Great presentation design starts with the right approach.
The digital dilemma
How do you begin making a presentation? Most people start digital. They sit at their computer, open up Microsoft PowerPoint, choose a shnazzy theme, and start churning out titles and bullet points. A few hours (and several clipart images) later, the presentation is “complete”.
Unfortunately, this method often leads to the boring presentations we're all used to. It puts the emphasis on your bullet points instead of the story you're telling.
Effective slides emphasize the important messages in a presentation. They don’t double as a giant TelePrompTer to read from. Remember, bullet points are not talking points.
The right foot
Instead, try starting analog. Grab a pen and paper, find a comfortable place to work, and dedicate an hour or two to brainstorming your presentation away from the computer.
Consider these questions: What’s the purpose of your presentation? Why were you asked to speak? What does the audience expect? What does the audience already know? What’s your main point? What’s your most important message? Why should your audience care?
Initially, pretend your presentation will be a speech without slides. Sketch out some talking points for how you’d deliver that speech. How would you frame your content to make it compelling? What stories would you share to emphasize your message?
After you’ve put your ideas down on paper, then start thinking about your slides. What sort of visuals will enhance your message? Approach each slide as a blank canvas, not just a space to list your talking points.
Starting analog yields better results because it helps you focus on the story you’re telling, instead of lists of bullet points.
I like starting with a pen and paper because it gives me the freedom to write haphazardly and sketch pictures at the same time. If sketching isn’t your thing, a word processor works fine too. The point is just to avoid presentation software and slide templates at first.
Give the analog approach a try. Keep your focus on the story you’re telling and you’ll be surprised by how much better your next presentation turns out.