9 min read
A good slide deck will drive your main points home to your audience and keep them engaged throughout your webinar. It could be the difference between having everyone stick around to hear your pitch at the end, and having half of your attendees lose interest and drop off partway through your presentation.
If you're not a designer, it can be hard to know where to start when it comes to creating your slides. That's why we've put together this guide to walk you through the process for designing great slides, and to point out some common mistakes you should watch out for.
In the best webinars designs, slides play a supporting role to great content and well-planned teaching. So when you're planning your webinar design you should never start with the slides. Make sure you have your content planned out and well structured before you open up a presentation tool.
I know you're itching to choose a good font and add some breathtaking photos to your slides, but before you do that, you need to think about the information displayed on each slide. After all design isn't just about how something looks, it's about how it works.
The job of your slides is to help your audience digest the information you're sharing– so to design them you need to know what that information is first!
A good place to start with this is to create a draft slide deck. This will include:
This is the bones of your presentation. You'll then be able to go in and add whatever extra slides you need to elaborate on the main topics.
Remember, the point of a presentation isn't to have every single word you say written on screen. Slides should simply support your main points and introduce new topics or ideas to your audience. They're visual aids to what you're saying.
Not only will this help keep your attendees engaged, you'll be doing them a favor and helping them to better retain the information you're sharing. Many studies have shown that multitasking is a myth. It makes us feel more productive, sure, but we actually get more done when we focus on one thing at a time.
So don't make your audience multitask by reading on screen about one thing while listening to you talk about something else. By all means, summarise your topic at the end with all the main points on one slide if you need to, but this shouldn't be the way you introduce them up front.
You also shouldn’t be tempted to put a lot of words on your slides just because it will make it easier for you to remember your presentation. Slides are for your audience first and foremost.
Aaron Weyenber of TED warns against this too:
Too often, I see slide decks that feel more like presenter notes, but I think it’s far more effective when the slides are for the audience to give them a visual experience that adds to the words.
If you need notes to feel confident presenting your webinar, print them out and have them in front of you. Leave your slides with only the essential information in its simplest form.
With your slides planned out and drafted, now the fun part can begin: selecting the color palette and fonts that you'll be working with and designing some slides.
It's best to stick to just a couple of complimentary fonts and a limited color palette to make your slide deck feels cohesive and not too overwhelming. A slide deck with smart color palette and font choices feels much more professional and unified than one that goes overboard, and much more interesting than one that sticks with the default black and white.
You might decide to follow the same fonts and colors as your brand for your webinar (and this is a great idea for consistency and building brand recognition!), but you might also decide to give your webinar a brand of its own. If you need help choosing colors and fonts, check out our guide to typography for bloggers, and our introduction to color theory.
When you've settled on fonts and colors, it's a great idea to create a few templates to work with so that you're not designing something brand new for each slide in the deck. I'd suggest starting with a main title slide, a topic slide, a slide for sub points (two different backgrounds for variety), a slide for quotes, and a slide for images. Here's a look at these basic slides in the presentation template I created for ConvertKit.
The point of the template isn't to limit you to only using these layouts– it's to give you a base to start working with so that you can figure out the basics like what font size you'll use for main headings or what your highlight color will be
Work through your draft slide deck and apply your template as you go, choosing the layout you feel best suits the content for each slide. This is where you can also break away from the template and add design elements that help make each piece of content easy to understand.
For example, some points might really suit having an icon next to them (Noun Project is a great place to find these by the way!), and if you mention a statistic it could help make it more powerful to display the number alongside a graph.
Look out for places you can repeat design elements to be consistent. If you put an icon or an image on one topic title slide, consider adding one to all the rest of them too. Repeated motifs like this will be a visual cue to your audience that you're starting a new topic and they will subconsciously pick up on this as you move through your presentation.
So consistency is great, especially for title slides, but that doesn't mean all the rest of your slides need to look the exact same.
To keep your presentation interesting it's actually a good idea to make sure your slides have some variety (that's why I suggested having two different background colors for your sub point slides). Seeing slide after slide with text in the same font and color on the same background gets boring fast, and it also makes the information harder to understand as there are no visual cues telling your attendee that this is new information.
You can break up slide monotony by using different background colors and different arrangements of information. As a general rule having two backgrounds that are subtly different (like the white and grey used here) is great for mixing up ‘business as usual' slides, with a contrasting background you can use for key information you want to stand out.
You're in control of the main things your audience will remember from your webinar and the phrases and words you emphasise in your slide design will be the ones that stick in their memory. There are several ways you can do this. If you have a long sentence in particular, highlighting certain words will help them to grasp the main takeaway and also make those words more memorable.
You can also use photography to help make your content more emotive, but use it sparingly.
If you have a deck of 50 slides with a new photo on each one, that's a lot of new imagery for your audience to take in! Instead choose a few main points on your presentation where you want to invoke a certain emotion from your audience.
Perhaps a photo of an open country road when you talk about the freedom they'll feel after implementing your advice, or a chaotic scene of a busy street when you talk about the pain points they might be feeling.
As soon as you present a webinar, the quality of your slides becomes part of your brand online and the way your audience perceives you, so treat them with as much care as you would a new page on your website. A well-designed slide deck can make your audience see you as a professional, and put more trust in you.
To help you avoid any slide design faux pas, we've put together this checklist. Run through it once you finish your slide deck and if you answer yes to all of them, you're good to go!
Download this issue of Tradecraft as a PDF to read and reference at your own pace.