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Five Presentation Design Tips I Wish I Knew When First Starting

by Adam Noar

Five Presentation Design Tips I Wish I Knew When First StartingEvery presentation deck is really a documentation of choices.

Those choices are either made consciously or unconsciously, but everything from the type of images used to the layout design is a decision that makes every presentation unique.

Presentations have a lot of moving parts and yes, they can feel OVERWHELMING:

But when we create slides more deliberately, we can really shift towards a more inspiring deck.

Here are some of the presentation design lessons I’ve learned along the way to becoming more deliberate when designing presentations.

#1.) Don’t spend too much time “meddling the design” at the beginning

When designing presentations, sometimes I would catch myself getting into the design details too early because it’s immediately gratifying like eating the chocolate chips before the chocolate chip cookies are ready.

Don’t make this mistake!

Don’t skip the necessary steps of OUTLINING YOUR DECK and setting up your presentation properly first …

… it’ll just cause more work later when you become aware that your story is not flowing correctly.

Here are a few tips on how to outline your presentation from Ethos3:

To avoid meddling in the design aspect to early on, start by focusing on the core message you wish to project and then spend time outlining your entire deck (using the tips above) around this message.

Only when your deck has a well-crafted outline should you start getting into the slide design details.

#2.) Use your intuition

I’ll often look at a PowerPoint slide and become aware of areas that don’t seem to work. Then I’ll imagine how they’d look if they “felt awesome”. I try to keep that emotion close to me as I design my presentations.

When I create slides through “feeling” and stop trying to just logically think my way through a piece, I end up with something much more powerful because it comes from a soulful place of inspiration.

Your audience is craving an EMOTIONAL deck. So, give it to them!

Five Presentation Design Tips I Wish I Knew When First Starting - practice emotional design

Apple is well known for their emotionally designed products and keynote presentations

Effective emotional presentation design speaks to THREE main points:

FIRST IMPRESSIONS. The look of a slide is an instant trust builder or trust loser. If there are lots of text, horrible stock photos or poorly matched colors, an audience member will turn off and pay attention to something else.

HOW IT FUNCTIONS. Once your audience has passed a favorable first impression, they’ll look for things like consistency and flow as you take them through your story.

PERCEIVED VALUE. Because attention spans are short, what’s the value of paying attention to your presentation? Is the content of your presentation worthwhile? Is the product or service you’re selling worth paying for?

I use this emotional intuition as a parent, husband, friend, and businessman too. If something doesn’t “feel right”, it probably needs your attention. But all too often we overcompensate in other areas instead of focusing on what is crying for our attention.

#3.) Know when it’s time to move on to the next slide

When is a presentation slide finished?

When any additional fiddling wouldn’t improve a thing.

French novelist Antoine de Saint-Exupery once said, “A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.

This is so true when it comes to presentations!

Just like all other types of art, a slide deck is never truly finished, it can always be better. But sometimes we need to just declare, “ok, it’s done” and go to the next thing.

presentation design tips - know when to move on to the next slide

“Fiddling” with a slide beyond what’s necessary often destroys more than it helps.

So, any time you feel like your spinning your wheels and going nowhere, move along to the next slide.

#4.) Crafting compelling content is everything

It’s well known in the world of presentations that content (what you have to say) is extremely important.

In fact, some would argue that your content is king with presentations (meaning that it matters more than your design).

You should feel rock solid about the content that you will be presenting.

To be capable of designing a slide more effectively, it helps to prepare your content separately first.

presentation design tips - content is king

Using the right words in the right way can be the difference between success and failure 

So don’t overlook copywriting when it comes to putting together your presentation. By putting in the work now, you can give your business a head-start that can impact the success of all its future endeavors.

Learn more about how to write your PowerPoint presentation before you design your deck. Work on an overview of the message(s) and story you’re bringing. Then, you can use that as a foundation to start designing from.

#5.) Be clever (and even funny if you can)

Over the years I have found that the most effective presentations are the ones which are REMARKABLE and MEMORABLE.

This is why “emotional design” (see tip #2) often helps you craft an excellent presentation. If you connect with people emotionally, they tend to remember your presentation much better than the average person who pitches.

You can hit an emotional nerve typically in two ways:

By being funny: by making people laugh, they will automatically feel more positive about the story you’re telling. This is a powerful cognitive dissonance. The risk is to not appear as a comedian: you’re still pitching in a professional context, but a laugh every now and then is a welcome relief.

A well-timed GIF image is a great example of this.

presentation design tips - add humor to your slides

Adding a bit of humor and cleverness to your deck goes a long way like these example slides from Highspark

By being clever: if you surprise people by providing new insights, they’ll remember your presentation better, as you provided value on a personal level for the audience.

In other words, focus on interesting angles for your content. If you can provide meaningful insights or present serious topics from a unique angle, it helps you to stand out in the crowd of typically boring business presentations.


I hope you have found these presentation design tips useful. It has taken many years to nail down the process of creating presentations. Many mistakes have been made along the way but that is the beauty of learning and growth.

The more presentations you create the more you will see what works and what doesn’t work.

Question for you …

Can you identify with any of the presentation design tips that I talked about in this article? What presentations lessons have you learned along the way? Sound off in the comments below!

Also, do you have a friend that is currently creating a new presentation and could benefit from learning about these presentation tips? If so, send them a link to this blog post right now. I’m sure, they will return the favor to you one day!

Finally, if you enjoyed reading this post, please remember to like and share using the sharing icons to the left.

Hungry for more information on how to create emotional presentations that stand out? Here are a few suggested posts:

10 Professional Presentation Templates That Don’t Suck

10 Essential PowerPoint Hacks For More Exciting Presentations

 5 Presentation Tools That Will Make Your Slides Stand Out

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