Picture of Brian Love wearing black against a dark wall in Portland, OR.

Brian Love

Impactful Presentations

Learn the top 5 tips for creating impactful presentations to ensure inspiration and not exhaustion.

1: Adhere to critical criteria

It is critical to adhere to the following criteria for creating impactful presentations:

Let’s break each of these down.

First, don’t expect your audience to squint. Let’s face it, we’ve all been there. At a meetup, or even at a professional conference, and we find that we can barely make out what is on the slides. The information on your slides is important, so make sure that you’re audience can easily consume that information, all while keeping an eye, and a listening ear, on you. Don’t let your slides distract the audience from your performance.

Second, choose your font size liberally. The size of the wording should be easily legible from the back of the room, not just the front row.

Third, choose colors, both in your fonts and in your graphics, that provide the contrast needed. Also, keep in mind that you might be presenting these slides at a meetup, conference, or workspace that has projectors that are not well equipped for the space and do not provide enough output for the given room. Medium to high contrast will ensure that the audience can consume the slides, even in a bright room or a space with a poor projector.

Fourth, limit the content of your slides. Take time to reduce the content to the critical information the audience should understand or take-away while you’re on stage presenting. Slides are meant to augment you and the delivery of your content.

2: Design

Next, the level of effort that you put into the design of your slides is apparent. Of course, this doesn’t suggest that you should over-design your slides with lots of distraction. Rather, focus on simplicity, cleanliness, and brand awareness. While you may not think that you have a brand, you do. Well-designed slide templates can be reused, so spend some time getting this right. It’s similar to building software – sure we can throw together an application with poor architecture and little forward-thinking, but an application that is well architected and planned will be easier to maintain and lower costs in the long-term. The same is true for the design of your slides.

3: It’s a Journey

The journey starts the moment you walk in front of the audience. A journey has a start, however rough it might be, proceeds through various steps, trials, and gotchas, and eventually winds its way to some sort of destination. Of course, this destination is not the final destination for the audience – at least that should be one of the goals of your presentation. Whether delivering a 5-minute lightning talk, or a 2-day workshop with hands-on exercises, the learning journey for the audience does not end when you say thank you (and of course follow me on Twitter – if that’s your thing).

Your slides are a key element in the journey for your audience. Bring them along for a journey, and inspire them to continue on the journey after you step off the stage.

4: Sequencing with Animation

Sequencing your slides with animations can provide a seamless experience for your audience. Smooth, subtle, and minimal animations could further ease your audience as you move from learning point to learning point. Of course, don’t get carried away, but do spend some time on providing smooth transitions.

5: Have Fun

This last tip took me a while to learn. When I first started giving presentation to a local meetup in Syracuse NY I really wanted to impress the group. For me, this meant that if I messed up I would be deemed a failure. So, I had to crush it. This unnecessary stress and burden came across, both in my slides and in my delivery. It felt rushed, and I tried to pack too much information into the time I had.

If you’re going to put yourself out there and stand up in front of a group of peers, don’t do it with fear and trembling. Do it with fun. Take that to heart both in your delivery as well as in your slides. Let people see your fun side, or your vulnerable side. Have some fun, make a joke, show a funny gif, or just be a little goofy. It’s ok. The audience wants to learn, but they also want to enjoy the learning journey. So, have fun!