Slide clutter is something I see consistently in sales presentations. It’s understandable how it happens, your preparing for an important meeting or lecture and you believe adding a lot of information will put your best foot forward. All in hopes of building credibility, making connections or even landing new business. However, your moment is facing a dangerous risk of overloading your audience with too much content, only to confuse and bore them from your primary message!
Our brains can only absorb so much particularly during a presentation and by expecting an audience to listen, read and possibly even take notes during this time is setting your expectations too high and placing a bad taste in your audience's mouth. Being able to make a lasting impression is a critical priority considering it may be your only shot.
Avoid this predicament by replicating the design and layout strategy commonly used in creating successful billboard advertisements. Roadside billboards have been around for over a century, and their messages are intended to draw attention within seconds which is very similar to the objective of presentation slides. Exceptional billboards typically display large, distinctive content and visuals that are very noticeable from a distance to connect with their viewers. Something that your presentation audience requires and deserves.
Here are 9 billboard design strategies to follow when creating your next presentation:
1. Know Your Audience
Speak to your group in the right tone they are receptive to and realize they are not everybody. People get engaged through emotions and not from analyzing your information so focus on how to help what's troubling them and reveal this feeling throughout to attract their attention. Psychologically this happens within seconds, so take advantage of the situation and plan that your slides make a dramatic appearance.
2. Tell a Story
Display impactful imagery and wording that your audience will remember more than detailed data. Reflect on the idiom, “a picture is worth a thousand words” to create effective slides that deliver a narrative. Take advantage of the opportunity to promote your authenticity or even push your slides to inspire or entertain your audience. If you need to show more details, display this information in additional pages that are printed and left behind for further review after your delivery.
3. Focus on One Key Takeaway
Your slide message has 5-10 seconds to be understood (the average a driver views billboards). As challenging as it may be, propel yourself to follow this time goal and avoid using too many statements and visuals on each slide. Instead, rely on your charisma to explain your purpose which enables your audience to relate to you to allow your slides to become more astounding backgrounds for your powerful message.
4. Simplify Font Styles
Stay away from using more than two different font families to bypass unnecessary distractions. Also, plan to only use 2-3 style variations within a font family (i.e., light, bold, condensed, italic, etc.). Best to determine the hierarchy of your message first then assign the more extreme font styles to the words that need the most attention based on priority. The bigger, the better for impact and realize that not all the words on one slide need to be the same size as the others.
5. Choose Colors Wisely
Try avoiding using too many different colors that will only disturb your viewers. Smart color choices will help eye movement to guide your audience on what to read first, second, third, etc. Also, contrasting colors can help improve the retention of your message. Find a random photo that is pleasing to your eye and represents the emotion you are trying to convey. Apply and mirror these colors into your presentation or stick to a safe color palette that represents your brand to build consistency. It's essential that you avoid color subjectivity!
6. Negative Space is Your Friend
It's a good idea to help your viewers with a well-deserved visual break in your presentation layouts, especially if there are many slides to view. Your audience will have a hard time absorbing all areas of your slides so simplify them by taking advantage of your layout's real estate. Plan to use white or solid colored regions within your designs to assist retention and significance. Implement negative space throughout to enforce importance and priority.
7. Simplify Backgrounds and Foregrounds
Instead of adding numerous illustrations, photos or copy points on your slides push yourself to use one large option to stop your layouts from looking too “busy.” By avoiding multiple graphics from fighting for attention, you will help your audience to stay alert instead of spacing out. Consider using Masters and a defined layout plan throughout your presentation that will accommodate the placement of these items and produce a consistency while generating familiarity with your audience.
8. You Get What You Pay For
Stay away from using graphics that make you look cheap like clip art or by adding too many unnecessary design effects (i.e., shadows, borders, glows, gradients, etc.). Your audience is smarter than you think and this effort may subconsciously hurt your integrity and tarnish your brand reputation. Best to utilize custom illustrations or photography that will make a genuine statement. However, if your budget is tight, purchase affordable imagery from stock companies like iStockphoto.com or shutterstock.com. Also, be sure to reference your brand guidelines to follow consistency which will help lead to a trusting relationship.
9. Test It Out
Share your slides with a loved one or friends to get their reaction. Ask them open-ended questions to get them to talk about what your layouts are promoting and get them to elaborate their feelings. Force them to instinctively respond and provide this feedback within 5-10 seconds, the same time it takes to grasp a billboard. Pay attention to their explanations, facial expressions, and body language to see if it corresponds to your intent. Keep an open mind with the feedback you hear and plan to take notes on how you can improve your designs. Revise and repeat.