Wednesday, July 14, 2010

10 Rules of Presentation Graphics

If you're reading this blog, hopefully that means you are a believer in the power of visuals. And I'm not talking about adding pretty pictures because you want to keep your audience awake. Graphics need to be polished and professional in appearance and need to follow certain rules to be effective—and keep your audience's attention.

Below are ten rules to ensure that you design a winning presentation.

1. Use graphics to highlight your features, benefits, and discriminators (that may otherwise be lost in a sea of words). Remember to answer your audience’s questions. Use your graphic to highlight the most salient, audience-focused points. Make it obvious why the information communicated is important and valuable to them. Point out features, benefits, and discriminators when applicable.

2. Make all graphics customer focused. For example, which slide would be more communicative to the United States Army (A or B)?

Slide A focuses on the target audience and uses terms and imagery that they can understand and relate to. It addresses issues the Army cares about. The likelihood that the slide will clearly communicate the intended messages significantly increases. Slide B is focused on the presenter and what they want to say about themselves without regard to their audience. The presenter of slide B failed to learn more about the target audience (and the slide reflects that fact). They present slide B as if they were presenting to another business within their industry instead of catering to the potential client.

3. Keep it clean and simple. Unnecessary visual clutter and too much data interfere with audience understanding. Focus on the most important questions your audience has. You cannot achieve the primary objective if your target audience cannot quickly digest your visual or is confused by the graphic. If your graphic is too verbose or complex, suggest using another standalone graphic to communicate what could not be included in one visual. Avoid using too many different images, lines, shapes, patterns, textures, and colors. Doing so helps eliminate unnecessary visual noise that interferes with your graphic’s primary objective. The following are examples of unnecessarily cluttered visuals.

4. Adhere to the “rules of engagement” to ensure compliance and maximum consideration, if your presentation responds to an formal RFP (Request for Proposal). Presentations have been thrown out because of noncompliance. It would be a waste of money, time, and energy to lose because your team failed to follow the formatting requirements.

5. Use a template
with graphic and text style guides, palette, and sample imagery. The more detail, the better. Templates help guarantee consistency and consistency breeds trust. Choose colors and imagery that reflect your client. If you want to be safe, choose analogous (colors that appear next to one another on the color wheel).

6. Label elements directly to avoid confusion. When depicting steps in a process, label them as such. The clearer your labels the more effective your clarification and/or explanation. As a result your graphic is more likely to be successful. Avoid legends. Legends add visual clutter and force the audience to waste valuable time deciphering your message. Plus, your audience will not have time to properly read the legend if the graphic appears on a slide.

7. Use recognizable images or quickly identify and explain any unknown imagery. If an image of a new concept, entity, or action is introduced that is not recognized, understood, or quickly defined, the intended messages will be clouded or lost. If a new element is introduced, define it. Share its relevance with your audience.

8. All visual elements should have a specific role in the explanation and a reason for being chosen and incorporated. This rule includes, but is not limited to, images, icons, symbols, shapes, colors, fonts, line weight, placement, and size. All aesthetic decisions should have a reason for being used that contributes to your graphic’s primary objective.

9. Avoid clip art. Canned, unprofessional art tells the audience that they were not important enough to take the time to develop a professional presentation. Support your claim that you offer the best solution with professionally rendered, clear, communicative, compelling graphics. Be sure to verify that your design resource is a professionally trained designer and experienced in the software required to complete the task. A professional graphic designer understands how to engage an audience, communicate a concept, and generate a positive emotional state through the use of appealing aesthetics.

10. Properly plan. Staff and schedule to allow an average of one to four hours per graphic—depending upon image complexity (includes edits); one graphic per slide (best case scenario); and one page per minute for full color printing (accounts for printing challenges such as power failures, breakdowns, etc.).

Apply these 10 rules the next time you are designing your presentation. They can also apply to any materials where you use graphics to communicate your concepts to reach your audience and keep their attention.


Want to learn more rules and helpful lessons for better presentations? Why not attend The Presentation Summit? You'll be treated workshops that cover presentation design, PowerPoint tips, and many other workshops to improve the way you do presentations. Plus, it's in beautiful San Diego ... need I say more?