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12 Presentation Tips For Designing Smarter Not Harder

by Adam Noar

presentation tips - design faster and better

Have you ever had an amazing experience, start to finish, with designing a presentation?

My guess is probably not, but certainly you’ve had projects that felt right and others that went nowhere — like that 115th revision to a presentation design.

Here is a list of 15 things you might find helpful when dealing with a complex presentation project. 

#1 Start Your Presentation With Google

Great presentation design ideas are never born in a vacuum.

In other words, unless you look at what people did in the past, it’s difficult to do something better in the future.

Before the Internet, savvy designers solved this problem with design “look-books”. These were essentially large catalogs containing hundreds of design pieces gathered around the world, usually classified by type of work (brochure, poster, interactive, etc.).

But those days are long gone.

Thanks to Google, finding solid inspiration for your presentations has never been easier.

Google brings you FREE slide inspiration quickly and works like a charm.

So, look at what others did before you and you’ll know what to do next.

#2 Subscribe To Daily Infographic

If you want to keep yourself immersed in a talent of exceptional, mind blowing design work, subscribe to daily infographic’s email newsletter.

Believe me – the graphic illustrations you’ll see from this daily newsletter are simply mind blowing.

Every day daily infographic features the best information design and data visualization from the internet. They spend lots of time searching the web for the most interesting, stimulating, mind-blowing infographics. They then curate the findings and choose one infographic to publish every week-day.

If you study the way these infographics are put together you will have tons of ideas on how to design your slides.

presentation tips - daily infographic

#3 Follow Industry Leading Presentation Designers

Some presentation designers and companies are like news reporters for graphic design or they produce newsworthy stuff themselves.

To stay on top of events and get a never ending source of inspiration, you should follow presentation designers who are defining and changing the design landscape today.

Three of my personal favorites to get you started include:

Nancy Duarte


Idea Transplant

And, of course, if you haven’t signed up for my weekly newsletter make sure to sign up at the bottom of this post.

#4 Feed Your Mind With New Ideas

Quick question – do you always read the same blogs, watch the same types of movies, and eat at the same restaurants?

If you’re like most people, or like me, the answer is YES.  We pick things according to our likes and there’s nothing wrong with that.

However, if you want to make progress and create breakthrough ideas, you need to deliberately jump out of your comfort zone and feed your mind with new information.

Read something you otherwise wouldn’t. Do something you normally avoid. Watch a horror movie if you’re usually into comedies. Walk your dog through a new trail. You get the idea.

Our minds work with what they’ve seen – if you keep feeding them the same information, they churn out the same ideas over and over.

In other words, if you want fresh ideas for your presentations, it’s time to go out and explore something new.

#5 Study The Art Of Good Layout

Layout is a big factor in good presentation design. So, it’s worthwhile reading further on the principles of good layout to make sure you’re getting it right.

No matter how much time you invest into typography, photography and color, you can forget about moving forward if your slide layout looks bad.

This is precisely the reason most designers spend a lot of time deliberating layout decisions. Should this go to the left or right? Should it be aligned or centered? Top or bottom? Questions like this can take up to 30% of your design time.

Luckily, some people decided to write down what works and what doesn’t, so you don’t have to bother too much. Here’s a few good books to get your started:

Making and Breaking the Grid

Layout Workbook

Best practices for Graphic designers: Grid and Page layouts

#6 Sketch First, Design Second

This is so important and so overlooked among designers that it actually hurts.

Many professional designers would agree: “a hand with a pencil is hundred times faster than a hand with a mouse.”  If you’re starting your design projects inside PowerPoint or Prezi, you could be limiting your creativity.

Explore your ideas and layout options using just pen and paper, no matter your drawing skills. Once you’re pretty sure where you want to go, move over to your preferred design software.

You’ll also probably finish projects in half the time.

#7 Decide On Design Style Upfront

Broadly speaking, every design piece falls into one of three style categories:

1)    Photography-based

2)    Illustration-based

3)    Type-based

Photography-based designs are predominantly desired and most clients love them. The design is driven by good photography choices, accompanied with a great layout.

Illustration-based designs are similar but instead of photography, you use illustration. This requires a good deal of creativity and knowledge of how to design creative images within PowerPoint or Illustrator.

Type-based designs rely on great use of typography to provide the necessary visual interest. This requires some good knowledge of fonts and how to structure them in a visually appealing way.

presentation tips - typography

When picking one of these styles, think about your audience and decide what approach would be the best. You’ll work a lot faster once you know what to focus on.

Just make sure you are consistent with the style throughout your presentation.

#8 Use A Fast Computer

For your own sake, try to work with a computer that’s up-to-date.

This is so obvious that people who design presentations fail to think about every once in a while.

There’s nothing more frustrating than waiting for PowerPoint or Photoshop to respond while working on a high-resolution images.

A fast computer, larger screen, and lots of memory DO make you a better designer, regardless of your talent. Your time, sanity, and work satisfaction are equally important as the ideas in your head and skills in your hands.

Never be afraid to pay for your tools. At the end of the day, when your presentation stands out from all the rest you’ll be glad you paid the extra cost to keep things up-to-date.

#9 Get Enough Rest

Ever heard the story about a lumberjack who did a poor job because he never had time to sharpen his axe? Well, it’s very similar to the story about a presentation designer who produced lousy slides because he never had time to sleep.

Producing amazing slides can be mentally draining, so make sure you get plenty of rest to sharpen your mind and your body.

Try not to work more than 8 hours a day and if that’s not possible, take short breaks and have a power nap after lunch. Closing your eyes for 15 minutes can really do wonders for your sense of clarity and focus.

#10 Turn Off Your Email, Phone And Other Distractions

Just when you get into the groove and everything is falling into place, a phone rings. Bam! You’ll now need another hour just to get back into that same state of mind.

Just like writing or painting, presentation design is a task which requires your full attention. Any distraction will kill the moment and slow you down, compromising the quality of your work.

You don’t create fancy slides by answering emails and phone calls. I recommend you have at least 2-3 hours of interrupted design time every day and your speed and quality of work will greatly improve.

If you work in an office see if you can work from home for the day. It will work wonders for keeping you focused and feeling creative.

#11 Don’t Multitask

Multitasking is the mother of all distractions, yet we often fail to notice how badly it affects us.

While many people take pride in “being able” to multitask, I call them crazy.

Multitasking means you’re jumping around trying to do five things at once while in reality, nothing gets done to the best of your abilities and things take more time to get done.

You have one brain and one set of hands, so do one thing at a time.

Especially when it comes to designing presentations.

#12 Find Out What Your Audience Wants

There are two ways to find out what audiences want – the hard way and the smart way.

Hard way – only using words. For example, imagine your boss says he needs an elegant presentation within a week, you ask questions and get to work. You send in your presentation draft believing you nailed it, but that angry email reply says your idea of elegance isn’t going to cut it.

Smart way – using words and design examples. After discussing the project, go to Google (as mentioned in tip #1). Find three to four examples of the style you believe your boss might like and then send them in for a review. After you get positive feedback, develop your presentation in full.

People have different ideas about what design styles look like. But nobody can argue when they design styles in pictures.


We all want to work smarter, better and have more time to sleep and play. However, the pressure of our daily lives doesn’t give us time to reflect on the way we do things and handle certain situations.

There are a lot of things you can do to improve your productivity, such as knowing where to find inspiration, how to work more efficiently and how to handle working relationships.

Here’s my question for you …

After reading this article, do you think you will try some of these presentation tips? Please be specific as possible with your comments.

Also, do you have a friend that could benefit from learning about these presentation tips for his/her upcoming presentation? If so, send them a link to this article. I’m sure they will return the favor one day.

Thanks for sharing and be sure to post this article on Twitter of Facebook as well (by using the sharing buttons to the left).

Image Credits

Cover Photo by Burning Red

Typography Image (Remixed by Adam Noar) by Sergiy Tkachenko

Presentation tips  - Check out my ebook Slides Made Slimple Now!

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