Join Petrula Vrontikis for an in-depth discussion in this video Tips for design and delivery of digital presentations, part of Running a Design Business: Presentation Skills.
Here are some tips for designing and delivering a digital presentation. Just to clarify, I mean a projected PDF, Keynote or PowerPoint file. And note that many of the same principles apply when presenting from an iPad. The demand for well-designed digital presentations is greater than ever before. It's not appropriate anymore to project bullet points of meeting notes, or an outline form of your presentation. Taking time to effectively translate data and messaging into compelling visuals contributes greatly to the success of your presentation.
Sketch a storyboard of your entire presentation. It'll help you organize your thoughts and stimulate creative ideas before you jump on your computer. Rely heavily on images. A picture is worth a thousand words, so show us some clever and enticing visual references. Relate what you're saying to art, music, movies, history, culture, or industry. Avoid showing exactly what you're saying. It's more interesting when visuals enhance the message and aren't just a literal repetition of it.
Include only one or two sentences in text slides. Asking your audience to read text-heavy slides, or watching you read your own presentation on-screen is really boring. The outline of your topic is not the most important thing. The audience being inspired by it is. Use a grid to organize your layouts. Creating a consistent structure for your slides will help them hold together as a visual story. Know that the bottom 20% of your presentation is often compromised by chairs or audience members' heads.
Keep text well inside the side and top margins, too. Practice using a projector. Things can look great on your laptop, but lose contrast and clarity when projected. Colors often shift, especially the yellows. Seeing this ahead of time gives you the opportunity to adjust. For any super-important presentation, this is a must. Choose font styles and sizes wisely. As a designer, you know how much you're judged by your font choices.
A general rule is to determine whether the message is timeless or timely, and choose the font style appropriately. Bad kerning, using inch marks instead of quote marks and other type faux pas become life-size. Pay attention to the details. And always remember, friends don't let friends use Papyrus. Size matters. I suggest 20 point or larger. It's tempting to design with smaller type, because you're usually seeing it from 18 inches from your laptop screen.
Step back five or six feet in order to properly evaluate the readability of your text. Entertain by showing movement in time-based reveals, but don't overdo it. There are some terrific transitions in Keynote and PowerPoint, but using too many makes you look like a kid in a candy store. Obsessively spellcheck. Typos in presentations are distracting, and the presenter loses credibility immediately. Video and sound should not compete with your voice.
The audience needs to know what they're supposed to listen to. Make sure to adjust sound levels ahead of time. Videos should be embedded so you aren't relying on fast Internet connections. If it's not relevant, edit out sound from videos. Looping videos more than twice may be appreciated by those with ADD, but the rest of us just get annoyed. Speaking of annoying, move your cursor out of the frame. Left inside the page, that little arrow, or hand distracts everyone's attention.
Though tiny on your screen, it appears large for your audience. Memorize keyboard shortcuts, especially pause, play, stop, and view full screen. It'll make you look smarter. Get approval and properly credit images, videos, sound, and quotes that you use. It's tempting just to dive into online resources. A note of caution here. Using other people's imagery without permission is well, stealing.
Test internet connections for showing online content. I've seen this problem bury a number of presenters. There's hardly anything more frustrating for an audience than seeing you struggle with technology. Well, except typos, or maybe Papyrus. It's a long list, so I've created a page and resource files with a checklist. It also has some links to online sources for visual reference. I recommend watching TED Talks for inspiration, and innovative ways of creating and interacting with visuals.
The TED folks have even put together a guide for their speakers to use to create their presentations. Do a bit of research for your design inspiration. Use your great design sense to your advantage, but keep in mind adjustments that need to be made when creating a great digital presentation.
- Presenting one-on-one, to a team, or to a larger audience
- Choosing a presentation format
- Introducing your design and providing context
- Persuading your audience
- Developing visual aids
- Creating a great first impression
- Understanding verbal and nonverbal cues
- Getting approval
- Facilitating a Q&A session