Designing Your Presentation? Aaron Draplin Shows You What You’re Doing Wrong

Design on paper first

Like millions of other people around the world, you have a presentation to make.

And like millions of others, you’ll probably start by opening PowerPoint and putting some text and images on your slides.

Surely, this is the best way to make a presentation, right?

Wrong.

In fact, this is probably the worst way to create a presentation.

A good presentation requires time away from the computer.

Time to think.

Time to plan.

Time to get your ideas straight.

Time to get your message together.

Time to develop the visual feel of the slides.

Time to rehearse.

Sure, you’ll need to get text and images on your slides–eventually. But don’t start there. There’s a ton of value in sitting down with a pencil and paper long before you park yourself in front of the computer. Why? The ideas come much more freely when you work on paper, and you’re practically guaranteed to end up with something better.

Good graphic designers know this as well. Check out veteran designer Aaron Draplin in the video below (also linked here) as he walks you through the process of designing a logo from scratch.

Whether a logo or a poster or a joke or a presentation, the process works the same way.

Start on paper.

In fact, this is the very process we recommend in our 80-page Presentation Renovation eBook and audiobook–which you can download for free now.

9 Steps to Better Presentations: Part 4 – Minimize Text

9_-_A_Simple_Guide_to_Better_Presentations.014NOTE: This is the fourth in a series of posts taken from our guide 9: A Simple Guide to Better Presentations. Can’t wait and want to get it all now? Download the eBook for FREE here.

We don’t mean make your text smaller.

Your presentation is not a report. It’s a presentation. Your slides are there to support (not replace) you and your message.

Limit your text to just a few words per slide. Or maybe two or one.

Or none. See point #5.

Conserve electrons and reduce the amount of text on your slides.

Steal Apple’s Design Philosophy To Improve Your Presentations

At the World Wide Developer’s Conference (WWDC) this week, Apple unveiled some pretty cool things: upcoming versions of its operating systems for mobile devices (iOS 7) and desktop computers (MacOS X “Mavericks”) as well as the next generation of its professional desktop computer, the Mac Pro.

Preceding all the news and announcements, though, was a nifty little video that explained Apple’s design philosophy:

If you design and deliver presentations regularly, the tie-ins should be obvious:

  • People remember what they feel
  • Doing something great means saying “no” to a lot of “good” things
  • Focus your presentation on one key idea

Want some specific suggestions for using these ideas in your presentations?

Get the FREE 9 guide or the Presentation Renovation eBook. You’ll learn how to take an ordinary presentation and make it extraordinary, applying the same principles that Apple uses to make remarkable stuff. The stuff that makes people camp outside Apple stores days before it’s released.

Learning from Superheroes: Why Every Presentation Needs Conflict

Imagine Superman without Lex Luthor, Spiderman without the Green Goblin, Batman without The Joker, or Thor without Loki.

Boring, right?

Why?

Every superhero needs a villain.

What good is a crimefighter if there’s no crime to fight? The badness of the bad guys validates the goodness of the good guys.

Without the Matrix, Neo is just another office drone who hacks in his off-hours.

Without Darth Vader, the Empire, and the Dark Side, Luke Skywalker is just another brooding farm kid on an outpost planet.

Every hero’s story needs conflict to make it interesting.

To make things even more interesting, however, the hero’s conflict is often internal as well as external.

Should Neo swallow the red pill or the blue pill–join the struggle against the Matrix or remain in his relatively safe but artificial world?

Should Han Solo enlist with the Rebel Alliance to fight the Empire or continue smuggling for his own selfish gain?

Should Peter Parker continue to fight crime as Spiderman or give it up for a simple, happy life with Mary Jane?

Conflict creates a natural curiosity in an audience since we want to know how or if the tension will be resolved. Conflict, then, is an important tool for keeping attention.

So whether you call it conflict, tension, or contrast, your presentation also needs it to make it interesting and memorable.

Here are two ways you can build external and internal tension into your presentation.

External conflict: introduce a tension but don’t resolve it until later

In this case, the conflict is yours, not your audience’s. Maybe it’s a story from your own experience or a problem from someone else. Your audience feels the tension and wants to see it resolved, but the problem is not their own.

One client we recently coached told her audience about taking 15 family members–spanning 4 generations and 90 years in age–on a vacation. Where would they go? How would they get there? What special concerns (diet needs, limited mobility, relationship dynamics) would prevail?  By setting the stage with these questions, she created a sense of tension in her listeners–they want to know what’s going to happen! By waiting until the end of her presentation, though, to reveal what happened, she kept their attention through the talk.

Internal conflict: create a desire for change

What do I want my audience to do? This is one of the first questions that should guide your planning. Once you’ve answered that, you can build your message around taking your audience from where they’re at now to the place you want them to go. This differencebetween where they are now and where you want them to go–this contrast–creates tension.

When Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone, for example, he described the current world of smart phones: not very smart and not very easy to use. He then offered Apple’s solution: very smart and very easy to use. That contrast creates a conflict in the audience. “I don’t want to keep using my dumb, difficult phone,” we say to ourselves. “I want the new, smart, easy-to-use phone.”

What change do you want your audience to make? Create tension and highlight it. In fact, Nancy Duarte has a great TED talk describing how to use this type of contrast to structure an entire presentation. Check it out.

In your next presentation, find a way to include conflict to keep your audience interested and you’ll find it easier to move them as well.

Image via Wikimedia Commons

2 Questions You MUST Ask Before Giving Any Presentation

Ask these two important questions before you begin your presentation :: Renovate Communication Design, LLCYou’ve probably attended a meeting or presentation and, early in, thought, “This has no relevance to me at all.”

Or maybe you’ve sat through the entire meeting and wondered, “Now what?”

You can avoid these common pitfalls in your own presentations if you answer these two critical (but sometimes rarely asked) questions before you begin working on your content or making slides.

1. Who’s coming?

Who will attend your meeting or presentation?

Spend five minutes thinking about them. Picture their faces, say their names. What do they want? What are they afraid of? Jot down your answers on paper.

Want to go one step further?

Ask them yourself. Walk around the office and talk to your co-workers. Or put together a short survey and send it to them. This is especially helpful if you’re leading a workshop or seminar and have the attendees’ email addresses before the event. You can quickly create a survey and collect the responses easily with a Google Form.

The better you understand who’s in your audience, the more you can tailor your message to their needs. And the more relevant it is to their needs, the more they’ll appreciate your talk–and you.

2. What do I want them to do?

A boring presentation delivers information.

A good presentation motivates people to act.

Once you understand your audience and their needs, decide what you’ll want them to do.

In his massively bestselling book, The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People, Stephen Covey calls this “beginning with the end in mind.” You can apply the same idea to your presentations.

Do you want prospects to buy? Parents to change the way they talk to their teens? Students to get their work done? Employees to buy in to a new way of doing things?

Determine what you’ll ask them to do and then work backwards–build everything in your meeting or talk with the end in mind. This keeps your message focused and gives your audience clear direction when its over.

For your next presentation, start by asking these two questions and you’ll see a difference.

Make better presentations with the Presentation Renovation eBook + audiobook