• Erkan Dogru

Basics to perform an impactful presentation: once upon a time...

Updated: Feb 12

A presentation is something between science and art. The Nirvana is reached when effective visuals are combined with a powerful narrative. Antoine de Saint-Exupery said that the "Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away". So your presentation can be considered finalized once you believe you cannot remove any slide or element without compromising the overall understanding of your message.

First some basic assumptions when talking about visual presentation:

- You have only 3 to 8 seconds attention time for each slide, then the audience switch,

- Visual > eye > brain (first iconic, short term and then long term)

- Reading is done from top left and then zigzag,

- Rule: 10% of the visual can be highlighted (bold/color/inversing elements/size…)

- Text is your friend !

Understand the context: who ? what to know or to do ? How?

  • Big idea in 1 sentence: if limited time or 1 sentence only,

  • 3 minutes story

  • Storyboarding,

  • What would be a successful outcome?

  • How? Which data is available and to display?

  • Tone: celebrate success? Serious? Dramatic? Fun?

Tell a story. Strong stories expresses the how and why life changes, At start: there’s a balance, then an event throws things out of balance, look for solution maybe outside and the solve it, conclusion

  1. Find a subject

  2. Do no ramble, though.

  3. Keep it simple as "to be or not to be" where the longest word is only 3 letters !

  4. Have the guts to cut,

  5. Sound like yourself,

  6. Say what you meant to say,

  7. Pity the readers (sympathetic and patient teacher).

Construct the story: big idea / 3 minutes storytelling / storyboarding

Start: the story needs conflicts and dramatic tensions,

Middle: “what could be” with goal convincing your audience of the need for action,

End: Call for action.

Final check of your story: check the 4 points below to ensure you have a clear story!

  1. Horizontal logic = read only the titles and see if there’s a logic

  2. Vertical logic: each slide whould support the title. All info is in a given slide,

  3. Reverse storyboarding: start end and come back to first page,

  4. Fresh perspective: ask a friend to criticize the slides.


Some tips regarding displays or graphical excellence for a presentation

Choose an appropriate display

12 types of visuals are possible:

1. Simple text: when 1 or 2 numbers are displayed,

2. Heatmap: help reading with 1 colour,

3. Tables: need the verbal system = reading. For live presentation, this is not a good idea (remember max 8 seconds attention), No heavy borders or shading; instead light borders or white space. Any tables added to the slide will compete for attention versus the speech of the presenter.

4. Graphs/scatterplot

5. Graphs/lines

6. Graphs/slopegraph: good when 2 periods are compared,

7. Bars/vertical bar chart: when data is organized in groups,

8. Bars/stacked vertical bar chart,

9. Bars/waterfall chart,

10. Bars/horizontal bar chart - EXTREMELY easy to read,

11. Bars/stacked horizontal bar chart,

12. Areas.

AVOID: everything related to food: pie chart / donut / spaghetti….and 3D (hard to read)

Rules for Graphs:

  • Title: top left side – not centered,

  • X-axis: grey font – need to show? Unit? Money EUR or KEUR ?

  • Y-axis grey font – need to show? Unit? Better put the label on the graph

  • Text in curves,

  • Font

  • Size

  • Background: no first and second grids,

  • Align data: title, legend and y-axis in top left aligned,

  • Only 1 colour to highlight,

Eliminate clutter on the graph:

  1. Highlight the important stuff. Push 1st background to all grey and then decide what to highlight,

  2. Eliminate distractions: not all data are equally important, when detail isn’t needed, summarize (put details in appendix in case). Ask yourself: would eliminating this change anything ? Push necessary but non-message impacting items to the background,

  3. Create a clear visual hierarchy of information

  4. Accessibility: usable by people with diverse abilities,

  5. Don’t overcomplicate: simple font, clean, strait forward language with simple words/ no acronym/ remove unnecessary complexity.

  6. Text is your friend: conclusion and title should push for actions or knowledge.

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