Whether you’re presenting quarterly results or rolling out a new project, your presentation deck should help you to bring your message across. It should make your presentation more engaging and help your audience understand your message. It should absolutely not take away from your message or distract.

1. A killer cover page

This is your first impression, so it's important to create a cover page that grabs attention. Fashion a bold, succinct headline that sets the tone for your talk, and is intriguing enough to leave your audience wanting more.

A bold visual or a background image also helps to captivate your audience. Make sure it is simple enough that your title is the main focus, as placing text atop of detailed, high-contrast image will be visually distracting and hard to read. Try checking Pinterest for a range of cover page layouts to inspire you.

2. Visuals over text

Presentations are supposed to be a visual medium, so why are so many slideshows heavy on text while skimping on images? Studies show that people tend to read slides before they listen to speakers, so packing your presentation deck with words and bullet points will force your audience to choose between listening and reading – they won't be able to do both. Visuals, on the other hand, will resonate emotionally, grab your audience’s attention and keep them engaged.

Visual aids will also help your audience remember the content – studies show that our brains process visuals 60, 000 times faster than text, meaning your main message is more likely to sink in. So lay off the words!

3. Stylish, simple imagery

The most effective presentations rely on photographs, graphs and art to communicate their message, but make sure to be thoughtful about your choices. Opt for simple, striking photos that pack a punch and will drive your point home. The image needs to serve a purpose, whether it's a metaphor for your main point or an enhancement of your message - it should always be clear why your audience is supposed to be looking at it.

The best slide decks also steer clear of ultra-generic stock photos. Let's face it, they can often look fake and cheesy, and worse, it will seem as though you quickly grabbed any old shot from google images, rather than thinking carefully about your presentation and its aesthetic. Try relying on graphics as an alternative, or use independent sites such as Unsplash or Start up stock photos which offer stylish stock photos with a more natural look.

4. A sleek, consistent look

Slide design plays a huge role in delivering your message, which is why a slide deck cluttered with too many graphic elements will only distract your audience and feel chaotic. The best presentation decks have a consistent feel across the entire slideshow, which means sticking to a color palette and using related fonts and design throughout.

One way to do this is to rely on pre-built slides. But if you struggle to find one which reflects your brand identity, another option is to create a slide design template for your brand and select your own graphic elements. Online tools such as Adobe Color CC offer hundreds of color palette combinations crafted by designers, or allow you to play around with your own.

You can also rely on Templafy’s software to keep your future presentation decks on-brand and visually compliant across all company devices.

5. Readable fonts

Typography is a crucial part of any engaging deck, so ensure it’s in a readable font and size. A minimum 48pt-size font will ensure listeners at the back of the room can still follow. If you’ve splurged on non-standard fonts, make sure they are integrated across all slide deck software so there are no mishaps should you be using a different device to give the presentation.

6. A narrative

How do you get people to follow along? Tell them a story. The best presentation decks incorporate storytelling across their slides in order to communicate their message effectively.

Take a little inspiration from Shakespeare and follow a three-act structure. As a good rule-of-thumb, divide your presentation into:

  • An attention-grabbing introduction. Set out what the presentation will be about and hook your audience in so they keep listening.
  • A discussion of problems, issues and conflicts – and the possible solutions.
  • The grand finale: resolve the problem and recap the main points of your presentation, before motivating your audience to act on the main message of its presentation. Make it memorable – incorporating a joke or an anecdote is a great way to keep it fresh in your audience’s mind.

You'll want to have the following slides in your deck as your talk unfolds the story:

  • Cover Page
  • Introduction, visions or values
  • The problem
  • The opportunity
  • The solution
  • Models and Strategies
  • A call to action or a thought-provoking take away from the presentation

Want more inspiration? Check out the ultimate slideshow tips from Silicon Valley marketing executive Guy Kawasaki, or read Slide:ology: The art and science of creating great presentations by Nancy Duarte.