February 12

The Ten Rules of Good Slide Deck Design


A good slide deck is often the price of entry for serious consideration by today’s buyers.  Shabby slide decks reflect poorly on you, your company and your solution. However many salespeople don’t have the time or expertise to create a work of art. Fortunately, you don’t need to be an art major to create a good deck if you follow some simple best practices with these design rules:

1. Adapt to your environment

Where and how your presentation will be viewed is important to the design. If you’re using your prospect’s projector, weak lighting combined with a bright room can make your images and text fuzzy and hard to read. Use more contrast between colors and shapes as well as a larger type size to combat this. Check the slide aspect. While most new projectors are 16:9, there are still plenty older ones out there using 4:3. Find out earlier and adjust your slides accordingly. Better yet, bring your own portable projector and you won’t have to worry.
If you’re using your laptop or tablet or doing a web presentation, a smaller screen will multiply the impact of any movement and it can be distracting. Limit your animations to simple builds or wipes.

Tip: Check out the 10 Best Portable Projectors according to PC Magazine

2. Have a hierarchy

Think of your slide as an advertisement. Most advertisements are broken into three parts: Headline, subhead, and details. Give more weight through size, color, movement, or space to the more important elements on your slide to ensure that your audience quickly gets the main point. Let the size or color guide the eye toward the most important elements, not compete with each other.

3. Incorporate white space in your slide deck

Keep your slides simple so they are a quick read, this means include enough white space to help your audience focus. Your prospect should be able to follow what you’re saying and take in your visuals at the same time. If the slide has too much information, your prospect will tune you out until he has finished processing the point of the slide, so leave off the big logos, added boxes, or cutesy graphics. The more white space you create — the stronger the visual impact.

4. Use contrast

You want your prospect to be able to quickly grasp the intent of each slide. If everything blurs together, your prospect won’t know what to focus on. To make certain elements stand out, make the contrast between them more distinct through the use of placement, space, color, or size.

5. Be consistent

Too many different sizes, fonts, colors, alignments, or transitions can make your presentation look like Frankenstein’s monster. Keep design elements consistent within your presentation from slide to slide. A good template can help you accomplish that.

6. Create alignment

A well-aligned slide is easy to read and won’t distract any OCD members in your audience. An easy way to achieve alignment is to use the grid feature in PowerPoint to help you lay out different elements and keep them looking neat and organized. Align text from left or right as opposed to centering it, which is more difficult to read.

7. Group like items

Art displays often group like items in threes to form a whole. Think about grouping similar elements in your presentation together to create a unified message as opposed to multiple messages. For example, grouping together several images of your product being used can create a message about overall usefulness as opposed to focusing on individual features.

8. Foster readability

You’re frugal with your words to make the strongest statement, but if people can’t read your text in the back of the room or it’s too fancy to decipher, you’ve missed the point. Here are some tips to ensure readability:
* Always use at least an 18-point font on your slides so that your prospect doesn’t have to struggle read it.
* Use a sans serif font like Arial, Helvetica, or Calibri for body text.
* Save decorator fonts for slide headers.
* Use dark text on a light background. Black slides are cool, but they’re difficult to read.
* Limit your use of ALL CAPS. Let your delivery provide the emphasis.

9. Balance text

If at first glance, your slide looks like a page from the dictionary, your prospect will be quick to bail out when trying to read it. In most cases, don’t exceed eight lines of text per slide and keep it balanced on the slide to make it easy to read. Keep your sentences from looking too choppy or too verbose by sticking to six words or less per line with 30 to 40 characters (including spaces) per line.

10. Give bullets a rest

You can easily fall into the bullet point trap – slide after slide of bullet points and sub-bullet points. Overusing bullets is boring for your audience and discourages interaction. Consider whether you need to use bullet points at all — or if a graphic may be a better choice. If you do use bullet points, make sure each one supports your key message. This forces you to weed through your bullet points to find the one thing that you absolutely have to share with your clients. If you have ten one things, then you need ten slides.


While a well-designed slide deck can be the price of entry today, don’t forget to put some thought and effort into how you’re going to DELIVER your presentation if you want to gain a true advantage!

NOTE: Truly lacking time and creativity? Check out the fast and fabulous work that professional design services like 24Slides can do.

Photo courtesy of:  Pedro Ribeiro Simões  Flickr


presentation design, slide deck

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