10 Most common presentation design mistakes
Updated: Aug 5
Delivering an effective, unique and interesting presentation is a learned artform. We have all been subjected to awful presentations during which we looked for a rapid exit route midway through – all because of boring or cluttered slides.
Often, I meet with people who come to me because they are ‘stuck’ with their presentation. No matter how much they work on it, the storytelling and key messages do not come across. They lament: "I don’t know what to do – people are distracted, playing with their cell phones or reading e-mails. What to do? “
The good news is that you can prevent your audience from voting with their feet for your next presentation!
Content and flow plays a very important role on its own, but the visual appearance is no less important! Let’s review the most common mistakes people make when preparing and delivering a presentation. Learning from these errors will give you a good way to improve and and turn you into one of the best and most desired presenters.
Mistake Number 1: Ignoring your target audience and the
story you are telling!
Before you even begin working on design or even writing it, tailoring your presentation to your target audience is the single most important thing you can do. Analyze carefully who your target audience is, what story you want to tell them and how you are delivering a captivating presentation that will leave them asking for further information. This is the first and critical step and if you did not do it - go back, do it and then start again
Mistake Number 2: Too much text !!!
Perhaps the biggest mistake people make in presentations is filling each slide with text -- a lot of text. T his detracts from your presentation for several reasons:
· People tend to read everything that appears on the screen. If it takes them half a minute to digest the information, they will be absorbing, and not listening to you. You will lose them in a sea of details which need not be conveyed in writing. Use bullets, and then talk about each one.
· If you have too much text and you flip to the next slide before your audience has had a chance to read it entirely, they can get annoyed and frustrated, and may stop paying attention to you at all.
· Less is more. Do not be afraid to use empty space to add emphasis to the the general message. Rule of thumb: Do not use more than 5 bullet points on one slide.
Mistake Number 3: Transitions, why would you use them?! Each new version of PowerPoint has cool animated transitions - but don't get too enthusiastic! Aside from being over-animated and often confusing, they are also making your presentation very heavy - especially if you are not delivering it face- to-face. In a Zoom presentation, try not to use transitions at all.
It is certainly possible to use a gentle transition to maintain interest -- something like a fade- in fade-out – but here too, show restraint. Don’t choose the most random and crazy option, like disappearing squares or colors changing or night club simulations . Your audience might be transfixed by the ‘action’, at the expense of your message.
Mistake Number 4: Multi-colors and fonts
I can understand why you might not want to display your slides on a black background with a white Times New Roman font (boring), but it is easy to overdo it in the other direction as well.
If you choose to prepare a colorful presentation, remember to use 3 main colors that match each other and are harmonious— and remember that people need to sit and stare at your presentation for a significant amount of time. Fuchsia pink background with orange writing...too distracting. Fuchsia pink titles + gray color for text and light background – this can work.
Same goes for fonts. You should choose a font that is easy to read.
For example: if you choose a handwritten font, it will probably be illegible if you are not standing right in front of the screen.
Try to stick to one font throughout the presentation, and certainly do not mix fonts on the same slide! To create a variation in the look, you can use different weights of the same font for headings and paragraphs.
Mistake Number 5: Messy charts
Adding media to a slide makes it more interesting and grabs the audience’s attention. When you include data in a presentation, charts are an easy way to convey the relevant information in a single image – however, it is important not to create complicated graphs and charts. The audience will not have the patience to decipher all kinds of colors, trend lines, technical words and a multiplicity of text.
If the chart is not easily deducible for the average audience member, or if you cannot explain it in a sentence, it is best to avoid showing it at all.
Mistake Number 6: Multiple and irrelevant images
Adding photos to a presentation to visually express your message is great, but it's important to remember not to use it on every slide. Moderation is the key here – otherwise, it could look like "This Is Your Life" from your parent's retirement party rather than an interesting and professional presentation .
Pay attention to the choice of images – they have to suit your story and your target audience, must be tasteful and not too provocative (unless you’re presenting them in Vegas).The visual needs to drive the point home in one single shot.
Mistake Number 7: Bad editing of images and graphics
Not everyone can afford a designer, and not everyone knows how to use Photoshop.If you decide to DIY your presentation, pay attention to the images you’ve added.Some tips:icons that have a white background shouldn’t be added on a different color background. Please, please avoid a cropped, stretched, crushed ,and/or watermarked image. Believe me, its better not to have any images or icons then to stretch and distort one.
Mistake Number 8: Choosing an inappropriate template
Take a few more minutes to find a template that suits your presentation, or even build one of your own.
Built-in PowerPoint templates may seem a bit general and you probably will not find one that will perfectly fit to the story you are conveying, but with all the choices out there, you can definitely find something close enough.
Don’t choose a template that is too busy with all kinds of colors, but do consider finding something unique. There are quite a few sites available on the internet such as ENVATO where you can find great templates for presentations and which provide a wide array of options for your selection of elements. Alternately, you can use a professional designer who will build a unique template for you which can be used for multiple presentations.
Mistake Number 9: Selecting additional content from other media
Often you need to incorporate external content which throws you out of the presentation in real time, or you may want to view a relevant YouTube video or visit the company website during your presentation. Although this is sometimes unavoidable, it is confusing for the presenter to switch from screen-to-screen while trying to create a coherent narrative.
A great solution is to embed screenshots of a specific site or video within the presentation itself. This will save you from facing those terrible awkard moments caused by elusive internet connections which will leave you red-faced and completely ruin the entire show (I’m sure we’ve all been there).
Mistake Number 10: Not checking the presentation in situ before viewing
If you have the opportunity and in order to avoid unpleasant surprises, check the presentation at the specific venue where you are presenting, using the same equipment that will be utilized during ‘show time’. Make sure that the graphics and text appear neatly in the presentation, especially if you are using a computer different from your own. Make sure that the fonts appear on the displayed computer and that the colors are well-calibrated.
This may sound excessive, but it is advisable to check the presentation from several different vantage points in the room, to ensure the text that is not too small from a distance.