Since I was always the kid assigned to draw the lettering on the lemonade stand sign or illustrate the science project, I’ve known there are certain parts of my brain that work better than others (i.e. like the one that can’t seem to wrap around simple financial concepts…shorting the stock…huh?)
I later learned this is because I am, what some might call, a right brainer. If you are reading this, you might be looking for some help with your style. Perhaps your right-on-target presentations are filled with mind-blowing information and brilliant ideas but look a bit boring and lifeless – it’s because you, my friend, are a left brainer. What’s the use of a genius product or sales pitch if no one pays attention?
This fantastic Mercedes Benz advertisement sums it up pretty well:
Now, let’s help you add a little of that color into your order and planning (I might call you next time I need some advice on creating my statistics graph…please add your contact information in the comment section if you want to be on my lifeline of left brainers fielding dumb financial questions). That’s the great thing about this relationship – both sides of the brain are needed to create a compelling presentation that actually reaches your audience and stays with them hours, days, months after your meeting.
I’m going to start with three very basic, simple tips for those of you starting at ground zero.
1. STICK TO THE BRAND STANDARDS: INSTANT DESIGN HELP FROM THE PROS
Most companies spend a great amount of time creating a “STYLE GUIDE*,” and this is for good reason. It creates a nice strategic plan for staying on brand, dictating specific fonts, colors and a look that your audience will begin to identify with your business. When creating your presentation, if you can get your hands on one, do it. Not only will it help with the framework for your design, narrowing down design options, it will keep you from making bad design choices. Those who create style guides do so for a living and know what they are talking about. Listen to these resources.
PICK THREE COLORS and stick with them. One bold, bright color, one muted color, and one dark color (i.e. Bright Blue, Grey and Navy Blue). Use these colors together and don’t use anything else. Mix them up. Dark is great for text, bright colors for accents for emphasis, and muted colors for sub headers and captions.
PICK TWO FONTS (maybe three):
I tend to follow a two font rule, selecting a specific font for titles and subheadings (different versions of the same font: i.e. Calibri Semibold for Heading and Calibri), and a contrasting font for body content. Some designers like to add a third font – which can work well for contrast if you pick the right one.
Too many fonts look unprofessional and create confusion. One font doesn’t provide contrast or a change in tone. You need secondary fonts to break up text and create emphasis. Adding italics and bold versions of those fonts add variety but stays within a reasonable and cohesive design strategy.
2. KEEP IT SIMPLE & CLEAN
One of the most important things to keep in mind is that you can’t go wrong with starting simple. You might have so much information you want to share, but if you pack it all onto one page – it’s hard to read, hard to digest and overwhelming. Not only is this a tip for general presentation messaging, it applies to design too. When in doubt, cut copy.
You don’t have to be an expert designer if you just research some clean looks through an easy Google image search of “simple presentation templates,” that will be easy to recreate. Spending a little time looking through designs will inspire ideas. A few text boxes, title bars and image uploads and you’re golden. The key is to find some clean, fresh, SIMPLE templates you like. Don’t overachieve and wind up with a headache, but DO challenge your self with a baby step.
TIP: Don’t volunteer to bake your best friends wedding cake, before you’ve mastered cupcakes for the bake sale.
3. BALANCE: Add Quality Photos and Icons
This might seem obvious to right brainers, but to more people than I realize, it’s not. Always create a balance between text and design, it helps the audience digest the information and supports the fact that human attention spans are getting shorter and shorter in the age of “the screen.” On-screen projects tend to be more visual- and that’s the world we live in these days. There is no magical ratio of images to text, but my advice is to go heavy on images and light on text. As a rule, aim for 60 to 80 percent of, at least, the first impression slide design to include a large compelling image. (A great excuse for follow up: emailing supporting documents after you’ve caught their attention with a beautiful presentation.)
When in doubt, cut text.
Don’t describe things you can show.
Replace words with icons wherever you can.
FACT: Visuals are processed 60,000 times faster in your brain than text. (Source: Neo Mammalian)
I think you’ll find this is a great place to start. And you’ll be surprised how easy it is to find online resources to help you figure out the answers you your design questions. Utilize YouTube for tutorials or try out Lynda.com’s free 10-day trial to get basic design tutorials, color theory videos and other especially helpful tips and demonstrations.
I’ll end with a challenge to incorporate into your next presentation. Happy designing!
ONE EASY DESIGN ELEMENT TO TRY:
Create a text box using the bright color or the dark color you chose for your color scheme. Make your text bold and white in color – use this as a contrast to the text on the rest of your page. It can be a great way to create a title bar or header, fact box or emphasize an important quotation.
By: Caitlin Mello, Director of Client Success