How to Avoid Designing an Unbelievably Bad Presentation – part 2

Once you have devised a solid strategic presentation (part 1 of this post), you can focus on designing the perfect visual companion that will further inspire your audience.

Unbelievably bad presentation design and communication can hinder even the most powerful message and damage your brand’s reputation.

“Content precedes design. Design in the absence of content is not design, it’s decoration.” – Jeffrey Zeldman

presentation design and communication
image source: Pexels – Miguel Á. Padriñán

How to Avoid Designing an Unbelievably Bad Presentation


While your content may be engaging your audience, your slides can greatly add or detract from your message. Implement the following design tips to ensure your presentation slides are a perfect pairing and reinforce your message.

  1. Don’t Use in Product Slide Templates – Avoid using slide themes included with your presentation software. They are overused, boring and can be downright ugly. Make sure to utilize your company’s corporate presentation slide deck, if one exists, as time would have been invested in creating one that promotes your brand. Keep your audience in mind when developing your presentation design and create a consistent look and feel. Your slides should feel like they are part of the same story. Professional templates can also be purchase online from various sites including PresentationLoad and Creative Market.

2. Captivating Title/Cover Slide – If you are creating the presentation with the intent of publishing it on a platform such as SlideShare or sharing it on the web, you will want to put substantial effort into creating your cover slide. As it encompasses your headline, it is unquestionably the most important part of your presentation acting as your movie trailer. It is rooted in advertising with the purpose of selling the whole presentation and needs to move the viewer to take action. For more on crafting the perfect slide cover and some great examples, check out this post from SlideShare.

3. Stick to a Grid – Line up elements using a consistent grid, the Rule of Thirds, to help keep your slides as balanced and visually impactful as possible. Mimic a talented cinematographer who will break up his composition into horizontal and vertical thirds to draw attention to parts of the shot which makes the scene more appealing. The focal points of your presentation slides should be placed along the lines or intersections that make up these parts. The grid will allow you to consistently arrange your text and images according to how you want your audience to read them.

4. Make the Right Font Choices – With typography, go for legibility over fun as it can have a huge impact on your design. Be sure to use a sans serif font, especially for the body text if you are incorporating a heading, as it is easier to read on screen. You could also use varying weights of the same font to create visual hierarchy.

visual hierarchy

Integrate your brand fonts to strengthen your brand story and provide consistency and familiarity. When catering to your audience in the back row, 30pt size or higher is recommended. In order for your message to pop, you need a high level of contrast between your text and the background. Never stretch your font, always resize it proportionally. It would be wise to find out what size monitor or TV you will be using during the presentation because if you are using the standard slide size in PowerPoint (4:3) the text may seem distorted if it is displayed on a 16:9 screen. It is best to create your presentation in the slide size that suits the device being used.

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5. Stick to a Uniform Color Scheme – Color evokes feelings and the right colour can help persuade and motivate. Understanding the science of colors, will help you determine what colors to incorporate in your presentation. Leveraging your corporate color(s) will effectively promote and reinforce your brand. Should you decide not to go this route, using tints and shades of one color can create a professional looking palette. In addition, combining complementary colors paired with lots of white space in the background will draw attention to the content on the slides. Consider the lighting in the room as well, if you are in a dark room, a dark background with light text will work but if you are planning on keeping most of the lights on (which is advisable) then a light background with dark text works much better. If you are in need of some further inspiration Palettable can help you generate some beautiful color palettes based on your preferences.

6. Just Say “No” to the Bells and Whistles – although it is important to capture your audience’s attention, stay away from the dissolve, spins and other transitions without purpose. They will only cause a distraction and disrupt the flow of your presentation.


Visuals are the most powerful way to get the brain’s attention. Apply these techniques to make an impact with your audience and amplify your presentation design to the next level.

1. Think Conceptually – A great visual can start with a metaphor but it should still be clear why the image is part of your presentation design and how it is relevant to what you are saying. Avoid being cliché – using a Formula 1 race car or an arrow hitting a target right in the middle. If you can find a way to include images that are sensory, that has an even stronger impact.

image source Pexels

[Tweet “Be more visual and stimulate the senses”]

2. With Text Less is Almost Always More – Visuals can tell a story with or without text added to them. If there are a lot of words on your slide, you’re asking your audience to split their attention between what they are reading and what they are hearing which is hard for the brain to process.

“While the average reader will spend about 2.6 seconds skimming an article before reading, science has shown that people will actually look at and read every image” – The Crew

3. Always Use High-Quality Visuals – Often finding quality visuals is the hardest part of the process. Professional/commissioned photography and original graphic design are ideal but impactful images don’t have to break the bank. You can save time and money creating visual content and there are ample free image websites that offer unique photos. Never stretch a low-resolution photo to make it fit your layout because it will degrade the resolution even further. Even a high quality image can sometimes get distorted depending on the slide format and equipment being used to display your presentation.

4. Know Your Audience – The images used in your design, should be a reflection of the audience you are trying to connect with. If you have done your research you can customize your images to suit their interests and needs. The ability to create visuals with impact is based on the insights you have into the emotions that underlie the relationship between your audience and your message or brand.

5. Use Emotional Visuals – The number one thing that attracts our eyes is another human face. A photograph of a person can help the audience connect emotionally with your content. Eye tracking studies, developed in the field of neuromarketing, have consistently shown that we will always look where the eyes of the subject in the photograph are looking. Make sure to place your critical text in their line of site.

Gain a competitive edge and learn more about how to activate the visual parts of the brain to enhance your presentation message and improve memory recall of your brand through neuromarketing.


Your voice is the primary mode of communication during a presentation. The sound of your voice, including its pitch, accent and inflection, has all sorts of subtle effects on how you are perceived by your audience.

[Tweet “Your voice is the primary mode of communication during a presentation”]

Aim to speak at an even pace that is comfortable to listen to. Try to modify your tone effectively, emphasizing key words. Your vocal delivery should be energized and convey your enthusiasm for your topic.

A study found that no matter what voice pitch you typically have, if it gets deeper during an event like a presentation, you’ll tend to be more influential and persuasive.

Making eye contact signals authenticity and genuine interest and will help you build a rapport with your audience. Never use your slides as a teleprompter, although adhering to the presentation design techniques above would not offer you this opportunity.

Don’t plant yourself behind a podium but move around the available space slowly. It makes your tone interactive.

Avoid negative body language, such as, crossing your arms or keeping them behind your back.


It is not a presentation; it is a performance.

[Tweet “Public speaking – It is not a presentation; it is a performance.”]

If you have taken the time to build a logical structure to your presentation, have weaved in some interesting stories, and designed supporting slides that are professional and captivating, there is much less to be nervous about. If you then rehearse several times your nervousness will gradually decrease.

“According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than delivering the eulogy.” – Jerry Seinfeld

According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking
image source: unsplash

If you have a nervous verbal tick in the form of “um” and “like”, follow Seth Godin’s tips as it can’t be removed by merely willing it away.

As an added precaution, find out everything you can about the location and logistics of the venue. Show up early and get situated. Have an understudy in the form of a USB that holds a copy of your presentation.


Leave time for a Q&A session or other discussion activities where members of the audience have the opportunity to reflect on your message. You will gain the audience’s trust not only in you as a presenter but also your brand.

Consider leaving behind a written document which expands on the content discussed in the presentation. Audiences are much better served by receiving a detailed handout as a takeaway.


Armed with the steps to create a powerful strategic presentation and a presentation design that rivals great works of art, the notion of delivering a less than stellar presentation won’t even cross your mind.

Your presentation will be easily digestible, engaging, and resonate with your audience, ultimately inspiring them to take action or embrace your idea. It will also strengthen and reinforce your brand’s reputation and story.

Jennifer Dalcin, Visual Content MarketerJennifer DalCin, Visual Content Marketing Manager, InnovaMap

InnovaMap – we use the science of content marketing to connect you with your target audience. Get our free ebook and learn the neuroscience of marketing to your ideal client or check out our eLearning course neuromarketing 101 – how to ignite your strategic marketing.

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