How much thought have you put into the design of your presentation materials?
Do they convey the image you want to portray?
Does the design support your message and help the audience “get it”?
Visual branding is so important. It portrays your identity to your audience and helps them understand what you’re all about. Even for an internal presentation, the design of your visuals can convey a sense of teamwork and common purpose.
As you’re making decisions about logos, colors, fonts, tag lines, artwork and graphic theme, remember that IT’S ALL ABOUT THE MESSAGE. While the design of your visual tools should reflect who you are or the theme of the event, it should most importantly support your message, not overpower it.
Working with long-time colleague and talented artist / illustrator Patricia Saxton, Saxton Studio, I recently adopted a new look for my web site. In the wake of that project other promotional materials were now out of sync. Since about 2008 I had been using a PowerPoint template that was bold, purposeful, innovative and depicted my brand. However, times change and even though I still liked the colors and the look, I began to realize that it was time for something new. . . a new look and feel that would match my energy and current presentation style.
Thinking through the design process: what must it accomplish?
In talking with Vicky Accardo, Beat the Clock, an art director with a great deal of experience working with corporate clients in various media I explained, that it might be time to update my PowerPoint presentation template to reflect my new website design. I needed the new template to help me practice what I preach: audience-centered content and clean, uncluttered visuals. My approach is all about keeping it simple and making it easy for the audience to absorb and act on what’s being said. Additionally, I wanted a template that would make it easy to customize the content and images of each presentation to connect with each unique audience or client.
Vicky began tackling this challenge by (to use her words) “studying the world.” She researched design trends in leading trade publications. She reached out to her peer network for information and inspiration. She looked at television and art. One point became increasingly clear to her. Here’s how she explains it:
“People today have shorter attention units. They’re bombarded with information. In the past, you might get people to look at something for 15 seconds. Now maybe you have 3 or 5 seconds if you’re lucky. In today’s world, your message has to be honed down to its essentials. It’s like minimalist art. The audience has to look at it and be able to get it instantly without thinking about it.”
Clearly we were on the same page, since this is what my Glance and GrabTM strategy is all about, and what I have been practicing for years. The message and the medium need to be clear, clean and uncluttered, so the audience is free to listen to the speaker.
At this point, the design choices we needed to make became obvious:
- A clean white background.
- Bold type.
- Customizable images.
- Logos appearing only at the beginning and end of the presentation.
- The freedom to deliver a strong, clear message.
Before & After
Customized to retail and technology clients
The right visual design actually changes the conversation
The new template hit the nail on the head, doing exactly what I needed it to do. It still uses the same Glance and GrabTM methodology and effectively showcases my brand: professional and current, creative and energetic, adaptive and audience focused. It’s a clean slate that allows me to easily customize the context of the message to help my audience relate to the presentation.
Since rolling out the new presentation materials, the reception has been extremely positive. Clients love it because the look and feel resonates with their audience. Whether presenting to a lifestyle company, a retail franchise, or a technology firm, they immediately “get it” because the visuals speak to their culture and their environment.
When a presenter is not tied to specific words, it actually changes the conversation. The speaker is free to focus on the audience, and the audience is free to focus on the message. In turn, the message can be more easily heard, and listeners are more inspired to take action.
Before your next presentation, consider the design of your PowerPoint template and other materials. How can you use them to support your image, your message and even change the conversation?