Last Minute Presentation Design

So you did it again.

You had months to draft your story, create your slides, and practice your talk. But here you are, a few days away from the big moment and not even close to ready.

But don’t worry, all is not lost.

The Assumption

So I am going to assume that you have actual *expertise. Something to communicate to a receptive audience. And even if your slide deck isn’t ready, I bet you’ve given at least some thought to what you have to offer an audience.

*If not, just put a bunch of jargon-heavy gibberish on your slides with lots of bullet points and call it a day. Hopefully the audience will get so bored they won’t notice that you have nothing of value to give.

Identify Your Takeaways

I like to start my last minute presentation designs by thinking about the main takeaway point. If the audience gets nothing else out of the presentation, this is the thing I want them to remember.

Now what are some of the main sub-points? Usually these will work together to build up to, and reinforce, the main takeaway. Depending on the length of presentation, you might have a handful.

Want a little help coming up with these takeaways? This is the perfect opportunity to use a mind map. Just write down “What are my key takeaways?” in the center of a piece of paper and start writing down everything that comes to mind.

You can read about how Tom and David Kelley mind map here. It’s a good guide.

Find a Storyline

Your presentation will be much easier to design if you can build it into a familiar narrative structure.

You can use Kurt Vonnegut’s Story Shapes, Nancy Duarte’s Heartbeat, Dan Roam’s Storylines, or maybe even fold it all into the Hero’s Journey.

Even if you don’t use a storyline, you should at least use a storyboard. Just write down all of your takeaways on post it notes or slips of paper. Then add additional post it notes as lead ins or supports to the takeaways.

Put all of these post it notes in order and you’ll have the basic outline of your slide deck.

Time to Create Your Slides

Don’t open Power Point or Keynote just yet. If you start there you are far too likely to end up with a bunch of bullet points nobody will appreciate.

Canva has a nice set of presentation slide templates. So why not start there?

Just keep in mind that some of the presentation templates are far more suited to slide docs (with more writing than you would want when presenting to a room).

Basic Illustration

Your slides are NOT the presentation. YOU, and the words you speak, are the presentation. The slides should serve the words you say, not simply repeat them.

For example, say you are giving a presentation about a bird. You could use a slide with a bird, a nest, an egg, or a bucket of chicken. Notice how each choice changes the story.

Drawing Images

The easiest way to create last minute presentations is to draw your own. That way every slide is an original.

If you have an iPad, I suggest using ProCreate. But there are a number of tablet drawing apps regardless of the device you own.

If you don’t have a tablet, take out some printer paper and grab a sharpie. Then use a scanning app on your smart phone to digitize (I like genius scan). Now-a-days simple visuals and illustrations seem more “professional” than generic stock images.

Finding Images

Okay, so you’re like most of the people I work with and will NOT draw your own pictures. Here are a few options for you.

Try going super simple, use clean colorful slides with nice icons. You can illustrate just about anything using icons from the Noun Project.

Find clean royalty-free stock images on Unsplash. Just keep in mind that even the best stock images are often pretty generic and overused.

Purchase a pack of handcrafted design assets through Creative Market.

What Next?

Most presenters finish their slides and then stop designing. Bad move.

In contemporary design there should always be a next step. For far too many people the next step is their out-of-context bullet heavy slide deck uploaded to the conference website. But you can do better.

Try using a Spark Page to turn your presentation into an interactive infographic. Give your audience the link when you’re done presenting.

Or maybe turn your presentation into a LinkedIn article [like this one]. Not only will it give them somewhere to go after the presentation, it will also personally connect them with you.

Send them to a landing page for handouts (a digital place where they give you their email in exchange for a set of downloads you offer). This could be as simple as a TinyLetter email newsletter where you stick a Google Drive folder link in the “thank you for signing up” email.

Like these tips?

I’m in the process of rebuilding diydatadesign, my online information design workshop teaching students how to effectively communicate research, evaluation, and other data.

It’s not open for enrollment now, but join the waitlist and I’ll let you know when it opens back up.