience members lined up to enter and get a good seat, with the speaker in the same building, talking straight to them? Given today’s hustle-and-bustle way of life, it’s already difficult to host a seminar, much less get people to attend. Technology, though, has a solution: a web seminar or webinar.
Since its start in May 1996 with NetMeeting, the webinar has evolved. It’s no surprise that it’s now considered as one of the best marketing tactics around. You reach and engage your audience even in remote areas. More options are now available to the host that make it easy to pull off.
However, if you think it’s that simple to host a webinar, then you’re mistaken. There are a lot of bad things you can do to fail, like the following. These shortcomings will guarantee you a bad and poorly presented webinar, so it would be prudent to avoid these.
Not Checking Connection
It’s a commonly known fact that webinars are done online—the Internet connecting hundreds to thousands of people from different corners of the globe to a single spot. While the number of attendees doesn’t do much to hamper the flow of the web presentation, your connection to the world wide web may and will be compromised quickly since you’re consuming a great chunk of bandwidth with video and audio streaming.
Therefore, it’s a good idea to secure a strong and stable Internet connection, or at least be aware of what can happen when your connectivity is weak and cannot handle something as demanding as a webinar. You know how YouTube videos suddenly stop playing to buffer and load? Don’t let your audiences experience that.
But what if there was an unforeseen emergency? A backup ISP is usually the best answer. The times when technology will fail you may be hard to predict, but that doesn’t mean you can’t prepare contingency plans.
Skimping on the Hardware
Don’t underestimate a webinar’s demand for hardware. If YouTubers and streamers need hundreds of dollars for specialized equipment, expect to shell out the same amount just to get the gears rolling.
First off, you’re going to need a webinar platform. There are good subscription services for this. Next, you need a computer capable of multitasking, since you’d be running a lot of programs (platform and presentation, among others) simultaneously. Then, as above, a good ISP and a heavy-duty modem/router with matching bandwidth. Lastly, the bunch purchase of high-quality webcam, speakers, and microphone. Those preinstalled on laptops are often not good enough; rather, you want those specialized ones that may be a bit costly but are worth it.
Once more with the backup plans, you’d want extras as well. If that means another platform, computer, and extra accessories, then so be it. At least you’re prepared when any one of those fails at the last minute.
Being Reckless with PowerPoint Animations
Of course, you’re expected to have a beautifully designed presentation deck. You, a presentation designer, or a presentation design agency should take care of that. However, don’t get overzealous with how you craft your presentation pitch deck.
The basics, such as using less text to make way for powerful images and making font sizes larger, among others, should still be followed. There is no excuse for shirking away from the essentials. But present in PowerPoint, and absent in normal images or infographics, are animations that display specific elements with a nifty twist. Even a normal presentation shies away from too much object movement.
But should a webinar avoid it too? Not really, but there are more considerations. For one, animations seldom go smoothly online since there are circumstances out of your control. Your animations may show up nicely on your end, but your audiences may experience “jumpiness” on theirs.
Instead, only use animation on objects that really need it: a point you need to emphasize instantly or to show progression or any sort of movement that will arrest attention. The lesser your PowerPoint animations are, the better. In the same way that too much effects can break your deck, webinars can also be more conducive to learning with minimal special effects.
Don’t even attempt these gross neglects of basic steps. Presentation technology may have made life easier to live in, but it will be useless without a decent amount of human effort to operate it.
Hosting a webinar with slides is simpler now, with the Internet carrying the burden of many menial tasks, but that doesn’t mean you can just be willy-nilly about it. Without a solid plan, you’re bound to fail. Take the time to prepare. Then wow your audience with an unforgettable web seminar. Leave them wanting for more.
Agron, Mike. “Ultimate Planning Checklist for Successful Webinars.” Content Marketing Institute. May 13, 2016. www.contentmarketinginstitute.com/2016/05/planning-checklist-webinars
Courville, Roger. “3 Reasons PowerPoint Animations May Suck in Your Webinar (and What to Do About It).” EventBuilder. February 13, 2013. www.eventbuilder.rocks/3-reasons-powerpoint-animations-may-suck-in-your-webinar-and-what-to-do-about-it
Majumdar, Arunima. “14 Tips to Create and Present a Highly Effective Webinar.” eLearning Industry. February 20, 2014. www.elearningindustry.com/14-tips-to-create-and-present-a-highly-effective-webinar
Shelley, Brian. “11 Steps to Make Sure Your Next Webinar Is a Total Flop.” HubSpot. February 7, 2013. blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/34149/11-Steps-to-Make-Sure-Your-Next-Webinar-Is-a-Total-Flop.aspx
Shewan, Dan. “How to Do a Webinar Your Audience Will Love.” WordStream. March 16, 2016. www.wordstream.com/blog/ws/2014/08/26/how-to-do-a-webinar
Sibley, Amanda. “10 Things That Take a Webinar from Good to Great.” HubSpot. January 3, 2014. blog.hubspot.com/marketing/webinar-planning-list
Skrivanko, Mary Ann. “Webinars – History and Trends.” InsiderHub. June 30, 2015. www.insiderhub.com/webinars-history-and-trends
Wasielewski, Jarek. “Top 4 Do’s and Don’ts of Webinars.” ClickMeeting. October 1, 2014. blog.clickmeeting.com/topdos-donts-webinars
The way presenters design their pitches has evolved. As Microsoft PowerPoint launches new features that boast of contemporary design and high-end technology, users become more aggressive and innovative in creating their slides. Pitches have become more promising, ultimately helping businesses attain their goals.
Despite the progression, some presenters still fail to provide a visually-appealing pitch that can entice their audiences. Ugly typefaces, tacky transitions, and pixelated images continue to surface, making a presentation look horrible, or worse, unprofessional.
Fortunately, with a little imagination and research, bad presentation design choices can be improved. One can still live up to the standards of modern design through good old PowerPoint elements that have seemed to fade away over time. Challenge the world of presentation design and project an appealing PowerPoint by trying out the following design tips.
Clip Art: Tweak It
Clip art is dead. In December 2014, Microsoft retired its clip art gallery and gradually added several PowerPoint features such as Shapes, Icons, and Online Pictures. Gone are the days of cartoons in presentations as designers and presenters now prefer custom images when visualizing a point. Apart from communicating a message more clearly, the dawn of vectors and photographs allowed PowerPoint users to create a more personable and contemporary-looking deck.
Many websites offer free and editable stock images, which you can download without signing up. Modify them according to your need and make sure that they suit your presentation’s message. Wrong use of stock photography can show your lack of authenticity and creativity, and that can ruin the overall look of your presentation design.
If you are, however, keener on using objects and illustrations, PowerPoint’s Shapes and Icons are a great way to add more life to your presentation. Choose from a broad range of predesigned elements by clicking “Insert” in PowerPoint’s Home tab, which now has the “Screenshot” option as well.
Comic Sans: Imitate It
People dislike Comic Sans so much that a petition was put up to ban it. The website Comic Sans Criminal, however, explained that all fonts have a personality and a purpose and that using Comic Sans is only appropriate when:
your audience is under 11 years old;
you’re designing a comic; or
your audience is dyslexic and has stated that they prefer the typeface.
Considering its purpose, Comic Sans isn’t that bad at all. In fact, a number of educators and designers prefer its “true a” form—or an “a” with a circle and a stick—since it is known as the basic model of the letter.
If you’re looking for a “true a” as well, use Comic Sans alternatives instead. HVD Comic Serif is a close substitute if you’re in need of an easygoing, comical typeface. For corporate presentations, Hattori Hanzo Light Italic is a good pick.
Play around with fonts and typefaces to find one that suits your brand and personal style. Keep in mind that two or three choices are enough. Overdoing it may risk the aesthetic of your slides, making your content hard to read and understand.
Bullet Points: Limit Your Use
Bullet points are essential in keeping PowerPoint presentations organized. However, when used inappropriately, they can be detrimental to presentation design and its effectiveness. According to Brainshark, bullet points are ideal when updating a previous discussion or explaining simple points. Apart from allowing your audience to scan your content more easily, these symbols allow them to concentrate on other parts of your speech.
However, to quote Ray Bradbury, “Too much of anything isn’t good for anyone.” Having too many bullets in your presentation doesn’t only make your content look disorganized but also leads your audience away from your point. To deliver an impactful speech, develop a great script that you can match with bullets and attention-grabbing visuals. Maintain a balance between the two to avoid a cluttered presentation.
You can also use headlines to construct your ideas. Headlines provide a snappy feel that engages and informs your audience. Simplify your points to guarantee the attention of your audience and the success of your pitch.
Good ol’ PowerPoint design elements may not be the rave today, but they can make a comeback in your presentation through creativity and resourcefulness. Go back to the basics of presentation design and allow yourself to innovate. Use alternatives while keeping your message and audience in mind. With this, you’ll be on your way to delivering a one-of-a-kind speech that your audience will remember.
Belknap, Leslie. “Why Bullet Points Kill Presentations.” Ethos3. April 7, 2015. www.ethos3.com/2015/04/why-bullet-points-kill-presentations
Crerar, Paula. “PowerPoint Bullet Points: Do We Need Them?” Brainshark. January 24, 2012. www.brainshark.com/ideas-blog/2012/January/powerpoint-bullet-points-do-we-need-them
Gabrielle, Bruce. “PowerPoint Clip Art Is Dead. Now What?” Speaking PPT. February 16, 2015. speakingppt.com/2015/02/16/clip-art-dead
“6 Alternatives to Comic Sans (With a True ‘A’). Keri-lee Beasley. March 14, 2015. kerileebeasley.com/2015/03/14/6-alternatives-to-comic-sans-with-a-true-a
Look around you. You’re bound to see a picture or ten. It’s amazing how images have permeated the collective mind. But in hindsight, they have always had the power to do so. Historically, cave paintings served as the first method of documentation. Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics were mostly drawn or carved. One could even say that everything you see is an image, scientifically speaking.
With that much influence, it’s no wonder that pictures have spread far and deep into the collective subconscious. So much that it became the driving force for the invention of the camera, making portraits easier to create and, after many technological advances over the decades, instant.
In that same vein, photographs became available online, including stock images. But the term has been met with both positive and negative reactions. There are arguments from both sides saying that stock photography is cheap—if not downright free—but that, legally, you’re better off using originals.
Where do you side in the argument? Presentation design-wise, you’re better off not using stock photography for your deck and instead creating your own that fit your or a presentation agency’s design—a.k.a. the perfect images for your slides. Here are reasons why.
Lack of Authenticity and Creativity
There’s no greater show of designer laziness than using stock images. Why? Because it’s already available online. You can get one with just a few clicks. Never mind using your own resources for that photoshoot (which doesn’t have to be grand to begin with).
Using stock images is the easy way out. There’s a certain lack of creativity that stock images display because all it takes is a “yes or no” choice: does it portray what I want? Instead of getting specifically what you’re looking for, you settle for another since it’s ripe for the taking. While there are alternatives, like your own shoot, it won’t be as easy as just downloading one.
It doesn’t help, too, that stock images are easily obtainable from the Internet. What are the chances that you’re the only one using a particular photo? Zero. It’s bound to show up in places you wouldn’t expect, which leads to …
You know how the first time you hear a funny joke, you can’t stop laughing? Then it gets repeated over and over, and it isn’t humorous to you anymore? It’s the same with stock images. The more your audience has seen a photo you used on your presentation design, any hope of impact you intended is gone.
It’s because they’re already familiar with—if not outright expecting—it. That they have seen the exact photo, if not the same actions, connotations, and justifications elsewhere, should always be a consideration. This is especially true when even in your search, there were dozens of images like the one you chose. “Familiarity breeds contempt,” goes the adage.
What’s an alternative then? If you must use stock images, then be unpredictable. If you’re looking for a picture of a business meeting, then don’t choose common ones, like room full of executives. Try a coffee shop meeting or a team building to show something new and fresh. If you can’t find one, then why not shoot your own or even choose one from your albums? How about that for a new take on the term “stock photography”?
Presentation design revolves around a theme, often the brand or topic. When you’re designing images, you keep said motif in mind, wanting to adhere to it and keep the whole deck consistent.
There isn’t much wiggle room for this, however, when your pool is piled with stock images. You have no control over the art direction of the image you have chosen since it’s just there, and how you use it becomes the question. This may present problems, but of course, if you’re really persistent, you can find one you can settle on. But even then, it still feels out of place.
There’s also what may be construed as “forced imagery,” wherein a picture barely symbolizes or depicts the topic at hand but is instead accompanied by lengthy justifications at how it’s really illustrating the point. Not only does this need a contrived explanation, but it also denotes poor planning on your part.
Stock images are readily available, but just because you can download them doesn’t mean you should. It’s not like there aren’t better alternatives out there; it’s merely the easiest way out. And if you think that won’t cost you anything, think again.
As a legal matter, there are many loopholes and gray areas on creative commons and copyrights. When it’s that open-ended and indefinite, you can bet that there are people who can and will make some money out of it by suing you or others for using their photos for unintended reasons, like commercial purposes.
Would you rather risk that possibility or take delight in the pleasure and satisfaction that your image is your own? You help not only yourself by minimizing complications from external parties but also your presentation design by being specific with your choice. That can make the biggest impact of all.
Boag, Paul. “Stop Using Stock Photography Clichés.” Boag World. January 4, 2010. www.boagworld.com/design/stock-photography
Field, Dennis. “8 Tips on Choosing the Right Photos for Your Design.” InvisionApp.com. March 11, 2015. www.invisionapp.com/blog/8-tips-on-choosing-the-right-photos-for-your-design
Reynolds, Garr. “What Makes an Image Good for Presentations – Part I.” PowerPoint Ninja. n.d. www.powerpointninja.com/graphics/what-makes-an-image-good-for-presentations-part-i
Reynolds, Garr. “What Makes an Image Good for Presentations – Part II.” PowerPoint Ninja. n.d. www.powerpointninja.com/graphics/what-makes-an-image-good-for-presentations-part-ii
Struck, Amos. “What Are Stock Images? One of the Best Image Resources Explained.” Stock Photo Secrets. n.d. www.stockphotosecrets.com/questions-answers/what-are-stock-images.html
Suggett, Paul. “The Case for and Against Stock Photography.” The Balance. October 12, 2016. www.thebalance.com/the-case-for-and-against-stock-photography-38444
Walker, Tommy. “Stock Photography vs. Real Photos: Can’t We Use Both?” ConversionXL. n.d. www.conversionxl.com/stock-photography-vs-real-photos-cant-use