Founders, small business owners and freelancers often have to create presentations to introduce their business to potential clients. But not all presentations are created equal. While it’s true that charisma is key to success, an ah-mazing visual presentation can have a strong influence on your clients’ or investors’ tendency to check out your business.

That said, why should you take the design of your presentation seriously? Are visual aids that important?

Um, yes.

slide deck for a creative studio
A great presentation can have a huge impact on how your audience perceives your brand. So make it count. Powerpoint design by magicball.

Here are some ways clean, clear and engaging presentations can help your business:

Marketing: A presentation that offers clear information about your business can help you attract people and institutions that are willing to fund your app, project or startup. These investors are more likely to give their money to business owners who have a well-designed pitch deck that can persuade them to get onboard.

Messaging: You can deliver a great speech but don’t expect listeners to remember and hang onto every word you say. Most people want a simple summary of what your business offers, your goals or objectives, and your plans to get there. A great presentation can help summarize your message to audiences.

Engagement: The best presentations have visuals and designs that can make audiences laugh, keep them interested and get your points across.

But what, exactly makes a presentation irresistible? How can you sustain your listeners interest in your business—instead of feeling they wasted their time?

In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know! By the end of this guide to designing presentations, you’ll have the know-how you need to create engaging decks—the kind that will net you new clients and customers.

1. Get software savvy

First things first, you’ll need to choose a presentation software that allows you to create professional and clean slides, which represent your business.

The most powerful presentation softwares include: Powerpoint, Keynote and Google Slides. What’s the difference between these three? Let’s dig into some of the pros and cons of each package:

PowerPoint

Silverarrow PowerPoint template
Powerpoint template via Jeomar Concepts for SilverArrow

Powerpoint is a part of the Microsoft Office Suite and it is very popular amongst Windows users. Its advantages include:

  • File types supported: It supports PowerPoint and Office formats, including .pdf, .xps, .mp4, .wmv, .odp, .gif, .jpg, .png, .gif, .bmp, .tif, .wmf, .emf, and .rtf
  • Ease of use: The controls and navigation are familiar to users who’ve had experiences with Microsoft products. It also offers basic tutorial and includes Microsoft technical support.
  • Animation and effects: Includes professional transitions and more than 50 effects.
  • Includes a diverse selection of beautiful themes, backgrounds and fonts

Despite its large user base and popularity, Powerpoint has its faults:

  • Hard to collaborate: Microsoft isn’t the best tool to use if you’re collaborating with designers, marketers or co-founders—to make your presentation. You’ll need to save the document to Onedrive and invite the users you want to work with.
  • Limited creativity: A lot of users rely on PowerPoint templates, which can limit one’s ability to create presentations that truly represent their brand or business. This is why it’s important to think about your visuals and themes. Or work with a professional designer who can create a customized Powerpoint template for your brand.

Keynote

the emmerich group Keynote template
Keynote template via Luisaferd

Keynote is a presentation software application designed for Mac, iOS and iCloud. Here are its advantages and disadvantages:

Pros:

  • Export options: It exports to .pdf, various PowerPoint files, QuickTime, HTML, Images, and Keynote 2009
  • User-friendly interface: It’s easy to navigate for first-time users and anyone with computer knowledge can easily learn its various tools and features.
  • Use in multiple devices: Use iCloud to sync your presentation to multiple devices and edit it with an iPad or iPhone.
  • Animation and effects: Includes 30 different build animations and 40 transition effects.
  • Like Powerpoint, it includes a diverse selection of beautiful themes, backgrounds and fonts

Cons:

  • Available on Mac only: If you want to edit your Keynote presentation on a PC, then you’re out of luck. That’s not possible. Alternatively, you can export your file in a .ppt format and edit it with another PC presentation software.
  • Fewer help files: Users complain that Keynote offers fewer help files than Powerpoint. However, you can visit the Apple Support Community for Keynote if you have any questions.

Google Slides

Google Slides is a free, web-based software office suite offered by Google within its Google Drive. It offers a number of features that are great for users, such as:

Pros:

Google Slides
via Google Slides.
  • Real-time collaboration: Do you want to create presentations with your designers, marketers and other people from your team? You can use Google Slides to collaborate on the same presentation no matter which devices you’re using. All changes are automatically saved as you type.
  • Web-based: Do you want to embed the presentation in your website? You can easily link or embed your document via Google Slides.
  • Templates and themes: Google Drive has a variety of pitches, portfolios and other pre-made presentations
  • Export options: You can export your Google slides as Microsoft PowerPoint files and vice-versa.

Cons:

  • Google Account required: You and your collaborators need a Google account to access the file.
  • Animation and effects: Google Slides has about 15 effects, fewer than Keynote and Powerpoint.

Consider these pros and cons when deciding which software you’ll use for your presentation so you can start off on the right foot when it comes to creating your slides.

2. Think about content and style

The presentations you create should reflect your business’ style, identity and personality. If you don’t have a design background, here are a few rules to keep in mind:

Define your brand identity and brand style

sports presentation by Elevaanto
Presentation design by Elevaanto.

No matter what type of promotional material you’re creating, it needs to be in line with your brand’s personality. If your brand were a person, it should visually feel like it. If you’re not sure how to define your brand’s personality, read our guide on brand identity.

Defining your brand’s personality is crucial to your success. Your brand’s style—and therefore the look of your presentation—will depend on your brand’s personality, so get clear on your identity and then define your style based on that. This will give you a baseline for all your brand collateral and everything will end up looking aligned with who you are. For example, if you’re a fun and friendly candy company that uses bright colors in your packaging, using a minimalist theme in your presentation won’t make sense from a branding perspective.

If you don’t already have a brand style guide that defines your look, now’s the time to create one. Here’s how.

Plan your presentation

Next up you need to work out exactly what you want to say. Before you start designing your presentation you need to know what points you want to get across, what information you need to include and what graphics or charts you want to show your audience.

Once you have a solid plan for what each slide should say, you can start thinking about the design.

Find the right fonts

If you already have brand fonts, use them in your presentation for a consistent look. If you haven’t picked any yet, choose fonts that suit the style your brand is going for. Remember that the best fonts for block of text are simple and reliable. With your headlines you can get more adventurous. For instance, use Arial as the default font for your presentation’s body copy. Its stylish, super readable and easily available. Then pick something more unique for your titles. Just make sure to combine fonts that go well together.

You can discover font combinations through sites like Google Fonts, Fonts In Use and Canva Font Combinations.  Read our article on how to select fonts for more information.

Choose your colors

PANTONEVIEW Home + Interiors 2018 Kit
PANTONEVIEW Home + Interiors 2018 Kit via PANTONE®

Color is powerful. Color can represent your brand, set the mood for your presentation, impact the audience’s perception, and influence their actions.

Most brands have a color scheme in place, so stick to that palette for the most part. But you also want to think about the tone and purpose of your presentation and adjust your color choice slightly to fit. Check out this guide on color meanings to find out which colors will work best according to color psychology. Are you a tech startup in a new field? You might want to use more serious colors like blue or grey that represent professionalism and dependability. Is your presentation targeting young audiences? Create a youthful color scheme with yellow and orange. Are you in the food, farming or healthcare industry? Consider incorporating the color green which, according to color psychology, symbolizes growth, prosperity, safety and endurance. Adobe Color is a good tool to help you pick a color palette.

The more precise you are at choosing your color schemes, the more effective you’ll be at communicating your message.

3. Use icons and images

paradise themed PowerPoint template
Powerpoint template via Sali Design for OceanScape Yachts

They say images are worth a thousand words, and rightly so. Researchers call this the superiority effect, meaning pictures enable people to remember things in greater detail and for a longer time period, compared to reading. Ideally, you have some high-quality photos that show your business and what you do. Of course, if you’re talking about a product, it’s best to incorporate product photos in your presentation.

You can also get great images on different free stock photography sites, or—if you need something more specific—you can look into paid stock services. Just make sure you don’t pick generic images—get creative and use photos that are unique or create your own.

Pictures are a great way to illustrate your ideas, but you don’t want to go overboard. Use icons throughout your presentation to represent things visually and to leave something to the imagination. You can find icons on sites like the Noun Project, which has more than a million icons you can use for free.

4. Visualize your data

Next, visualize the data you want to include with charts, tablets and timelines.

Charts

Reveal markets PowerPoint template
Powerpoint template via Adrian Hufsa

Charts are a popular way to represent numerical data.

A good tip is to use familiar chart types such as area, bar, line or pie charts. You might be tempted to experiment with unique charts to improve the aesthetic, but its more important for your audience to understand the data at first glance.

Remember to also incorporate brand-related colors into your chart for visual consistency and brand recognition.

Timelines

Rover Infographic
Powerpoint template via 99spy

Want to illustrate your plans and projects to potential clients, customers and investors? Use timelines to illustrate events and milestones.

Tables

presentation for halfy hour
Presentation design by mollusca.

Tables are the ideal way to represent structured data, comparisons, competition and financial data.

There are plenty of tools out there which can help you present your data as visually stunning tables, charts and graphs. Powerpoint, Keynote and Google Slides all have graph options built in to create graphs or charts, which present your data in a visual and digestible way. However, if you want yours to look more unique, it’s worth designing your own custom graphs.

5. Keep it simple

A crucial step is to make everything look professional and polished.

The perfect presentation shouldn’t distract from what you’re saying. Instead, it should support you, offer supplemental information and draw listeners in. You want to keep readers engaged with your vision, products and business. An effective use of whitespace and a mix of various backgrounds will do that for you.

Change management overview
PowerPoint template via Vlad Bagacian for TimberArrow

Use whitespace

Once you’ve added all your images, illustrations and charts, take a look at the whitespace. Check if there is enough space surrounding each section of text and each visual element. Plenty of whitespace will make your points easier to understand for your listeners and draw attention to the most important ones.

Also make sure that your presentation is not too lengthy and that every piece of information is relevant to your audience. Remember to never overcrowd your slides. You don’t want put too much content on one slide because it’ll seem too cluttered and confusing.

6. Make it interesting

Mix up your background

The background is one of the most noticeable elements in your presentation. That said—you don’t want to use the same background for the entire presentation because your visuals will seem static and boring. On the other hand, you don’t want them to be so attention-grabbing that they take away from the content.

HTP powerpoint template
Powerpoint template via Stanojevic for HTP

A good tip is to use a mix of backgrounds: filled, plain and image-based.

Now, should you use an image-based background on every third slide? The combinations and sequences you choose really depend on the content you’re presenting and which background works best for which piece of information. As long as you remember to mix-up your backgrounds, your slides will be engaging and interesting, instead of plain and boring.

Be different

And lastly, try to think outside the box and be a little different. Your presentation will only engage your audience if it has interesting content and visuals that stand out from all the other brands out there. At first glance your presentation should communicate what’s special about you. Do all your competitors use plain white an grey presentations? Add a little color to yours! Is everyone in your industry using walls of text to make their points? Integrate some nice visuals to make it more interesting. Perhaps it could even be a little funny and tongue-in-cheek if that suits your brand personality. Take the leap and let your design be a bit different.

Wow your audience!

It’s not easy to create a well-designed presentation, but trust us, it will be worth the effort. A great presentation can help you communicate effectively with your audience, introduce your business and net clients or investors.

If you really want your presentation design to knock it out of the park, it’s a good idea to find a graphic designer to create it for you. A professional designer will know exactly how to combine text, graphics, colors and background in a way that gets your point across in the most effective and beautiful way.

Want a presentation that will blow your audience away?
Work with a professional designer to create exactly what you need.
About the author

Monique Danao is a writer and content creator with an expertise in marketing, design and SEO. When she’s not writing, you’ll find her enjoying funky food, listening to music and marketing startups. Check out her website or say hi on Twitter.