to Z of Effective Presentations
Now on the letter "D" this issue looks at
Design and Data
is for Design
busy executives, the idea of taking time out to plan the design
of their presentation slides is a foreign concept. But a little
bit of thought and consistency can go a long way.
If you are one of the many who picks a PowerPoint background at
random then it is time to thing again. All the backgrounds
provided by Microsoft have been used time and time again. As
soon as someone sees that perennial blue fade background with
the wavy lines across the top, they instantly remember the last
boring presentation they sat through and assume yours will be
To create an original looking background to your presentation,
try using a relevant photograph. The only problem is that most
photographs have a combination of light and dark, which can make
any text laid on top difficult to read. By making the background
image a "watermark" or giving it a high level of transparency,
you can create a unique a relevant background without
interfering with the legibility of the slides.
One thing that I approve of in the later release of PowerPoint is
the concept of themes, which include a range of colours, and
fonts for each theme. To the design illiterate like me, it means
that at least I can be confident that the various standard
colours I use through the presentation match, and that there is
a consistent use of fonts on every slide.
As for individual slides, the smallest font you should ever use
is 24pt, with most text being 32pt and titles even larger. See
elsewhere in this newsletter for information about why bullet
points are not a good idea.
Try to have just one concept for every slide. If you have 5
points to make, rather than having 5 bullet points, have five
different slides, each one with a descriptive and appropriate
My one final point on design concerns animation. Animation
should only be used if it actively contributes towards the
meaning of the slide. In particular don't use the spurious
animation techniques PowerPoint provides to move from one slide
to the next.
is for Data
Using data to back up your arguments is common across a wide
range of presentations. However, for data to be communicated in
a meaningful way takes some thought and planning.
Should it be in a table or on a graph? If a graph what type of
graph, histogram, bar chart, pie chart, scatter graph, or line
graph. Should the axis of the graph always start at zero?
The overriding principle as with many aspects of presenting has
to be KISS - Keep it simple.
Take for example this small
table of data showing the relative sales volumes of 4 products
over two years.
This could be graphed in a variety of different ways, including:
A line graph:
This is the wrong type of graph for these 4 independent points.
Line graphs are more appropriate for a series of data.
of the line between the points is meaningless as the points are
discrete values. Purely
by reordering the sequence of products we can produce a graph
which implies some improvement, when of course there is no such
A common trick if you want to emphasise the difference between
values on a histogram is to change the value at which the
horizontal axis is set. As can be seen below:
Technically speaking both of these graphs are correct, but the
one on the right highlights the differences more.
Be careful if you use 3-D charting styles, they can be very
misleading. The one on the left below is ok but the one on the
right really hides the differences between the data values of
the two series.
When creating graphs of your data, start with a clear idea of
what you want the graph to show, include only the data that is
relevant and then choose the style of graph which is consistent
with the data and highlights the differences in a visually
This is the second time through the alphabet for me, you can see
the previous D
for Dress and D
for Doing It on the
A to Z of Presenting blog
There will be some new "E" in the next newsletter.