SpeechDIY Part VIII: Crafting Your Presentation Slides.

(Note: This post, the seven that preceded it, and the last to follow, mirror the SpeechDIY course we created for executive speakers. You might want to subscribe to this blog series to avoid missing any of the lessons.)

In our previous post, we talked about creating slides for your speech that would actually guide you, and save your bacon if you happened to forget your speaking points.

This post carries the ball forward. You now know how to present a cohesive argument with your visuals. So how do you make those visuals stellar?

Start with Pen and Post-it

Let’s say you’ve decided your first slide should be something on the theme ‘my journey’. How do you represent that?

Most of us would immediately jump to Google Images, type in ‘my journey’, and paste the first respectable image into their show. Chances are, that image would be dull. Most first thoughts are.

I suggest you try the approach we used as advertising creatives. Take your thought, mull it over, and start pencilling visual thoughts that might work.

For example, thinking about ‘my journey’ for under a minute gave me these thought-starters:

  • A country path,
  • Worn out shoes,
  • A type treatment with ‘my’ at top left, a meandering line squiggling across the page, leading to ‘journey’ at bottom right,
  • A map. Even better if it’s hand drawn,
  • A type treatment with ‘my journey’ written in huge letters – and the ‘y’ of journey actually disappearing off the side of the slide,
  • A visual representation of Point A at top left, and Point B at bottom right,
  • A pen starting to write on parchment,
  • An odometer,
  • Hiker’s legs from the knees down

This is a fun exercise for stretching your creativity. What’s more, if you have a raft of potential images pencilled out for each slide of your show, you may spot a theme. For example, you may find a number of slides use typography. Or icons. Or big, dramatic, outdoor shots. Why not use them to give your show a consistent flavour?

Words Bad

In my previous post, I said a good slide show can guide you from one thought to the next.

Now I’m telling you it can do that – without words.

Words in and of themselves aren’t bad. But when you use words on a slide as a teleprompter text, that’s bad. The last thing you need is to have your back to the audience, reading words off your slideshow. You cease to be a presenter and become a narrator. Besides, most folks can read faster than you can recite – making you a fairly useless part of the presentation.

Good presentation slides should jog your memory and conjure up a story, much like an old photo of your summer holidays would. So, if we use the example of ‘my journey’, a picture of worn out hiking boots should be enough to trigger the speaking points you wanted to make on that topic. The best part is, the picture forms a beautiful backdrop to your story, letting your listeners in on the feeling you want to convey.

Charts Worse

If you want to kill a presentation, put in an excel spreadsheet, a bar graph with 20 bars and microscopic numbers, or a gantt chart.

Charts aren’t supposed to be in presentation slides. They’re supposed to be in leave-behind documents your listeners can collect on their way home.

If you absolutely need to show the growth of your company, try drawing an image that represents your point. For example, you can demonstrate growth with a red arrow on a black background that swoops from a low number up to a high number. Or if you want to talk about the six-month timeline of a project, show a small boy, arms outstretched, with the words ‘six-month timeline’ written between his hands.

Either way, you’ll get a visual trigger. Then you can recite the necessary numbers from memory (or even read them off a piece of paper in your hand). The audience will be focused entirely on you, instead of squinting to decipher that tiny number in row 43 of your slideshow spreadsheet. Happiness will abound.

Finding Great Visuals

There are a million great places to go for powerful visuals. Here are a few of my favorites:

Google Image – Make sure to type in ‘creative commons’ when you type in a search term – it will take you to images you can use without infringing copyright

Death to the Stock Photo – They send me monthly free photos, and their site is amazing.

Negative Space – Again, there are regular updates, and a dizzying array of great, free stuff.

Nounproject – Sometimes, you just can’t capture the mood with a photo. Nounproject offers up incredible icons – all you need to do is give the artist a mention by including their name at the bottom of the slide.

Seriously, though, there are a million great sites out there. Simply type ‘best free stock photo sites’ into Google and fill your boots.

Next: Crafting Your Presentation Slides

So now you have images up on your presentation slides. But somehow, something is missing.

Stay tuned for the next post. We’ll solve that problem in 900 words or less.

Of course, if you’d like to know more about SpeechDIY, or sign your group up for the course, let us know by dropping a line to info@yourultimatespeech.com.

As a brand strategy expert, successful entrepreneur, founder of Your Ultimate Speech, and award-winning author, Marc Stoiber uses simplicity and creativity to help people discover what’s awesome about their business… then helps them tell the world. For more on creating an effective speech for your company, connect with Marc and Your Ultimate Speech on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, and sign up to his monthly newsletter.