7 tips for creating amazing slide decks

As soon as my first startup became part of EY in 2001, I was introduced to the noble art of creating slide decks, and have been combining my tech work with the creation of slide decks ever since. A deck is a tool for illustrated storytelling, but is never mandatory. I’ve seen, and done, talks without a deck that worked equally well. Sometimes even better. But creating a decent slide deck isn’t easy.

As a matter of fact, you very well might be working on one deck for a couple of days, or weeks, before you get it just right. Here are some tips I compiled after 10 years of building slide decks:

  1. Outline your story first. What will your story be, if you could only pick one? And you should only pick one. Make sure you build up your story, so you can take your audience on that storytelling journey. Slide per slide. Study how hero journey‘s work, as they can be applied to virtually any topic.
  2. Slides should carry your story. I can’t stress this enough, but how many times you’re sitting in a room where a speaker is simply going through each point, while you have already read all the bullet points? Right. A slide should contain supportive material, like a metric. Or a graphic. Or simply a key message. If your product was shipped 6 million times, simply put “6” in bold on your slide. It will draw the attention, and make people wondering what that magical number exactly is, while the speaker immediately starts talking about the millions of shipped items. I call these discovery slides, as the audience discovers a connection, which triggers a psychological reward system.
  3. Kill redundancy. Now read this hint again. Approach your slides as an engineer would, and strip away all the stuff that is redundant on that slide, until you keep one graphic or only a few lines of text. Keep it to one key message per slide, and to one story per deck. Play with background graphics and foreground content to make your point, and to eliminate too much text. I found a great article here on this topic. Go read it.
  4. Pace your rhythm. Sometimes you have 10 slides dealing with one detail, and suddenly 3 slides for all other stuff. This type of arhythmic storytelling is frustrating for both speaker and audience. Spread out your story equally over the total number of slides. You can play with the rhythm in your story, but make sure not to do this too often as you might lose your audience.
  5. Make it zen. Balance your colours, make it visually appealing. Don’t create a Picasso, but instead keep the slides quiet, zen and work with some key colours and design concepts. Balance your graphics (please, no clipart or stock pictures!) and text. If you’re looking for inspiration on zen aesthetics, you will find merit in books on Japanese gardens. Read a great comparison between Steve Jobs & Bill Gates slide deck differences.
  6. Promote it as shareable content. Make your slides shareable on Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook. This means, you should include your twitter username on some key slides (for example, your intro slide) and make sure some of your key statements can fit a single tweet. Finally, don’t forget to upload your deck on Slideshare.
  7. Keep it simple. Unless you’re presenting in front a crowd of heart-surgeons, slurring buzzwords through your keynotes won’t make you seem smart. More likely, people will start to tune out one by one. Use simple words like “awesome” or “beautiful”, or simply “many products are shipped”. You will relate to your audience in a more genuine manner.

Looking forward to your presentation, and good luck !

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