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Many people dread giving presentations, and just as many dread watching them. Surprisingly, the same problem can sometimes account for both reactions: a bad presentation is just as boring to give as it is to watch. On the other hand, if you design a great presentation you’ll enjoy giving it, and your audience will enjoy watching it.

Get Creative With Images…

One of the single best ways to turn a presentation from flabby into fantastic is to ditch the stock photographs and clip art that most people include. When you’re designing a presentation it’s typically your first instinct to include generic images and art just for the sake of putting something on the slide, but it’s an instinct you should ignore. The idea that any old photo is better than no photo at all is simply not true. The truth is, empty space is better than a bad photo or a generic piece of clip art.

Instead of sticking with safe, generic, and boring “business” images of people in suits shaking hands, take the time to find images that are unique and relevant to your presentation, and make more of a visual impact. If those business images are relevant by all means include them, but thinking outside the box can make a presentation much more visually appealing, and tends to hold audience interest much more effectively.

…But Don’t Get Too Creative with Fonts

Images are perfect for adding simple visual interest, but when it comes to fonts, it’s not about visual interest, it’s about conveying important information quickly and easily. That means fonts need to be clean, simple, and easy to read. If you do want to add fancy elaborate fonts, keep it to just two or three words on a single slide.

Even if you stick to simple fonts, you can still make choices that reflect whatever image you want to project. For example, while sans serif fonts are good for projecting a modern and professional image, an older font like Times New Roman can project a more classic old-fashioned look. Whichever fonts you use, stick to just one or two and use them consistently throughout, and make sure all your text is readable at any distance in the presentation space.

Use Colour Sparingly to Add Interest and Impact

A rainbow of colour might seem like a nice idea, but typically such an approach just ends up looking messy and uncoordinated. You’ll end up with a more professional-looking presentation by sticking to a colour palette that comprises no more than four or five complementary colours. For example, by sticking to one main colour for text, you can add visual impact by highlighting important words in a different colour.

Minimise Text

Finally, remember that your slides should back up what you’re saying, not replace the speech element altogether. Most people include far too much text and data on their slides, which is a problem for two reasons. First, it typically means that slides are crowded with too much information, and look unprofessional and untidy. Second, it also means that the audience has to choose between listening and reading. Slides and speech should complement one another without having to compete for the audience’s attention. Always remember, the star of the show is supposed to be your speech, not your slides.