10 Rules for Better Presentation Slides


I’m a graphic designer working with sales and marketing and I’ve seen my share of terrible slideshows, so this topic is near to my heart. While the success of a sales presentation usually depends on the performance of the person presenting the presentation, I personally prefer perusing materials. I’m one of those weird people who enjoy a good slideshow. Yeah, I said a good slideshow. If you’ve been to a lot of meetings, as I’m sure you have, you know just as well as I do that good presentation packages are few and far in between. So, I figured I’d list a few ways for everyone to make their presentation content better.

1. First and foremost, consider the usage of your content. This post, specifically, is about sales presentations. That is, a prepared presentation, maybe even partly scripted, showcasing a company and its products or services. Many of these rules apply to all content for all kinds of sales meetings, but that’s just a happy coincidence.

2. So, you’re going to give a presentation. You’ll probably present materials, such as slides, on a screen in front of people. These people are probably busy, have a lot of things to do and a lot on their minds. What does that mean for content? Some might be viewing the screen from a distance and some might have weak eyesight. You must make the materials easily readable. That means big letters and high contrast colors. Light background, dark text or dark background, light text. Simple.


3. Since your clients are busy, your presentation should be short and sweet. That means not writing the great European novel on a slide. Never use four words to say what you could’ve said in two. Also, keep it simple. While you don’t want to underestimate your clients, you don’t need to use big words to appear smart.


4. Remember, your slides are only there to lend support and visualize your verbal presentation. You can talk a lot more than what appears on the screen. Only write down the most important points. The less people have to read, the better. You can use photos and product pictures to liven up and clarify your speech, but stay away from clipart. Really, no serious person has ever thought “I know what this presentation on financial software needs! A badly drawn, pixelated cartoon of a man with a light bulb over his head!”


5. When you use graphs, make them as simple as possible. A bar graph for a sales presentation rarely needs more than two colors and it certainly doesn’t need a grid behind it. Keep your graphs clean, straight, and readable.


6. I could spend days talking about typefaces, grids and color schemes, but I’ll try to hold myself back. Here’s what you need to know: keep it simple, keep it on brand and keep it legible. Use an absolute maximum of two different fonts for a presentation. Never, ever use Comic Sans or Papyrus or any font that your auntie and uncle might use for an invitation to their dog’s third birthday. You are a serious professional and your presentation isn’t a note on the wall at the pottery club.


7. Keep your slides on brand. Your company may have spent a fortune on that brand, and if your company has brand guidelines, you should follow them. Also, make sure your materials are uniform in style to avoid confusion. That means not changing the color scheme or fonts in the middle of a presentation.

8. Here’s something you might not have known about layouts: it’s always a good idea to think about where the viewer’s eyes are going to go. One slide should always have one focal point. Either make everything point to something or make something stand out.


9. Always consider who you’ll be presenting to. If you’re going to talk to a marketing person, they probably won’t care about that flowchart describing the functionality of your in-app search function, but a CTO probably will.

10. Finally, a good presentation tells a story. There should be a beginning, a middle and an end. Start with a slide that just has your company logo and the word “Hello” in the center. Use a dramatic turning point in the middle, like a slide with only the words “So what does all of this mean for you?” on it. And always, always end with a thank you.

Mikko Oittinen