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Deck design matters

It amazes me how poorly people communicate using PowerPoint (and similar tools). On a weekly basis, as part of responding to RFPs or discussion decks for prospective clients, I continue to see little or no thought into the aesthetics or design of the documents that people produce.

The mistakes usually fall into a few buckets:

Boring deck
Verbal diarrhea: When engineers (or SMEs) usually create decks, the usual mistake is putting in too much. I call this verbal diarrhea. The PowerPoint slides look like someone literally took all they know and shoved it onto a slide.

No storyline: The second most common mistake that I’ve seen is the lack of story / structure in the deck. i.e. If one reads just the headlines of the deck (i.e. the titles on each slide) one should be able to get the gist. More often than not, the tag lines are something like ‘Conclusion’ or ‘The solution’.

Lack of visuals: Most of the decks have pages and pages of bullet points, with little thought on who’s going to read all the stuff.

Now, it’s not that hard actually to produce decks that communicate more effectively. There are a number of sources of information that I would encourage people to check out.

Design books:

Both the Presentation Zen & Slide:ology books are adamantly against ‘slideuments’ (i.e. documents in slides). Unfortunately, PowerPoint is how most consultants communicate their findings & recommendations. So take the parts that poo-poo slideuments in these books with a grain of salt.

The Zelazny, Few & Tufte books are great for elegantly displaying quantitative information in PowerPoint.

As for blogs there are tons. The ones I usually look at have been listed on the left.

What sources do you use?

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