PowerPoint Best PracticeHey everyone, I’m Fia Fasbinder welcome to Moxie talk where we help you find your voice, share your message, and lead with confidence. Today we are talking about PowerPoint slide design and what we call visual storytelling. Now, we have a mantra here at Moxie, which is: Never deliver a presentation you wouldn’t want to sit through. I know we’ve all sat through those presentations where speakers just read basically a script of what’s on their slides to us or even worse, they put charts that are basically, you know, eye charts and then they say something like — I’m sorry if you can’t see this in the back of the room. Both of these are huge no-no’s. But you might be thinking, I don’t know what else to do! So today, we’re going to give you five tips to make sure that your slide deck amplifies your message and shows executive presence—creates an engaging PowerPoint slide design that people want to stay and listen to . —
The Neuroscience Of Slide DesignI want to first give you a little bit of the neuroscience behind PowerPoint design. The first is that:
Our brain processes language 60 times slower than it processes images. So if you put a ton of text on your slides, it’s going to take that audience’s brains even longer to process the slide’s meaning than if you just put fewer words and an image. The other point of neuroscience that’s really interesting is that there is something called the Glasser Study which shows that we retain information 80 percent more if we experience an emotion associated with it. That’s why we remember stories, for example. Now, we can get that same effect with our audience if we have a provocative photo.
Images create better understanding
Emotion improve retention by 80%I know most of you are not creating TED Talk slides. You’re thinking, I need to inform my audience. I need to present data. I am not giving a Ted Talk. I get you. I know that we can still apply some of these principles to create really engaging, novel, different decks from everyone’s decks that we have seen in the last decade. —
How To Create Better Slide DecksI want to start with a little history. You might not know this but PowerPoint was actually never designed for presentations. Bill Gates and Microsoft developed PowerPoint as a tool to send documents through the office in a very quick way so that, you know, somebody at the other end of the office or in the office in a in different country, different state, could get the information quickly. Now we use it all the time for presentations. Our same slide decks that were created as documents are on jumbotrons behind us during our presentations. There are documents and there also are slide decks that are meant to be viewed, you know, in your computer as documents and then there are slide decks that are meant to be viewed as part of your presentation—either behind you on a screen if you are presenting in person or on your computer screen if you are giving a virtual presentation. —
Avoid Death By Bullet PointsWith that in mind, let’s talk about some of the ways to create better slide decks. The first is to avoid death by bullet points. At Moxie we say —
We also say that —
Bullets kill presentations.
You’re probably thinking Well, if I take the bullets off of my slide deck, how am I going to remember what to say? There are these things called presenter notes. They are great if you want to take those bullets off so your slides don’t look like scripts and put those bullets into the presenter notes. You might also be thinking I tried that and I can’t see everything! Well, that’s because you have to literally bullet keywords and phrases in your presenter notes and then here’s the sticker—you’ve gotta practice.
PowerPoint is not your teleprompter.
You’ve gotta practice enough times that when you see those bullets or those keywords and phrases in your presenter notes, you know how to expand on them. This is amazing too because a presentation is a golden opportunity to get in front of an audience. The last thing you want is for your audience to think, Well I can read faster than she’s talking—so why don’t you just send me your slide deck and I’ll read it? This happens because the human brain actually cannot read and listen to words at the same time. So if you put a slide deck up there that is just words, your audience will read the words and tune you out. To avoid this take the words off your slide deck. All that should be on your slide deck is keywords and phrases. And then you are going to put those words into your presenter notes and then you’re going to practice so you know how to expand on those ideas and then you have created a presentation that people in the audience are listening to. That is key number one to creating an engaging slide deck so— The other question you might be asking yourself is, If I take the words off of my slide deck, how is my audience going to remember them? Well let me tell you about the:
Practice Practice Practice!
The picture superiority effect says that we actually process things more when pictures are associated with words. Here’s how they discovered that—They did a study where they gave participants a list of words. Descriptive words like house, dog, car, and then they gave those same participants an image—a list of all those words as just an image—and then the third time they gave the participants a list of the image and the word at the same time. Now the image and the word that were given to those participants at the same time were remembered up to 60 percent greater three days later.
Picture superiority effect.
So this proves to us that actually your audience remembers better when you don’t just give them texts. If you can find ways to
Image + Text improves recall by 66%.
- Reduce the text and expand upon your points, and
- Find an evocative image and then use that image with text on top of it
- Cleaning up his slide decks and taking off the bullets and
- Learning to practice in a way where he wouldn’t need the bullets.
The Billboard ConceptNumber two is what we call the sticky note concept. It’s also known as the billboard concept. This is the idea that your slide should be able to be processed by your audience in—Are you ready for this?
Now if you think of a sticky note, you can’t fit much text on it, right? You can’t fit much information. But it’s the same for a billboard, right? You drive past it and you get what you get in about 2 seconds and it’s usually evocative poppy images or big bold text. This is actually how we want to create slides.
- 1 idea per slide.
- 1 chart per slide.
- 1 graph per slide.
Use VisualsConcept number three is around imagery—a picture is worth a thousand words. Now I know I have said to you over and over that I get it that you’re not giving TED Talks—but let’s take a best practice from Ted Talks. Ted Talks, if there is a slide deck behind the speaker, most of the time you will see a slide deck that has bold evocative images—simple images. All the
and there are
Images are full screen
Now this is not to say that you can easily adopt this best practice for your talks. I realize this is difficult to do if you’re not giving a TED Talk. But what happens when you put your images full screen? And you make sure those images are not pixelated? And you make sure those images are not stretched out and you make sure those images are evocative and you make sure those images are consistent across your deck? You create a deck that will amplify your professionalism tenfold. There is nothing that looks worse than a deck with pixelated images or images that have a copyright on them. So make sure that you adopt this best practice from TED and create decks that look professional and amplify your executive presence not undermine it. I worked with a scientist who was giving a TED Talk recently at a university. Not only was his death completely void of images, but his topic was fascinating. He was talking about how we can use elements of the ocean to create medicines that will solve some of the world’s biggest and largest and most complicated-to-cure diseases. Fascinating! This man had amazing pictures — he had pictures of him in submarines searching for these particular elements. He had pictures of his team, you know, putting these elements together and handing them off to scientists. He had pictures of children who were suffering from these diseases that he was trying to cure. Of course, giving a TED Talk, we infused these images into his deck and the result was an audience that cared deeply about his talk in a way they wouldn’t have if we just saw graphs and charts. —
6 words or less per slide.
Be ConsistentLast but not least as far as designing your slides is to be consistent. I know most of us when we first discovered PowerPoints, we thought — Yay! let me use all these cool transitions, let me make my slide spin, Oh! I can use colors here and I can use, you know, spinning things and curtains that part here. Actually, that day has passed. That ship has sailed. We are now creating decks that are simple and are consistent. This means choose 3 colors at most to use in your deck. If you are working for a company or you have a company of your own, use their colors.
Make sure you have 1 transition for all of your slides and it’s consistent. An easy transition!
3 colors max.
Choose two fonts that are easy to read that you can use consistently throughout your deck.
Use 1 transition style.
Then use full-screen images consistently through your deck and make sure your choice of images is consistent too. Meaning if you’re doing a theme of pictures of children make sure that’s consistent throughout. If you can’t find this consistency, you can always put a filter on your slide deck to make it look more consistent. Consistency is a huge key to creating professional decks.
Choose 2 fonts.
We worked with a university that was giving talks to parents, to help those parents decide if they should send their kids to this very expensive school. The deck that these people were using was all over the place—it was images, it was text, it was transitions, it was pixelated slides, it was stretched-out slides. Simply by making their deck more consistent, it created professionalism that said to these parents — Yes, this staff is professional, this school is top-notch and it is something I can consider spending this much money on for my child. There you go—There are 4 great tips to help you create slides that amplify your message and amplify your executive presence. If you liked this blog and found it informative and relevant, share it with friends and subscribe to our newsletter and YouTube channel. To read more resources like this, check out our blog page If you want more information about how Moxie can help create a killer presentation slide deck and create presentations that elevate your message and engage Audiences, check out our slide and visual design training page or book a call!
Use full-screen images.