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Dimitris Tsironis

Writing about world and technical stuff

Making Engaging Presentations

A brief intro

Many of my friends, being developers like me, have trouble when it comes down to design some basic stuff and that’s completely normal. Developers, although they create beautiful & elegant stuff, they don’t particularly like drawing lines and colours to compose something.

I’m one of those people that lies somewhere between; I have an excellent grasp of design, as well as a strong technical background. I like the idea of expressing my thoughts and put other people in a certain mood through design. And it’s essential, especially in our days, that the common user is used to high design standards.

So, there will be some time in everybody’s life that you’ll have to confront this untameable beast called PowerPoint or Keynote or whatever. But, mainly, as most things in the football we call Earth, is not about the tool you use, but how you use it. So, I thought it would be helpful if I shared some thoughts on this one.

1. Decide the theme of your presentation

Every presentation have a theme and your design should follow the theme closely without being on top of it. Content is the king, as they say. And your design should be in context. Imagine if you’re doing a technical presentation and you’re using a children’s party preset from PowerPoint. Hideous choice indeed!

2. Typefaces matter

It’s easier than ever to find a good quality typeface online. You should search something that will be in harmony with the theme of your presentation. For example, if you’re presenting about a cutting-edge technology, you don’t want to use neither a serif font nor a curly/hipster font. You should probably go with a modern, yet serious sans-serif font.

3. Colours is the single most important thing of design

Colours say more for you and your story than you would imagine. You should carefully use a colour palette, from sites like Colour Lovers, Dribbble etc. Just a tip here: not all palettes work well for a presentation. Firstly, some palettes have too much contrast you’ll end up tiring your viewers' eyes. Also, chances are that you’re going to present in a shitty projector that doesn’t care about what colour profiles you have in your computer. And as Yoda says:

“Wise with your colours choices, you should be. Herh, herh, herh”.

I mean, he’s Yoda! He should know better than any of us!

4. Use HUGE font sizes

You don’t want to start presenting and all you hear from your audience is “we can’t see your slides, maaaan. You’re lame!! Booh!”. Audiences tend to be harsh with presenters and for that, you have to facilitate things for them as much as possible. So you should multiply your normal font size times three. For example, normal text size should be around 30 points, and title 60 or 90 points. But I personally use different font sizes in each presentation, as the design changes. You can also use font sizes to emphasise some text you want to be “boom! in their faces”.

5. Find beautiful images on Flickr

Another nice trick you can do is to use wonderful images that describe or have something to do with your content. Flickr is full of great looking photographs and some of that are under Creative Commons license which means you can use it, well, almost for anything, depending what the author indicates.

6. 100-words paragraphs are no good!

Last but least, I beg you! Don’t put your entire talk in your slides. It is maybe the most common mistake I see in people’s presentations. They most likely write what they have to tell in their presentation and then, they just read it out loud to their audience. It’s boring and you’ll end up awkward as hell, reading your own words. Instead, you should use small, comprehensive titles with a small, more analytical subtitle. And that’s about it. Also, unordered lists are a great way to summarise your slide content and also, have a flow to use while you’re presenting.

So, how can you get started? You should definitely check out the following links

  1. Zach Holman’s presentations
  2. You suck at PowerPoint
  3. Check other presentations
  4. Colour Lovers
  5. Dribbble