I have often felt frustrated as a designer when helping my clients develop a PowerPoint deck or Keynote presentation. Most clients want to put every word they want to convey on the slides. I try to encourage them to think more visually but that is challenging for non-designers.
But I think I’ve found a solution!
At the recent HOW Design Live Conference, held in Chicago, I had the opportunity to attend a talk by Stefan Mumaw on “Presentations That Rock”. I was in awe of the way Mr. Mumaw described the formula for building a presentation from planning through visual support.
I left his presentation truly inspired. He shared presentation strategies using the art of storytelling. He showed how beautifully designed visual slides can still assist in telling the story without multiple pages of bullets that are hard to read and distract the audience from the speaker.
As a presenter, you want your audience to listen to you, not trying to read or follow the animated content flashing behind you, right?
So how do I encourage my clients to think more strategically about their slide presentations? I decided to reach out to Mr. Mumaw for his advice.
My question was, how do I convince my client to go more visual versus loading pages up with bullet points and verbose text? Are there certain industries where visuals work and others that don’t? He provided me with the best response!
Following are a few key points taken from his response that I feel can be applied to all design projects not just presentations:
- Ask questions of what the ‘thing’ is supposed to be: “Is it a document or is it a presentation? If it is a presentation, it is our responsibility as a creative to teach what a presentation is before we even start a design. Come to an agreement or understanding of what makes a great presentation, that people don’t want to read, they want to be moved, and remind the client of what moves them.”
- Educate before the process starts: “Education is always the most effective way to collaborate, and that’s what a deck design is: a collaboration. If you try to educate during, you will always lose those battles, for your client is invested in the content at the point and won’t want to waste time or circle back. But if you educate ahead of time, do your own “presentation on presentation,” show decks that you believe are designed well and presentations that you believe are effective, get everyone to agree, you have a base of standard, and the subjectivity is lessened.”
- Once you have agreed on what the “thing” is and the story you want to tell, then start to design: “When the request inevitably comes to add a slide of features and benefits, you can say, ‘we agreed we wouldn’t do that, so instead, this is what I did.’ But in the times that it IS appropriate to add additional content (and it will be), design it well. Think about how it might be communicated linearly rather than one slide with everything on it at once, how images can break up the large blocks of text, etc. and how images can provide a visual backdrop so your audiences’ attention, stays on the speaker.”
- Know your audience well! “Every industry is different. Every audience in every industry has one thing in common: they’re human. They can, and want to, be moved. What moves a group of scientists is different than what moves a group of film students, but both want to be inspired, they want to be informed, and they want to be entertained.”
I was very honored to have Mr. Mumaw’s advice. I truly appreciate his view point and hope you do, too. And to quote his sincere sign-off: “No one has ever said, ‘Man, I hope this presentation is information dense and the presenter reads it.’ At least I haven’t come across someone who has yet : )”!
So when all is said in done, I hope to be able to incorporate his guidance into my next presentation assignment – maybe for you? If you’re in the midst of starting to think about your upcoming presentation (or an upcoming project) and want to create a “presentation that rocks”, let’s talk.