Love you decks

Designers tend not to like making presentations, to use an euphemism, and this in my opinion a symptom of a poor designer.

In all these years spent working for consultancies, a good part of my job had to do with presentations - structuring, writing, reviewing, designing presentations.

Designers tend not to like making presentations, to use an euphemism, and this in my opinion a symptom of a poor designer.

"A bad design with a good presentation is doomed eventually. A good design with a bad presentation is doomed immediately." Akin's Laws of Spacecraft Design, rule 20.

If you consider yourself a designer, you should know how to communicate ideas, and presentations are (unfortunately?) the tool of the trade.

Also, I know you are supposed to love Apple as a designer, but PowerPoint or Google Slides are a much better option than Keynote - portability matters.

Let's start from the beginning.

Now, at the very beginning of every presentations deck you have the agenda. But is it the agenda, what you should call that slide listing the content of the deck? Not always.

So, let's look at the definition of agenda: "Agenda, a list of items to be discussed at a formal meeting."

What this is telling us is, use agenda only when the presentation is to be presented as opposed to sent and meant to be read. In this case, also, you may consider not listing the page number - the audience will depend on the presenter to browse it - instead provide the expected length in minutes for each section. This will give an idea to the audience of how much focus each topic will have, and in doing so setting expectations on what's core and what's ancillary.

What should you use when the deck is sent and you expect people to read it?

"A table of contents, usually headed simply Contents and abbreviated informally as TOC, is a list, usually found on a page before the start of a written work, of its chapter or section titles or brief descriptions with their commencing page numbers."

So, Contents is the most appropriate title for that slide; here it makes sense to list the slide number for every section.

Since we talked about the list of contents, no matter if you are going to present or send over, slides should be numbered. Your best option is the footer, right corner being the most common location.

Slide (page) numbering is important because you want your audience, or readers, to refer to a specific slide without the need to describe "the slide with the blue diagram in the middle".

Should you number all slides? Maybe not. Don't number the cover (obviously), and don't count it in the numbering sequence. Also, don't number sections covers, if you have them, but count them in the sequence.

What else do you want to have in the footer? Your company name (that is, who is the owner of the content) as well as any copyright notice according to the company policy. You should follow the same rule as for the slide number above, that is don't put the footer on covers (front cover as well as sections covers). Unless, of course, you have something proprietary requiring the copyright notice.

Branding. This is where things get funny. You probably are using a company template with the branding of your organisation - so this is a rule better aimed at whoever design that template (I have a feeling most of the times who's designing the template never had to do presentations as part of their job...).

Apart from your organisation logo, on the front cover and then possibly (smaller) on the the footer, branding really is a matter of colours and fonts consistency - that is limit the use of brand colour(s) for title, subtitles. Consistently positions those elements across slides.

Don't use your organisation colours for graphs and charts (unless you know your data visualisation and are aware of when/how to use colours depending on the chart and data type - qualitative, quantitative, chronological, maps, etc.). Don't use your brand colour for words in bold - unless is something that has to do with your company (e.g. a proprietary methodology or product/service name).

Also, don't use your client/prospect colours (no, really) - nobody will choose your services because you are using their brand colours. This is diminishing your brand and makes you look insecure and cheap. Also, if all respondent to an RFP will do that, you won't differentiate from the rest. Very. Poor. Branding.

The same applies to the front cover, do you really want to put your client logo on the cover of a document you produced for them? The point being...? This of course is not the case if the document is co-produced.

Last but least, don't end with a Thank You slide.

Save the last slide for contact information like the name of the person(s) to contact for next steps, together with email (presenting? Have a QR code with the email for your audience to scan it). Alternatively, the Next Steps slide is another good option, to have there stuck on the screen at the end of the meeting.

But no thank you, please.

Bonus tip: you should really read Edward Tufte's "The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint: Pitching Out Corrupts Within".

[first published on LinkedIn on May 10th 2023]