Design For Everyday: How to Make a Great Presentation

You are a designer.

Yes, you. In fact, everyone is a designer. Think about it. The clothing, the hairstyle and even the eyeglasses you have chosen are a part of the crafted image you have designed to present yourself to the world. Even if you feel you don't put much effort into your appearance, that insouciance is a decision. And intentionality is what makes a design, design.

Design impacts our everyday lives--not only our personal facades, but also our experiences. As entrepreneurs, we craft the unique offerings of our companies, their brands, their culture, the people we hire and the products we offer. Most of us can and should design all of these things better--doing better doesn't have to be expensive. It simply requires thought.

Good design is reductive. It is simple and clear. Most people make the mistake of adding complexity rather than taking the time to simplify.

Think about the last meeting you had to attend. Have you heard the phrase, "Death by PowerPoint?" It refers to a presentation whereby the presenter puts all their information on a series of slides and proceeds to read each and every one of them, while numbing the audience to the point of unconsciousness. The problem is people want to engage with a presenter--they don't want to be lectured.

Here is my first design tip--don't ever do that again. PowerPoint is a tool not a crutch. If you don't know your material well enough to speak without a script, either you have no business presenting it or you need to edit your material.

Here's my second design tip: Rethink how you approach a presentation. Take out a pen and paper and step away from the computer. Start backwards--from the end to the beginning. Ask yourself these questions: What exactly do you want people to do after they hear you speak? What do you want them to think? This is called clarifying your objective. Perhaps you are looking for investors. Then move on to tell them why they should invest in you. This is called the argument. Keep asking yourself, what is your main point? What makes your company special? Take time to make sure you are absolutely clear.

Then support your argument. Write down three reasons your offering is unique--just three, no more, no less. This is where you will tell your story--you will give your audience details and get them excited. Then write your opening and keep it short.

Now you can make your slides. Your slides should not repeat what you say, but support it--remember slides are not a script.

Here's my third tip: make your slides visual and use photos, charts or diagrams instead of words. Think about what will keep your audience engaged. Don't put words on those slides unless they are REALLY important. Good design is about clarity and engagement. If you use your slides to show, while you tell the story, you will be a more effective and engaging presenter.

This blogger graduated from Goldman Sachs' 10,000 Small Businesses program. Goldman Sachs is a partner of the What Is Working: Small Businesses section.