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INFOGRAPHIC: Presentation Design: The Easy Way or The Hard Way

Download a PDF of this infographic here.

Download a PDF of this infographic here.

Make it easy. Make it convenient. These are the driving forces of our modern economy. Hungry for a waffle? No need to bother with flour and eggs, just pop an Eggo in your toaster. Need a bookshelf? No need to spend days measuring and cutting boards, pick up a Liatorp at your local IKEA and assemble it yourself in under an hour. Need to communicate with your colleague across the hall? No need to walk, just send them an email or an instant message.

In my world— the world of presentation design—it’s easier than ever to “view, edit, or create impactful presentations wherever you are.”1 With the advent of slideware in the 1980s there’s been a steady progression of shortcuts, features, and tools to help users create “impactful” presentations on the fly. To ease our way, software developers have have packed menu bars, panels and buttons with transitions, animations, chart wizards, templates, clip art, and more.

The Easy Way to Design Presentations (Click to Enlarge)

The problem with this “push button” presentation design is evident in the almost universal disdain people have for PowerPoint. The cultural meme of “Death by Powerpoint” is the direct result of an over saturation of poorly designed, templatized, and ill-conceived slide decks. In addition, the ease and convenience of building presentations has constricted timeline expectations. How many times have you, or someone you know, declared  “I was up until 1 a.m. last night throwing my slides together…”? Sounds like a presentation to look forward to. All too often, the “deck” is an afterthought, or worse, a series of cue cards to be read out loud to a captive audience.

The pressure to do more with less is real. Software shortcuts and plug-and-play workflows can meet the challenge of demanding schedules and placate deadline-driven managers, but the real victim is meaningful and effective communication.

Yes, many presentations are merely updates or report-backs, but even these presentations require an effective delivery of important information. Any presentation which asks the audience to do something—take action or change behavior—is worth doing the hard way.

The Hard Way to Design Presentations (click to enlarge)

As much as I enjoy modern conveniences like TV remotes and drive-thru cappuccinos, I truly believe some things are better done the hard way—like communicating to an audience. It doesn’t take much effort to create a distracting, unnecessary, and uninteresting slide presentation. It is much harder to carve out time; to analyze and consider your audience; to develop, critique and revise your slides. It takes commitment to memorize and practice your content and deliver your messages in a genuine and purposeful way.

If you’re willing to put in the time and effort, I invite you to join me for an upcoming workshop on October 10th at the Wellstone Center in St. Paul. In Advance Your Slides, I will be teaching attendees the hard way to develop presentations—it’s also a fun way. This full day class will break down and explore every facet of truly effective presentations. If you live in the Greater Twin Cities area, please join me. I’m already working on my presentation—hope to see you there.