All planets in the solar system orbit the sun. Every presentation also needs a main center of gravity (COG), a key objective and purpose.
The COG must inform the data selection, narrative structure and content curation of every slide within each presentation, as well as the presentation as a whole.
Consider these steps to find your center of gravity to keep the audience—and the presenter—focused and engaged with your presentation.
1- Your deck needs a vision.
On a macro level, does the presentation cohesively, succinctly and compellingly work to deliver on its COG?
- Process: Keep your COG in mind from outline to storyboard, as you populate content and create your design.
- The Big Idea: What is the COG? Is it one big idea or several central themes?
- Storytelling: Have an intentionally developed narrative structure, flow and format.
- Selling vs Sharing: Presenter must decide whether she is trying to move the audience to action (i.e., selling her work) or merely informing the audience (i.e., sharing her work).
- Audience Segmentation: Presenter must consider the audience and evaluate their motivations/expectations.
- Cohesion: The presentation must be visually and structurally cohesive.
- Limit animation/transitions
- Use only one or two fonts throughout, with different font weights to create hierarchy/emphasis
- Limit font colors
- White or very dark/black backgrounds
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2- Each slide is both independent and part of the whole.
Each slide within the presentation must be evaluated to determine if it (a) furthers the main COG of the presentation, and (b) features its own center of gravity.
Conventional wisdom about presentation design is that one idea per slide is optimal for slide design. While that is a nice goal to strive for, its not necessarily realistic or practical given the amount of information that most corporate presenters must deliver. In those instances where one idea per slide is not achievable the better goal is one center of gravity at each moment in time. This technique is about controlling the audience’s attention at all times, and doing so with hierarchy, emphasis, words and visuals. Have one focus at any given point, and more slides is better (in order to get there). To make this happen:
- Don’t overstuff your slides
- Remember to leave white space
- Keep designs simple
- Consider using slide builds for stronger transitions
- Use proper margins, line spacing and leading for clarity
- Avoid having slides that are just walls of words—these make your audience choose between listening to you or reading the slide, and you want to keep their attention.
3- Stay focused on what matters most.
Each passage of text, each data chart or table, and every other item within each slide must both relate to your center of gravity. The presenter must be able to justify the existence of each given chart/table/piece of content. Don’t confused the viewer with multiple areas of focus at any point in time.
- Remember to leave white space
- Don’t be heavy handed with data—be willing to cut something that doesn’t really contribute to the whole.
- Know what you really want to say with your data. What’s the story in the data, and how does it relate to the main point you want to convey?
- Use font colors, shapes and sizes to emphasize what is important—but don’t go overboard with your color palette in charts and tables.
- Remember that above all, your slides need to be accurate, readable and tell your story.