5 Ways to Become a Better Presentation Designer
What’s that you say? “Why do I need to become a better presentation designer, I am already a subject matter expert.” The answer is simple, you might be the world’s leading expert in your field but if your presentation is boring, nobody will listen to you, remember you, or act on your ideas. Fortunately, there is a cure for “Death by PowerPoint”, a term that has come to refer to the effects of sitting through a long and boring presentation. Here are five things you can do to start impressing audiences, get them to take action, and leave an unforgettable impression.
1. Read Graphic Design Books
Yes, I know you are not a graphic designer and that you may not particularly want to become one (or maybe you are a graphic designer!). However, if you learn even the basic precepts of graphic design, you will start to think differently about how you put together your visuals. Most people open PowerPoint and begin writing. They treat PowerPoint or Keynote like a word processing application. Instead, learn to start the process with a sketchbook and sticky notes. Sketch out ways to tell the story visually. Think about creating cinematic scenes. Design books or other graphic design learning resources will teach you about composition, type, color, shape and so much more.
2. Start an Inspiration Folder
One day I had to use the computer of the Art Director at the Interactive Agency where I worked. I saw a folder on his desktop labeled “Designs I Like”. The Art Director was very talented, so I couldn’t help but take a peek at the folder to see the type of work on which he put his seal of approval. I was amazed. The folder was full of screen shots and images of all kinds of design. I soon realized that one of the big reasons our Art Director produced such amazing work was that he was inspired by amazing work. Whenever he would get stuck on a project, he would start rummaging around in his “Inspiration” folder.
Keep a folder on your desktop of images and screen grabs of work, especially presentations, that resonate with you. It is even more useful if you can create some sub-folder to categorize the work by type, style, color, etc. I often enjoy trying to recreate great slide designs that I see online. I have one or two PowerPoint files full of recreated work that I can draw on, replacing some elements to suit my needs.
3. Stop Using Templates
I rarely use slide templates. I have found that KeynotePro.com makes amazing Keynote templates and I have purchased a few over the years. However, I always modify them, because no stock template can fit your unique message and style. More often than not, I start with blank white slides. This method, combined with my first and second suggestions means the end of slide design cliches. Don’t try to fit your content and ideas into a predetermined box. One of the major criticisms of PowerPoint is that most built-in template text boxes give the user the ability to put in ten levels of text hierarchy. That is crazy.
4. Read Books About Making Movies
Sorry, you have to read some more. Cinematography has a lot in common with…Slideology (The art of making slides, coined by Nancy Duarte). I have been thinking a lot about how presentation design and creation are related to the art of film making. In particular, the cinematographer has a lot to do with the look and feel of a movie and how the visuals advance the story. Try reading The Visual Story by Bruce Block.
5. Learn To Use Adobe Photoshop (or some other high quality image editor)
Believe it or not, the graphic design tools in PowerPoint and especially in Keynote are very powerful and can create amazing results. That being said, Photoshop can produce effects and techniques that can’t be accomplished in PowerPoint. Many, if not all, professionally designed presentations are done in Photoshop. Then, the slide images and objects are pasted into PowerPoint so that animations and slide transitions can be applied. Don’t be daunted. Photoshop is indeed a complex application to use but some amazing effects can be produced with a just a few clicks. I have been learning about the Adobe Creative Suite from www.Lynda.com, an amazing site full of tutorials for all kinds of software. You can also start learning the basics with this set of resources from Life Hacker.
What has helped you become a better designer? Let us know in the comments.