Creating Effective Presentations
Often, when working with clients on creating presentations, I find that they want to include too much information—all in an effort to make it great. This is what I call the “kitchen-sink approach,” and it’s driven by the fear of leaving out something essential. However, a truly great presentation has only a few key ideas that are illustrated with compelling images and minimal text.
According to Nancy Duarte, author of slide:ology, one must think like a designer. As she says, “Design, at its core, is about solving problems…Essentially designers focus on the experience, making it as beautiful and memorable as possible.” In thinking like a designer, your decisions are about the experience you want to create for your audience, with meaning and relevance determining the hierarchy and priority of ideas presented.
Simplicity is a key element is doing a presentation. This does not mean simple. A well-designed slide is one that has clarity. The arrangement is well thought out, words are pared down to their essence, and the slide intrigues so that the presenter fills in relevant information—often with a story from his or her own experience.
Keeping it simple also serves another purpose: You increase the odds of being understood. According to Garr Reynolds, author, Presentation Zen, “There is simply a limit to a person’s ability to process new information efficiently and effectively.” When you have too much information on a slide, your audience has to cope with what Garr calls “excessive cognitive strain.”
So construct each slide with care to make sure it communicates efficiently and elegantly. Because, when it comes down to it, the presentation is not about the slides. It’s really about you and the experience you create. The slides are a partner to your message. The slides can either underline what you have to say, or get in the way. Think of Steve Jobs, a master of presentations who valued design and thought like a designer. Most people remember him, the experience he created, and how he spoke about Apple’s products. The slides, which were beautifully done, added substance to what he was describing. But he was the show. —Christina