5 Ways to Design a Captivating Slide Deck
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5 Ways to Design a Captivating Slide Deck

September 5, 2019

Looking for the most effective ways to design an amazing slide deck? Our partners at Killer Visual Strategies share 5 best practices for creating slides to captivate your audience. 

This article was originally written by Sheridan Prince, and published by our partner, Killer Visual Strategies, a world-class visual communication agency. 

Your next conference appearance or internal presentation is coming up, and if you want to keep your audience engaged, you’ll need a slide deck design with striking visuals that enhance your message. To create a design that gets your audience talking, follow these 5 guidelines.

  1. Simplicity Is Key

A polished slide deck starts with concise content. Remember, not every word of your presentation should appear on your slides. Instead, text elements should be like visual aids, helping your audience to follow along. 

So when writing text for your slide deck, make sure to: 

  • Break dense paragraphs into brief phrases 
  • Focus on high-level concepts and support with key data points
  • Cut or transfer nonessential information to appendix slides as needed

For example, the above slides from a presentation by Reid Hoffman show the power of simplicity. They let the visuals communicate just as much as the copy, and the text can be read in a matter of seconds. 

A survey of successful startups by DocSend suggests that an effective pitch deck averages about 19 slides. However, there’s no one-size-fits-all rule to follow. Every slide deck should be tailored to the presenter’s speaking style and audience, and every situation is different. Regardless of your presentation’s length, embrace minimalism in the design of individual slides.

  1. Build a Narrative Around Problems and Solutions

An effective slide deck should begin with an overview of a relevant problem you aim to solve. This establishes your expertise and primes your audience to hear your solution. 

As you do this, keep these strategies in mind:

  • Don’t spend too much time on the problem; 1–3 slides is usually enough
  • Clearly articulate your main idea or value proposition in just 1 sentence

Your audience already knows what problems they need to solve. So your presentation should include just enough detail to demonstrate your thought leadership. Then you can lead your audience to a “high point” where they realize why your solution is right for them.

  1. Include Effective Data Visualization

A well-rendered chart or graph can be an invaluable tool for presenters, if designed and placed well. So when including data visualizations in your slide deck, make sure to:

  • Look for opportunities to visualize key data in each section 
  • Save your most detailed slides to describe your solution
  • Use data to show how and why your solution works 

For example, take a look at this example from a presentation by LinkedIn about wearable technology features: 

It’s an inventive data visualization that’s easy to interpret. When data is presented creatively and in a way that’s visually striking, your audience will find it anything but boring. 

  1. Create a Cohesive Visual Story

The key to keeping audiences interested isn’t in flashy slide transitions. Instead, focus on creating a cohesive visual story. That is, your slides should look like they belong together. 

To tell your story effectively, your presentation should:

  • Maintain a consistent color palette, design style, and typography
  • Include charts and graphs to support your story at key junctures
  • Stick to a visual theme, such as a story told in small illustrations, or a repeated motif

The slide deck shown above, part of an internal educational campaign created for Cummins Electric Power Systems, shows how unified visuals can elevate a technical presentation. The pop of red and geometric motifs are present on every slide. 

Your audience will be drawn in by the consistency of your design. This shows professionalism and confidence in your message. In short, a few simple visual storytelling techniques can go a long way. 

  1. Put Your Audience First

When choosing what content to include on your slides, which data points to visualize, and what tone to create with your visual story, keep your specific audience top of mind. Make sure to ask:  

  • How should your audience’s industry affect the style and tone of your presentation?
  • What type of “hero” character would they relate to? Or will they prefer a straightforward emphasis on data visualizations? 
  • How can you help them solve the problem(s) that matter to them? 
  • What do you want them to walk away with after your presentation? What will make them feel satisfied that it was a worthwhile talk to attend? 

Whether your audience consists of coworkers, industry peers, or potential customers, the right slide deck design will make sure that your next talk connects and inspires. 

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