Finally beautiful and sophisticated presentations
How web design can help you get your audience excited about your next presentation
First of all: I am an enthusiastic engineer with heart and soul. I realize that we engineers are rarely designers, but I still notice one thing about presentations: They are boring, tedious, uninspired, and raise more questions than they solve. So many bright minds sometimes create the least informative PowerPoint presentations. Why? Because they are way too deep in technology. At this point, I’d like to share a few thoughts from modern web design and how it can help better sell one’s thoughts and ideas in great presentations.
What it means to be too deep in detail
Being a technician, scientist, engineer, or whatever expert means being methodical, examining all available data, testing hypotheses, and coming to conclusions after a lengthy process (after all, that’s what you’re taught in universities). The problem here is when engineers put this kind of thinking into their PowerPoint presentations. The result is poor, completely overloaded, and tedious presentations.
Yet the whole thing is done with good intentions: you want to show that you’ve been as thorough as possible. Engineers don’t usually jump to conclusions. Instead, they research their topics thoroughly to prove or disprove their initial hypothesis. In other words: Engineers love data, and lots of it.
When information needs to be presented, people with an engineering mindset tend to create very complicated slides that present all the data on the topic they are about to cover. They mistakenly assume that the audience thinks like them: namely, wanting to look at all the data and analyze it to come to the same conclusions as they do.
Your audience doesn’t want to think along with you
Being an audience member at a good presentation is comparable to going to a good movie or cinema: You want to be entertained while having to think as little as possible. Very few people limit their choice of films to technical documentaries.
In most presentation situations, sometimes all the audience wants or needs is a 50,000-foot view of the subject. The details then come as they study further or are provided in the handouts.
By putting a wealth of information on each slide, presenters often get poor results from the audience: confusion, inaction, and non-acceptance of their ideas.
Keep it simple
It’s important to focus on the goals of the presentation as you design it. What exactly do you want the audience to do? Buy what you are selling? Think about something in a new way? Learn a new skill? Once you’ve answered that question, you can design a presentation that leads the audience to that conclusion (itself). The art of a good presentation is to have the audience come to your key message themselves — without you having to recite it on every page.
“If there’s one goal all websites share, it’s to connect with its audience. By knowing more about who you’re speaking to, you’ll be better able to effectively reach them.”
In most cases, you are correct in assuming that your audience consists of people who have no prior knowledge of the topic. The process of simplifying complex information is not easy, but it is critical to achieving the results we desire when presenting: Understanding, action, and acceptance of new ideas.
How can web design help with presenting?
Before we dive further into the topic of web design, let’s remind ourselves of the key tasks one faces when beginning to create a new web presence:
- Know the purpose
- Identify the problem and present a suitable solution
- Know your visitors
- Know the key action you want your visitors to take.
What strikes us about these principles? They are exactly the same as the ones you follow with a presentation! For this reason, design elements from web design are also perfectly suited to be used in a similar form for presentations. To measure the success of a website, Google evaluates, among other things, the dwell time — that is, the time before a visitor bounces again. So, as in web design, we should consider the maximum number of slides it takes to present our message. If there are too many, the audience will (mentally) jump away.
To get inspiration for yourself and I can recommend Pinterest (this is an example of how I collect ideas in one mood board). Create a new board and start searching. Keywords like “web design; user experience; websites etc.” already throw up countless results.
The great thing is that you usually get an image of a complete web page, i.e. a long image in the vertical. This is divided into several horizontal elements:
It is exactly these horizontal elements that we are interested in (orange). Look at how images and texts are displayed in an interesting way. How are shading used, and where are color accents used? What is a good combination of icons with text elements? You can then just copy this design to create a beautiful-looking presentation slide (one horizontal element = one page in your presentation).
A website must manage to convey its core message as quickly and clearly as possible — that’s exactly what we try to do with every presentation as well. In most cases, PowerPoint is used. We can say across the board that a good 80% of PowerPoint functions are superfluous. As in web design, the art lies in minimalism. If you can’t show a problem on a single slide, you haven’t fully understood the problem. Web design can help us get the inspiration we need to do just that.
I used to use PowerPoint for my presentations. Suddenly I was forced to work with Google Slides. The reduced functionality scared me off at first. In the meantime, I have to say that it is just right and prevents us from showing too much unnecessary detail. It’s not for nothing that the new pitch.com, for example, relies on the “design first” approach and not many functionalities.
To keep up with the latest design trends, I can recommend the InVision Newsletter. With its focus on good design, it’s a good source to stay up to date.
Where do you keep up to date or what other tips can you give in this context? Feel free to post it in the comments.