4 Illustrated Reasons I Love Using Good Presentation Design


4 Illustrated Reasons I Love Using Good Presentation Design

In another post, I describe 6 reasons you should use visuals in your presentations. Those reasons are mostly about helping your audience learn and increasing the chances of your information getting remembered and used.

But can I be honest for a moment?

*whispers* Don’t tell anyone, but those aren’t really the main reasons I work hard to create effective and visual presentations.

Gasp. I know. I’m horrible.

I mean, don’t get me wrong. Those reasons are important and backed by the research. Those reasons remind me that I’m not wasting time when I work hard to improve the design and impact of my slides.

But when I think about what really motivates me to use good design and great visuals...my reasons are a little different.

My reasons are a little more...about me.

A little more selfish.

1. When I talk, I see more smiles, head nods, and open eyes!

I've given presentations where it felt like no one was really *with me* and that's a horrible feeling. You know the signs:

They're fighting to stay awake.

They look around the room or at the floor more than at you.

They flip through your handout, their notebook, or conference schedule a lot.

They're staring at their phone.

They yawn. A LOT.

Now that I use good information design and high quality visuals, I don't really see this anymore. Especially for presentations that I really go "all out" for (storyboard, humor, pics of my dogs), most people make eye contact with me, smile at me, and nod their heads. 

Sometimes people tune out, that does still happen. People are tired, overworked, and have fallen victim to the myth of multitasking. But when I use good design, most of the audience doesn't or, at least, when they do it's for really brief moments (instead of half the presentation). 

2. I'm excited to share my slides!

I used to apologize for my slides before even starting my presentation. Ugh. What an awful way to start! 

Nothing tells the audience they're about to be bored to death than a presenter warning them, "Sorry that my slides are just a bunch of text." And I know I'm not the only one who has started out this way because I've been in the audience when a presenter apologized for their slides.

Part of this is a gender socialization problem within our culture and I had to do some unlearning to overcome this. In combination with that, using good design now makes me feel like my presentation will be excellent.

Using good design makes me excited, rather than embarrassed, to share my slides. Now I start each presentation showing confidence and excitement (even though on the inside I'm really nervous!), and my audience resonates with that much more.

3. I have fun giving my presentation!

Have you ever given a presentation where about halfway through you realize that:

Even YOU are bored with your slides.

You lose the energy to read your bullet points, and start saying, "Eh I'm not gonna read this to you." 

You can't stand the sound of yourself talking anymore and just wish it would end!

Yeahhhh....not a good place to find yourself. And your audience can tell, too. If you aren't excited or passionate about your material, then your audience won't be either. 

When I use good design, memorable photos, a solid storyboard, and throw in some humor I actually enjoy my talk and have fun giving it.

And the topic I present the most about? Domestic Violence. So don't get trapped thinking that your presentation has to be drab just because your topic is hard, depressing, or about social injustice. 

And I also want to emphasize here that I had a MAJOR fear of public speaking for years. If you had told me 10 years ago that one day I would enjoy giving a presentation, I would have thrown my iced vanilla latte with soy milk in your face. Then I would have made you buy me a new one 'cuz I need my caffeine.

I still get nervous right before a presentation (And I still even have that dark wish at conferences of "I hope no one shows up so I can go home!). But once I get going, my passion and excitement takes over and I deliver a kick ass presentation. I only got to this point because I started using good design. For real. 

4. People talk to me more!

This one might be more relevant to conferences, but have you ever ended a presentation and waited there for questions or people to chat with you...but then you're left standing alone?

Ugh. That's happened to me more than I want to admit.

But now? When I tell a good story with my research using visual slides and good design, there are always people waiting to chat with me. Instead of shuffling out the door as soon as it’s over, people come up to me to tell me how "awesome" or "badass" or "well-designed" my slides are or what a "great speaker I am."

Not gonna lie, that's lovely to hear and is the only reason I kept working hard at good presentation design. PSA: if someone gives a great presentation that resonated with you--let them know! 

And just as important, people seem more comfortable with asking deeper questions about my work and it feels like genuine networking. I think it's because my slides are well-designed and my presentations are delivered in a way that's easy to understand, engaging, and accessible. I think that makes people more likely to talk to me. Good design, in a way, is like a trust building exercise with your audience. 

So there you have it. Those are my 4 all-about-me reasons for caring about good presentation design. Luckily, it's a win-win because using good design is also great for my audience. 

Ready to make presentations that make you feel the same way?

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Thanks for reading!

with joy,
Dr. Echo Rivera