Jul 6, 2015

6 Tips to design better slides [Before and after examples]

In my last post I shared experienced investor Vinod Khosla's tips for startup funding. In this post I will share 6 tips which Vinod Khosla has shared in the same talk. These tips are meant for startups (investor presentations) but can be used by every presenter. These are general presentation tips to help you design a better slide.

#1 Reduce clutter
This is a pretty common tip. We all know this, but still we cannot seem to follow this. After you have designed your slide, go back and cut down lots of words. If you are going to present the deck (slides) in person, then you do not need so much text on the slide. One way you can cut down stuff from your slide is by asking "do I really need this?" to everything (and every word) you have put on the slide.

Here is a before and after slide from his talk. The original slide has way too many images, creating clutter.

#2 Five second rule
Khosla talks about the 'five second rule'. If I put up a slide and then remove it after 5 seconds, what will my audience notice? Given this background, our main message has to be in the title of the slide. Write the crux of the slide in the title itself because every member in the audience will first read the title. Our job is to make the life of our audience easier. They need to get the main message quickly and clearly. Read more about this here.

Here is an example of a slide which follows this rule. The one on the left is the original and the one on the right is better.

Within 5 seconds the audience will get the key message (96% lower cost).

#3 Simple fonts
Stylish fonts do not make a presentation beautiful. Stay away from uncommon fonts. Choose simple fonts (Arial, Helvetica) which are very quick to read. There are better things to focus on in life than wasting time over choosing fonts.

#4 One key message
Every slide must have one key message, not two. Everything you put on the slide (charts, text, image) has to support that key message. And where do we put this key message? - right up in the title.

Here is an example from his talk where he showcases how a slide was modified. The slide to the left is the original. The one on the right has just one image (which was there in the original). Plus the title has been modified. 'Glucose Monitors Today' says nothing to the audience. 'No More Finger Sticks' speaks a lot (and that's the key message here).

Here is another superb example. The slide on the left talks about the diabetes problem in the world. What do I as an investor have to do with that? Tell me clearly. The slide on the right talks about the growing problem. It is a big problem and growing fast too. That's what the investor wants to hear; a big and growing market.

#5 Data consistency
The market size on Slide 4 has to be the same as the size on Slide 24. The projected volumes in year 3 have to be the same across. Accept it that all of us make slides in the eleventh hour. Hence we are prone to such mistakes. The slides are made even when the number crunching is still not over. What do you do then? You review your deck and try to find fault with your data. Look for inconsistency. Check every piece of data and remove any inconsistency whatsoever. Else you lose trust.

#6 Avoid superlatives
While making a presentation we use clich├ęs and useless superlatives (read more here) like state-of-the-art product, world class product and best in class team. Which presenter has ever claimed that his/her team is not best in class? Your audience can see through this BS and you need to stop it. Khosla encourages us to show, not tell. Show me how your product is world class and your team best in class.

Want to read more slide design tips, click here. Download my e-book on design tips by clicking here.

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