We’ve all seen presentations that make War and Peace look concise. We know text-heavy slides look bad, and deep down we probably all know that presentations like that are doing more harm than good to our sales prospects. But it’s difficult to put your finger on what is bad about the presentation design, or to know how to make the design more effective. So let’s have a look at the theory behind minimalist design, and then we’ve got some great tips to help you make it work for you in your presentations.

“Good design is as little design as possible.

Less but better, because it concentrates on the essential aspects and the products are not burdened with non-essentials. Back to purity. Back to simplicity.”

– Dieter Rams

When creating presentations it can be easy to go a little overboard. We feel like we need to cram in as much information as possible, creating slides with barely any blank space left bombarded with text, images and icons. While all three of these visual tools are important it is crucial we use them sparingly and in the right manner.

Here are five tips to help you keep your presentation design simple and clean meaning your presentations don’t distract but tell a powerful and effective message.

Limit colours

Avoid too much colour, this can be confusing for the audience. Using just two tones can create hierarchy and order to your slides. If you want to create a contrasting pop of colour make sure to use it sparingly – it will draw the audience’s eyes in instantly so ensure that it is your most important message within the slide content.

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This slide uses a limited colour selection to direct audience attention to the most important data. To find out more about using colour in your presentations, read our guide to changing theme colours.

Don’t go picture crazy

Using pictures can be a great visual tool within your PowerPoint. However don’t feel like you need a picture for every point you are making. Picking just one strong and relating image to have in your background of the slide can be much more effective than having a collection of different images.

Let icons do the talking

Text heavy slides are the biggest culprits when it comes to bad presentation design and I am sure we all at some point have been the victim of a PowerPoint like it! Make sure to ask yourself as you’re typing away – ‘Do I really need this?’ – most of the time the answer is NO! Instead of relying solely on text use iconography to make your point; your audience came to listen to your presentation, not to read it! 

“Slides should reinforce your words, not repeat them.”

– Seth Godin

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Creating impact with icons is just a few clicks away if you use Office 365, read all about it in this blog post. 

Pick your fonts wisely

The temptation when trying to jazz up your slides is to add a load of fun and different fonts. I would advise, if you aren’t a typography guru and know all the tricks in the book, just stick with the two. This ensures your slides are clear and concise. If you need to create further contrast between titles and text then play around with the thickness i.e. bold, semi bold, italic…etc.

For more typography tips, have a read of this article.

Good presentation design embraces empty space

Give elements on your slide room to breathe! White space is not something to be feared it helps define specific areas within your slides, allowing your audience to digest information. It also means you can show off beautiful imagery – like in the example below – without covering it in text boxes.

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Now you have the basics of good presentation design covered, read this article on how to make your presentations “pop” and still be effective.

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Written by

Bethany Drummond

Managing design consultant

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Mar 2023

We’ve found there’s no hard-and-fast rule for how big or small text on slides should be. Each presentation has its own unique requirements – it all depends on what you’re using the slides for, what you’re hoping to achieve with them, and how your audience will be viewing them. That said, we do have a few best practices for you to consider.

  1. Image of Craig Hadden Craig Hadden says:

    Good advice – especially about using fewer colours, and embracing whitespace.

    Many presenters worry that they’ll forget what to say if they don’t write all over their slides. But that’s what the Notes pane’s for! (as I show here)

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