Updated Nov. 19, 2021 Published Jul. 19, 2021

6 Min. Read

Great presentations inform, educate, persuade, and even inspire. Perhaps it’s the fusion of live audio and supportive visual media. Maybe it’s the perfect blend of audience interactivity and speaker control. Whatever it is, a well-designed presentation is still one of the best ways to pitch ideas, showcase facts, or sell products.

When it comes to your presentation decks, it takes two important aspects to tango: the content and the design. Many of us struggle to create sufficiently engaging and informational slides. How do you strike a balance between professional and engaging? How do you avoid crossing the line from data-rich to overwhelming?

Read on to discover the six elements of an ideal presentation.

1. A Compelling Introduction

First, it’s important to let your audience know why they should care — or remind them why they already do. The beginning of your presentation is for provoking emotion, eliciting surprise, and engaging people enough so that they want to know more.

Don’t forget to introduce yourself to establish authority and familiarity. But don’t spend too much time talking about yourself unless the presentation is about you.

You can set the mood by starting with a relevant story or situation. Again, imagine that your audience is asking you why this subject matters.

But it’s not time to make your final pitch yet. Prioritize authenticity over immediate hard-selling.

2. Charts and Infographics

People are drawn to moving stories and organic, conversational approaches. That’s why your presentation starts with a compelling introduction. But if you aim to have your audience come to a decision by the end of your presentation, they will want to go through a more logical, data-driven thought process. It’s your job to walk them through that.

Pull facts from reliable sources such as peer-reviewed articles or books. As much as possible, avoid making statements you can’t prove.

Use charts, graphs, and infographics to illustrate facts more effectively. For example, a pie chart may be a better visual aid than simple percentage numbers. A line graph is the best way to show numerical information that changes over time.

Use the simplest possible chart or graph design. Remember that your presentation is usually a visual aid on a large screen. Tiny text or complex details might be lost on the audience, so use large shapes and high-contrast blocks of color for maximum clarity.

3. Large Text

Your presentation’s slideshow is not a set of pages from a textbook. Slides support your presentation. It’s not something for you to read out loud, nor should it compel audiences to take too much time reading instead of focusing on you.

Set a minimum text size. A 30- to 40-point font generally works for headers, while “smaller” text can be around a 20-point font, but there are no strict guidelines.

You can adjust text sizes depending on the setting of your presentation. For example, err on the side of too-large text when you have senior audience members. If it’s a webinar and people will be on their screens, slightly smaller text may be acceptable.

Limit your ideas to one major concept per slide. Use simple sentences or phrases. Remember, the audience shouldn’t spend too much time reading the slide behind you. With that in mind, you can set your own maximum number of words per slide.

Bullet points are going out of fashion. If you absolutely need bullets, you may have too much text on the slide. The goal is to showcase keywords that reinforce — not dictate — your delivery.

4. Overall Simplicity

No matter how complex your subject is, the presentation should be kept as simple as possible. Limit the number of slides and the time you spend presenting each slide. Practicing your delivery will also help you prevent digressions or going overtime during the actual presentation.

Begin with an outline — or if it’s difficult for you to brainstorm with a purely textual outline, a concept map. Don’t be afraid to start out messy and simplify as you go.

Is your topic truly complex? That’s still no reason to overload your slides with hard-to-read details. Instead, you can create accompanying printouts to distribute to your audience so they have an in-depth resource to refer to during or after your presentation.

5. Consistent Design

Your presentation’s design must be consistent across all slides. Colors, fonts, and brand elements should appear to follow the same rules from beginning to end.

If you have a branding guide, use it as a starting point for designing presentations. In the absence of one, let your topic and audience demographic be the basis of your design decisions. (Need help creating a branding guide? Download a free step-by-step guide!)

Just because you can do something in a presentation doesn’t mean you should. There’s no need to use all the free clipart or showcase your wide variety of fonts. Resist the temptation to add too many animations, transitions, and sound effects.

A professional-looking design gives you authority. Things like careful alignment, thoughtfully selected graphics, and highly readable elements make your presentation much more believable.

6. You!

Lastly, you are the most important part of a good presentation. Be confident and prepared — this takes practice and research. Internalize your subject and polish your public speaking skills. You don’t need to commit to an absolutely perfect delivery.

There will be technical difficulties and little bloopers now and then. But poise can be practiced. Learn to chuckle at your own mistakes because the show must go on!

Learn to connect with your audience. Even if you’re the one standing front and center, the presentation is about them, not you. Show them that you’re sensitive to their time and concerns. One way to do this is to let them know, during the introduction, when you’ll be taking questions (the best time is at the end of your presentation).

Author and entrepreneur Guy Kawasaki advocates the 10-20-30 Rule, which means a presentation should be exactly 10 slides, presented in a maximum of 20 minutes, while using a minimum of 30-point size text. While 10-20-30 is by no means a strict requirement, it’s definitely a good rule of thumb if you want to keep things short and sweet.

Ready to Craft Your Next Presentation?

Fear of public speaking is one of the most common phobias in the world. So for some people, being expected to present, write, and design a good presentation can feel like way too much.

Design Pickle’s Presentation Design service can help you create professional, visually compelling slideshows. You’ll take care of the content and delivery — we’ll handle creating presentations that are  on-brand, compelling, and credible.

Presentation Design gives you access to unlimited custom decks, same-day design concepts, real-time Slack communication, editable slide formats, PowerPoint or Google Slides, animations, and so much more. Check out our Presentation Design plan to find out more.

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