A Brief Guide to Presentations That Rock

by Karl Rohde — Get free updates of new posts here. Photo Credit: Karl Rohde


The social age is in many respects defined by marketing platforms. Whether you like it or not, in the social age you are a brand. When branding and marketing converge in your work, the humble or cursed presentation slide emerges as the standard for communicating value and personal brand presence.

Not knowing how to use PowerPoint or Keynote is no excuse. You can learn to make it work for you. Knowing how to master these everyday tools presents an opportunity to stand out. I’m going to point out some simple rules that anyone can apply.

Apologies for the Windows/PowerPoint bent. I trust if you’re a Mac user you can translate Windows for Mac and PowerPoint for Keynote.

I’ve written this post like a lesson. There is some theory, some practical examples and a heap of links as a useful resource to get you started. With less than an hours effort, you’ll be well on your way to producing beautiful slides that rock. Let’s get started.

Why your presentation slides need to rock.

  1. Being average in today’s social age is not viable. Being remarkable is now mandatory.
  2. You’re there to make an emotional sale. Trigger a feeling and response. We’re looking for a good mix of logic (presenting the facts) and emotion (making people feel something). Using the two elements ensures you’re giving your best.
  3. You’re there to make your audience think and focus on what you are saying. No, not what the slides are saying. It’s what you say that matters.
  4. You’re there to drive intrigue and internal engagement. A good slide is a form of communication. Good communication is getting others to adopt your point of view, to help them understand how you see things.
  5. You’re there to demonstrate your passion and that you care. Unless you’re an amazing writer, it’s hard to do this in a report. A presentation is the thing that helps you do this very well

Why presentations suck. Things you have to stop doing.

  1. Stop using PowerPoint as if it’s Microsoft Word. Equally don’t paste in a spread sheet. If it’s more than a short sentence per slide you’re creating chaos. Unsolicited chaos drives people into a self-imposed coma.
  2. Stop the use of standard fonts like Arial, Comic Sans and Times. Again these are good for documents not presentations.
  3. Stop relying on the slides to do the talking. You’re there to talk and the slides are there to support what you say. The focus is always on you.
  4. Stop using all text and no images. You need contrast to catch the eye.
  5. Stop using clip-art or cheesy stock photos. We all know that call centre staff are not supermodels.
  6. Bullet points must go. They have no place on a slide. Rather put your five points in five shapes.
  7. Font sizes need to be big. Size 10 font will convert your audience into a slumber party.
  8. Animations are just not necessary. It’s more a gimmick than value. No animation will improve a bad slide. They don’t suddenly make it all come together. You have to start with a good slide. Those ta-da moments after an animation are embarrassing.
  9. Avoid handing out prints of your slides. They just don’t work without you. Remember slides are there to work with you and not in isolation. If people want to see your slides be sure you are present to talk to them.

How to pimp your presentation slides from now on. What you need to do to.

I’ve pulled together what I think are the essential elements to slides that grab attention along with some links to serve as a toolkit.

1. Prepare

Know your subject. Be clear on what your message is. What’s the one, two or three things you want people to take away? What is the primary objective of your presentation? Remember, this is sales and marketing. If you believe in your idea, sell it.

“If you don't know what you want to achieve in your presentation your audience never will.” – Harvey Diamond

2. Use Quality Images

Amazing photos are not far away. Use the Internet to source some quality photos. Or take your own photos. Quality is essential. Small images that get stretched and pixelated are to be avoided. Use images that cover the whole slide or that work well with your shapes and or layout. Free quality images can be found unsplash, at stock.xchng and at CompFight. The cool cats at Canva.com have created a list of 73 sites offering free stock photos. Images from Google Image search are not good enough and copyrights could be an issue.

3. Use Beautiful Fonts.

Beautiful fonts are readily available for free these days so move away from the lame fonts you’ve inherited and check out the vast array of beautiful free fonts. Take a look at the cover of a magazine and note how they use fonts effectively. Your slides should have "magazine cover quality". One font I especially love is League Gothic. It’s highly recommended which will be no surprise once you use it.

Don’t go overboard. Stick with no more than 2-3 fonts per presentation. You are looking to create a consistent look and feel.

To get started try these 5 presentation grade free fonts: Bebas Neue, Museo, Sketch Rockwell, Chunk Five, League Gothic


Alternatively Google “free fonts for presentations” or browse dafont.com, fontsquirrel.com, fontspring.com and myfonts.com. In the social age there is an abundance to choose from.

The lovely people at Canva.com have created this brilliant resource containing 100 hand picked free fonts. Its a treasure trove of fonts well worth rummaging through.

4. Use Colour Themes

Colours are important and can set the emotional tone of your slides – sophisticated, happy, serious, creative, crazy, fun, etc. A mix of colours can create fantastic levels of contrast that make your theme and message stand out. Check out colourlovers.com and kuler.adobe.com for professional colour themes that look stunning.

5. Get Inspiration from others who know how to market themselves with presentations

In the social age relevant inspritation is never far away. Check out some online social slide sharing sites. SlideShare is fantastic but apply the 80/20 rule. There is a lot of rubbish but about 20% are truly worthwhile. Others to peruse are Note and Point and SpeakerDeck

Slide presentations you can learn from.

Take a 30 minute break and peruse these awesome slides and behold the type of slide that stands to set you apart in your next presentation.

  1. 7 Tips top Beautiful Slide Design
  2. Introduction to Slide Design
  3. 5 Big Tips to become a Presentation Jedi
  4. Slides that Rock!
  5. 7 Tips to Create Visual Presentations

How brilliant are they! I trust you’ve looked at them. Have you? Please don’t skip them - they are so well worth it. They are prime examples to set you on your way.

May your next presentation rock!

Presentations can be scary. You're not alone, but have faith. A good slide deck will go along away to support you. Now go make one that rocks.

There are only two types of speakers in the world. 1. The nervous and 2. Liars. – Mark Twain

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