Design Tip

10 design mistakes to avoid in your next presentation.


Matt Smith

Sep 10, 2020

10 minutes read

Presentations can be hard.

Just the thought of them can stir up all sorts of doubts in people and the finished product can often be downright cringeworthy.

More than 92% of people place the most importance on visual perceptions when embracing a new idea.

“74% of buyers pick the sales rep that first added value and insights.”

Mistake #1: Using a stock template.

Slide themes are overused, boring and pretty ugly. Create cleaner presentations by starting with a clean presentation and building from there.

PowerPoint themes = Death by PowerPoint.

Mistake #2: No love given to your cover slide.

Like I mentioned up top: More than 92% of people place the most importance on visual perceptions when embracing a new idea. A well designed cover slide can grab your audience’s attention, so why not make it kick arse? Use the cover slide to inform your audience about the topic and tone.

Mistake #3: Using a whole rainbow of colours.

There’s no reason your professional presentation should look like the crowd at Splendour In The Grass. Keep your palette to five colours or less. Incorporating every colour under the rainbow doesn’t make your presentation more exciting, it just becomes distracting.

Mistake #4: Making a photo collage.

This is a business presentation, not holiday pics you’re posting to Insta. Make any photos you use a strong brand asset. Try and limit yourself to one photo per slide with little to no text. And avoid stock photos. Use high quality, free-as-you-like sites – namely Unsplash.

Mistake #5: Telling your data, not showing it.

Data is a king and always adds value to your story. There’s no need to write out a percentage. It is likely to get lost in your copy. Instead, ball-out with an eye catching and memorable pie-chart. Always visualise your data!

Mistake #6: Making your font too small.

It seems simple, yet it’s a common mistake. If you think it might be hard to read… it is 100% going to be hard to read for your audience. Your message needs to pop, if you need to keep making the font smaller to fit your text, then you have too much copy. Size 20 font is ideal and 14 is the absolute minimum your font should be.

Mistake #7: Using uneven spacing and alignment.

Even to the untrained eye, erratic and dodgy spacing, font sizes and alignment makes your pitch deck look cheap and rushed. Consistency is key in order to educate and persuade your audience. Floating text blocks and random design elements will be sure to make your audience question your professionalism.

Mistake #8: Writing ‘Shantaram’.

Sure, it’d be great to read while self-actualising on your 3-month holiday backpacking through Nepal. But not in your pitch. Use your slides as anchors for your speech. Show points, not paragraphs. The golden rule is keep text to six lines or less.

Mistake #9: Abusing your dot points.

Try not to go bullet point crazy. Just because you have a lot to say doesn’t mean you can put 20 bullet points on the slide. Try to only share one idea per page. Choose the best points you have, and showcase them.

Mistake #10: Using visual transitions.

There is almost never an OK time to use a transition slide. Nobody is going to think “I was really dazzled by that zoom transition effect between slide 7-8”. It’s distracting and boring. Just don’t do it, please.

Let’s recap:

1. Write highlights; not manuscripts

2. Add colour; not rainbows

3. Go bold; not big

4. Stay classy, always

Want some presentation design inspiration?

• Check out our case studies – in particular the work we did with Genentech for their Campus 2.0

• Mosey through our curated Presentation Design Pinterest Board

• Of course, if you need a little help with your communications, we’d love to chat.

Matt Smith
Design and Creativity Consultant

Matt has 15 years experiences in the creative industry and is currently completing his Masters in Creativity and Change Leadership at Buffalo State, New York.

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