Reset your way of designing presentations
A couple of weeks ago I came across Nancy Duarte’s book Slide:ology. It is a wonderful book! Her mission is to drag people away from designing dreadful PowerPoint slides. She rather wants us to dive into more visually tasteful (and powerful!) way of communicating with our audiences.
Duarte’s attempt to sensitise us to the fact that bad design can ruin the message. She is somewhat in line with what Marshall McLuhan, a social researcher, did almost half a century ago: McLuhan coined the expression the medium is the message. His contribution to media theory was to pinpoint that you cannot ignore the medium, because it flavours and often speaks louder than the content of what one is communicating. While McLuhan’s point of view today is a widely share matter of fact, Duarte’s call for better business communication still rings true.
Do without PowerPoint while you are thinking
Duarte suggests that PowerPoint heroes should consider putting away the PowerPoint tool for a second and rather think and work for a while without the tool. Instead, start workin on your key message without letting the communication tool mess up what is on your mind.
She encourages her readers to learn to think like a designer:
- Reflect upon the shapes and forms you use in the slides
- Concentrate on your key message: how can you build a bridge to your audience rather than alienate them with your slides?
- Does content and message make sense the way you present it?
- Don’t start working in PowerPoint until you’ve doodled around with a colleague on a piece of paper or a white board first. The ideas and message is inside your head, not inside the computer tool.
The photo above is taken from one of her presentation (with Ms Duarte in front of the screen). The illustration is taken from her book and shows an interesting case of brainstorming upon the classical issue of how to illustrate a term like ‘partnership’ well. A traditional way of illustrating it could for instance be a handshake. I did a quick Google search for ‘partnership’. The photos below are two examples of what I found at the top of my search. I find the pictures terribly dull, though quite typical for lots of poorly done slides presentations.
Think in metaphors!
One of Nancy Duarte’s key point is to think out of the box when designing your slides. If you want to illustrate a partnership with a business companion, don’t use a photo which literally spells out ‘partnership’. Think in metaphors, use your imagination, play around for 10 minutes with a colleague. That’s what she did in the illustration at the top of this post. She asked herself: “What’s complementary to each other in sports, food, work, domestic scene, and so forth?” She came up with lots of complementary examples.
Duarte inspired me. Therefore I shot a few photos according to her suggestions. My idea was to look for what elements are complementary to each other in some of the categories she mentioned and illustrate elements that turn fairly useless without the other.