6 Ways to Improve Your Presentations

Presentations have been an integral part of corporate life for decades, giving sales personnel, training staff and senior management a communication tool that’s paradoxically both phenomenally effective and frequently dull. But presentations needn’t be the source of boredom and frustration for those having to sit through them - done right, a presentation can improve engagement, boost information retention and recall and help communicate key messaging in an effective, visual way.

We frequently help clients with their corporate decks as part of our presentation design service, but if you don’t have the budget to hire an external agency, you can take some simple steps to improve your presentations and introduce some visual elements:

1. Use maps to show locations

We’ve worked on a lot of corporate presentations, and they nearly always contain a list of locations at some point. An easy way to improve the overall quality and visual appeal of your decks is to use maps to present these locations, instead of just text.

Here’s an example from a sales presentation we often use for our own pitches:

This slide is immediately more engaging and memorable than a simple list of locations, and allows us to use the space to include additional information (in this case an abridged history of the company).

2. Avoid walls of text

While it may be tempting to include your entire script in your deck, or to fit as much copy as you can onto a single slide, try and avoid both of these. Walls of text are generally best avoided in any kind of content you want to be engaging, and this is particularly true of presentations.

Included a lot of copy on a slide will encourage people to read while you’re talking, meaning they’re not really listening to what you’re saying. Or worse, it will simply cause them to zone out all together.

Instead, include simple bullet points or prompts that are quick and easy for the viewer to digest and serve as prompts for your speech, but don’t distract your audience (or bore them). You can also try to use visuals to improve the overall look of the deck, whilst aiding retention and recall.

Here’s an example taken from a presentation design we produced for RHR International:

Originally, this slide was extremely text-heavy, outlining each element of their Readiness for Scale program in detail. We removed the vast majority of the text, instead opting for a clean, simple visual and minimal copy. This slide now draws the eye, and acts as an excellent prompt for the speaker to go over each of the points, without the audience simply reading the copy behind them while they talk.

3. Introduce extra slides

If you’re trying to make your presentations as engaging as possible, you might assume that the fewer slides you have, the better. However, this approach tends to lead to overstuffing individual slides with multiple ideas, copy or visuals. In our experience, it’s best to introduce space into your presentation, with each new point you want your audience to remember on a new slide.

Not only will this give you more room to introduce branded designs, animations and data visualisation into your deck, but it will ensure you’re audience isn’t overwhelmed and remains engaged with your presentation.

4. Integrate animation

I once heard a sales consultant suggest you avoid any kind of animation in pitches, as they felt it would distract the audience and detract from your message. We couldn’t disagree more. Animation and video has been consistently shown to increase engagement, information retention and conversions, and animation has been used for generations to portray complicated ideas and processes.

Integrating clean, simple animations into your presentations will not only ensure your audience is paying attention, it will give your deck a more polished, professional feel.

5. Focus on design

While you might not be a graphic designer or illustrator, you can still place an emphasis on the design of your presentation - even if you’re not working with a visual agency. Try to keep your slides clean and don’t shy away from white space; you don’t need to fill every bit of the slide.

You should also try to incorporate the overall branding in any deck you create for your business. Use repeating brand colours, incorporate the company logo and use a single font throughout (ideally your brand font, if you have one). If you’re not a graphic designer, don’t use illustrations or icons in your deck, or use an external resource such as The Noun Project to find well designed icons you can use.

If you want to incorporate imagery, ensure you’re only using it where it is really necessary (i.e. it actually aids comprehension). Avoid the temptation to use random or cliched stock images just for the sake of it.

The point is, you don’t need to be a designer to think about design. Just keeping the overall look and feel in the forefront of your mind can have a genuine impact on the quality of your deck.

6. Introduce data visualisation

As information design specialists, we’re always going to suggest this as an option - but it’s not just to keep us in a job. Infographics, data visualisations, iconography and illustrations can have a profound impact on the success of your presentation, particularly if you want your audience to remember the key messages.

This kind of content has been shown to improve overall engagement, encourage sharing and discussion, aid information retention and recall and make it more likely that your audience will take action. Let’s look at some statistics:

  • When people hear information, they’re likely to remember only 10% of it after three days. When that information is paired with a relevant image, however, people retain 65% of the information after three days. (Source).

  • People following directions with text and illustrations do 323% better than people following directions without illustrations. (Source).

  • 81% of people only skim the content they read. (Source).

  • People remember 10% of what they hear, 20% of what they read and 80% of what they see and do. (Source).

  • Visuals are processed 60,000 times faster than text. (Source).

Of course, not only does the inclusion of data visualisation aid in retention, recall, engagement and discussion, but it will also improve the visual appeal of your presentation, ensuring the message - and not the boring deck - is the centre of attention.

If you need help with your own presentations, reach out to us using the contact form for an informal, no-obligation chat.