Design Basics: How To Design An Engaging Presentation

November 14, 2022

While being an expert in your field and a professional public speaker would give you a leg up when it comes to giving a presentation, there's more to it than stage presence that makes your speech a success.

Gone are the days where business decks and presentation slides can be slapped together haphazardly as an afterthought. With all the tools you have in hand, a bad presentation is frowned upon and seen as unprofessional or amateurish. If you can’t even demonstrate basic design skills and technical literacy, you’re in trouble.

Does this matter? I have awesome content.

Show your title slide with Times New Roman (or worse.. Comic Sans. Gasp!) and you’re preparing your audience for a really boring speech ahead. Cue the audience to whip out their smartphone to check on their latest social media feed, you’ve already lost them. Being an expert means nothing to them if you don’t have good design backing you up right at the get go. First impressions matter!


Ready to get started? Here are 7 key ingredients to an amazing presentation:

1. Content Is King

Now we’re at the good stuff. I’m sure you’ve heard this before. You should have a solid guideline in place before starting on your design journey. Those points should be written down so that you can focus on getting those ideas across to your audience. While it’s tempting to put absolutely everything you can think of into a slide, don’t. Stick to 1 main idea per slide with no more than 5 lines of text. You’re supposed to be the one presenting your ideas. The slides aren’t there as your crutch or cue cards. Have your speech added into the Notes section or print them out on actual placards. Keep the text short and brief with only the highlights included. Want to see a great presentation? Check this out. There are nearly 6 million views on it at Slide Share.  

2. Fonts

As you should know, there are a TON of fonts you can go for - take a peek at Google Fonts for some inspiration. Before getting carried away with all those fancy font types, be sure to stick with something that’s legible. It’s advisable to use larger San-Serif fonts as opposed to Serif fonts. Try Open Sans, Roboto or Helvetica if you can’t decide. As for font colors, go with something darker like dark grey on a white background. Those seated at the back of the room will thank you for your kindness.

3. Colors

In this case, less is more. Pick 2 or 3 colors at the most, each with its own purpose (main and accents). Be mindful that the colors you pick can match your images well. Last thing you want are colors that contrast too much with the pictures you curated. Not sure what colors to pick? Head over to Adobe Colors for some inspiration. Click on the Create tab to see the color wheel. Opposing colors on the wheel are complementary and are meant to show contrast. Colors next to each other are harmonious and can work well together for a unified look.

4. Images & Videos

Use high quality images. Unless it’s intentional, pixelated images are a no-go. Look for authentic imagery that can help support your message. Avoid stock images that look cheesy or uninteresting. It’ll also be good to note that using a single image is preferred as too many overlapping images can get distracting and lose focus. The exception to this rule is in a grid or gallery where you’re only displaying images without text. Need awesome images? There’s a wide selection of them on Unsplash, Burst and Pexels. You can also opt for videos if those are available. To add a video, click on Menu>Insert>Video. Add the video from your local drive. If it’s from Youtube, the process is the same. The only difference is that you’ll have to find the embed link by clicking on the Share >Embed button under the video. Copy this string to the Video Embed code field.


5. Skip The Transitions

Are we in the 90s doing grade school projects? Fonts flying in or images swiping out may seem like a good idea back then but they really aren’t. You want your audience to be engaged with you, not your transitions and animation. Focus on what matters the most and that’s you and your content.

6. Consistency, Alignment & White Space

It may seem like a great idea to have every slide look unique and different from the last but again it isn’t. Just like transitions, consistency gives your slides a unified look. To keep everything in the right place, make use of the master template when creating your slides. Keep your guides and grids open when adding your content. The neat thing about guidelines is that the elements will snap right into place and can be in the same exact spots across all the other slides. Click on the View tab and ensure the check boxes for Guides are marked. The master template can be edited on the same tab too. Not sure how any of these work? Download a free Powerpoint template with Guides on our Free Resources page.

7. Call To Action

At the end, leave a lasting impression and an interesting idea with your audience. What’s the key takeaway from all of this? Why did your presentation matter? Sum it all up and get them to take action. It could be to save the environment or to follow you on Twitter. Whatever it is, do something that’ll remind them of the short time you’ve spent together. If you’ve executed this marvelously, expect a standing ovation accompanied by a roaring applause. If neither of those are happening, at least you can take pleasure in knowing that your audience was paying attention and you weren’t booed off the stage.

Ready to get started on your presentation design? Go make your ideas into reality today! We’ll be continuing our series of design basics on our blog with consistent new content. If you need help with presentation design or have a question, feel free to drop us a message.

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