Anyone can totally trash a boring bullet-point laden presentation slide deck. But it takes someone special to turn that boring slide deck into something sleek and noteworthy. Stephanie Evergreen, who led AEA’s potent presentations initiative, is one of those special people.
I asked Stephanie about some of the common mistakes she sees on a regular basis when working with slide decks and about the steps presenters should take to fix the mistakes. Her answers sparked this post.
About the Illustrations
Stephanie gets all the credit for the mistakes and solutions, the cartoons are my contribution.
Before we get to the cartoons, I want to extend a big THANK YOU to everyone who endorsed me on LinkedIn following last week’s post. Your encouragement keeps me cartooning!
A few notes:
- If you like the post, write a comment and let me know.
- Share it with colleagues. Seeing people sharing my cartoons inspires me to create more cartoons.
- Are there any other common presentation mistakes that bug you? Let us know in the comments.
- Please feel free to use my cartoons in presentations, training materials, etc.
Presentation mistake: Slides crammed full of text.
Stephanie’s solution: Edit like a boss and save the real content for what comes out of your mouth. Limit slide text to keywords.
Presentation mistake: Slides with background textures
Stephanie’s solution: The safest bet is a solid background – either very light or very dark. Slide backgrounds are not wallpaper – they should be used to set a mood.
Presentation mistake: Using cliche images
Stephanie’s solution: Dig deeper to get beyond the cliche. Think about real life metaphors that might apply. Pull together a few people from around the coffee machine and ask them what visuals come to mind when you say a few keywords about your topic.
Presentation mistake: Images that conflict with the content
Stephanie’s solution: Unless you are intentionally trying to confuse people, match the mood of the image to the content of the presentation. If you can’t find anything that works, it’s better to use no image at all.
Presentation mistake: Highlighter-bright colors
Stephanie’s solution: The spirit of your favorite bright color can still live on – just add more gray to the mix so it is darker and less irritating to corneas. When you see the slider bar that lets you adjust the color, drag it down into the dark range.
Presentation mistake: Tons of references
Stephanie’s solution: Raise your right hand and repeat after me: I will cut the references from my slides and paste them into a handout.
Other common mistakes
What other presentation mistakes do you see on a regular basis? Let us know in the comments and maybe you’ll spark a new cartoon.
Update 1: Presentation Mistake: Dataviz for the sake of Dataviz
This update based on Isaac Castillo’s comment below.
Isaac’s guidance: If it takes more than 15 seconds for a person to look at your slide to understand your data viz message, then your message is not clear. Simplify it, make it a handout, or chunk it out into multiple graphics (each one with a simple message).