Presentation design trends

 Mike Parkinson is an internationally recognized visual communication and presentation expert, trainer, and award-winning author. Over the last 22 years, he created thousands of presentations that results in improved success rates for his clients.  Mike owns a creative services firm, 24 Hour Company (, authored a successful visual communication book (Do-It-Yourself Billion Dollar Graphics), and launched Get My Graphic ( that helps consultants, organizations and agencies achieve their training, education and sales goals with visual communication and proven communication techniques. Contact Mike at is a guest post by Mike Parkinson.  Mike is an internationally recognized visual communication and presentation expert, trainer, and award-winning author. Over the last 22 years, he created thousands of presentations that results in improved success rates for his clients. He owns a creative services firm, 24 Hour Company, authored a successful visual communication book (Do-It-Yourself Billion Dollar Graphics), and launched Get My Graphic that helps consultants, organizations and agencies achieve their training, education and sales goals with visual communication and proven communication techniques. Contact Mike at [email protected].

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Change is inevitable. Over the last decade, the presentations we produce, the tools and processes we use, and the industry have evolved. Specifically, presentation graphics and methods for making them are changing. As with all change, some will stay with us (the Internet) and others are merely a fad (pet rocks). The following are current presentation design trends:

  1. Infographics
  2. Flat Design
  3. Photographs
  4. Visual Metaphors

Let’s determine if they are here to stay.

 1. Infographics


Graphic courtesy of 24 Hour Company (

The ubiquity of infographics has spilled into the presentation industry. It is important to note that the strictest definition of an infographic is any graphic that clarifies or explains. Recently, the term infographic has become synonymous with a specific style of graphic (and not a definition), rendered as an aesthetically simple and flat image using quantitative data to educate and persuade.

A successful infographic requires its content and messages to be clear and concise so the final graphic is simple and easy to follow. Unfortunately, many presentation infographics I have seen are cluttered and confusing. The message is unclear and text has been replaced with a smattering of ambiguous icons and symbols.

Use infographics sparingly in your presentations. Do them well or don’t do them at all. Start with a simple message. All content must support this message. Use icons your audience will recognize. Images should complement and highlight your content and not distract or muddle your idea. Infographics work best when quantitative evidence tells a clear, compelling story. The push to get to the point and provide (quantitative and qualitative) proof is here to stay. However, the current infographic style is a trend. As with all aesthetic trends, it will evolve over time.

2. Flat Design

Flat design is seen as the modern graphic style due to the popularity of small electronic devices. To improve content legibility on hand-held devices, artistic embellishments such as highlights, depth, and shadows were eliminated.

The opposite of flat design is realism (skeuomorphism).


Graphic courtesy of Get My Graphic (


Both styles have pros and cons. For example, flat graphics are associated with newer design; therefore, applying this style subconsciously conveys the message that your company and solution are modern and innovative. Because of its plainness, flat design is often less expensive and time-consuming to produce. On the other hand, flat design can oversimplify or under explain critical pieces of information. Flat graphics limit aesthetic choices, making it difficult to highlight important or subtle concepts. Skeuomorphism can communicate the authenticity of your solution. Because realistic visuals are often considered more labor intensive and superior than simple designs, using this style can improve the perceived quality of your company and solution as well as demonstrate your commitment to the project.

There is a time and a place for both flat and realistic graphics. With a skilled designer, you can mix both into one template to reap the benefits of each style. For example, you could use flat icons with realistic graphics within your slide deck. Be sure that your decision to choose flat and/or realistic graphics is driven by objective goals (e.g., legibility, customer perception/preference, messaging, or brand standards).

3. Photographs

It is common to see a slide with a single photograph and minimal—if any—text. Using a single image to reinforce or replace content places more emphasis on emotional factors. Less textual content (e.g., bullets, sentences, paragraphs) also forces audiences to turn their attention to the presenter.



Slide courtesy of Fotolia (


Dominant photographs are here to stay for three reasons:

  1. Focus is on the presenter to provide the narrative.
  2. Pictures tell stories. Stories are one of the most powerful presentation techniques because stories are felt not heard.
  3. It is a relatively inexpensive, easy approach to slide design.

The style of the photographs, placement and cropping will evolve with stylistic trends of the time. (Because this aesthetic approach does not work well for technical information, expect related slides to be text and graphic-based.)

4. Visual Metaphors

Using a visual metaphor, simile or analogy helps the audience understand complex information. For example, explaining a transition plan to an audience unfamiliar with the concept can be challenging. A visual metaphor, such as a bridge, improves understanding because it is a familiar concept that shares characteristics with a transition plan (see graphic below). Explaining a complex idea through a visual will improve retention and adoption rates.

visual metaphot-bridge

Slide courtesy of Get My Graphic (


Popular books like Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point and Dan Ariely’s Predictably Irrational help presenters apply behavioral psychology and learning theory to evolve best practices in our industry. We will see more sophisticated visual metaphors, similes and analogies as presentation design matures.


Because they are stylistic trends, expect the popularity of infographics and flat design to wane over time. However, these graphic styles will continue to influence future presentation trends.

Presenters will continue to use sophisticated photographs, images, icons, and graphics. Sites like Get My Graphic (, Fotolia ( and iStockPhoto ( make it easier to add professional clear, compelling graphics and photographs to slides. The more these approaches are proven effective, the more presenters will employ them to create successful presentations.


What presentation design trends are you seeing these days? In your opinion, which will stay and which will pass?

Annoying animation–don’t make people wait for the text to appear!

Your audience doesn’t want to wait for text on the slide to appear!

I don’t mean each line of text coming in separately. There’s certainly controversy about that and I suggest that you make a choice based on your needs and your audience.

I’m talking about text that fades in, wipes in, flies in, etc. While that animation is happening, your audience has to wait until the text is readable. It’s annoying!

Watch this 15-second video as an example of annoying animation. Notice that even the slide titles fade in over a 2-second period. Then the slide text wipes in from left and from the top.

Of course, the less text, the better. But I often see even slide titles animated. Really, you don’t need any animation for slide titles — at all.

Removing animation on lots of slides can be time consuming. Display the Animations tab. On each slider, click an object, and choose None on the Animation gallery. Alternatively, click Animation Pane to display the pane, choose the animation there,  click the down arrow to the right, and choose Remove.

If you have a presentation with too much animation, you can nuke it when you present. Go to the View tab and choose Set Up Slide Show. In the Set Up Show dialog box, check the Show Without Animation checkbox and click OK.

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How do you feel about animated text? Leave a comment!

Customize the colors in your slide master

I see lots of messy presentations when I work with my clients. (That’s why they come to me for help.) One of the areas that is often a disaster is the slide master. Some of the things I see are:

  • powerpoint-tips-customize-colors-4Multiple slide masters caused by copying and pasting slides from other presentations and choosing the Keep Source Formatting option
  • Objects put on the slide master so that they appear on slides that shouldn’t have them, which are then covered up on the slide
  • The opposite–objects that should be put on the slide master put on every individual slide — or many of them — making the file huge
  • Lack of the needed custom layouts in the slide master, requiring manual adjustments on many slides

Colors are an easy fix and will save you time

But one problem that I almost always see is that the slide masters use the default colors — colors that are not used in the presentation — and this means that the colors of objects need to be manually changed on each slide. These objects include shapes, charts, SmartArt diagrams, and more.

Once you have the colors you need, creating slides will be much quicker and they’ll look better, too.

Here’s the procedure for customizing colors in PowerPoint by setting your theme’s color to the colors you actually want to use.

Decide on your colors.  If you don’t have colors from other materials, such as your website, read “Find colors for your PowerPoint theme colors.” Also see “Copying colors from a website.

In PowerPoint 2007 and 2010, click the Design tab and choose Colors. In PowerPoint 2013, click the View tab, then click Slide Master and then choose Colors.

At the bottom of the list, choose Customize Colors. If you aren’t particular about your colors — you don’t have exact specifications, you can choose one of the options on the list that is similar to what you want and then choose Customize Colors. the Create New Theme Colors dialog box, type a name for your theme colors at the bottom. The first 4 colors are dark and light options for text and background. Often, you can leave these as is — PowerPoint uses them to make sure that your text is always a good contrast against your slide background.

The last 2 items are for hyperlinks and followed hyperlinks. PowerPoint uses them when you add a hyperlink to text. I rarely hyperlink text — I prefer to hyperlink shapes and put the text on the shapes because I don’t like the look of the underlined text. So I usually just change Accents 1 through 6. These are your main colors for shapes, charts, etc.

Click each of the accent colors in turn and choose More Colors. In the Colors dialog box, click the Custom tab if it isn’t displayed. The custom tab is where you can specify Red-Green-Blue (RGB) color specifications.


Type the Red, Green and Blue numbers (they can be from 0 to 255) in the appropriate text boxes. You’ll see the resulting color under the New label. Click OK.

Back in the Create New Theme Colors dialog box, click Save. (To edit existing theme colors, right-click the set from the Colors drop-down list on the ribbon and choose Edit. This opens the Edit Theme Colors dialog box, which is the same as the Create New Theme Colors dialog box.)

In PowerPoint 2013, on the Slide Master tab, click the Close Master View button.

You’ll probably want to save the result as a theme, especially if you’ve made other changes to the slide master. On the Design tab, click the More button at the right side of the Themes gallery and choose Save Current Theme. In the dialog box, type a name and click Save. Your new theme will now be available on the Design tab in the Custom section.

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How do you make sure that you easily have the colors you need? Leave a comment!


How to copy a PowerPoint slide to Microsoft Word

Recently I received this question: How can I copy a slide in PowerPoint to Word?

The answer to the question depends on how you want  it to look in Word. you want just the text

 If you want just the text of a slide, you can just copy and paste from PowerPoint to Word.
Note: There are easier techniques for when you want to copy the text of an entire presentation. See “Export all presentation text.”  Be sure to read the comments as they include additional techniques from my very bright readers!

If you want a picture of the slide

Sometimes you want to use the entire slide as an image inside a Word document. I do this when I repurpose a webinar as an e-book. To export a slide as a picture, follow these steps:
  1. Choose File> Save As and choose one of the image options on the Save as Type drop-down list in the Save As dialog box, such as PNG or JPG.
  2. Click Save.
  3. You’ll see a dialog box asking which slides you want to export —  all the slides or just the current one.  Choose the Just This One option to export just the current slide.

If you want a picture of some of the objects on the slide

You don’t have to turn the entire slide into a picture. Instead, follow these steps:
  1. Select just the objects that you want.
  2. Place the cursor over one of the selected objects (you’ll see a 4-headed arrow), right-click, and choose Save as Picture.
  3. In the dialog box, navigate to the desired location, give the image a name, and click Save.
I use this technique all the time. In fact, it’s how I created the image for this blog post — and how I create the images for most of my blog posts.

down-red-arrowsHow do you transfer content from PowerPoint to Word or to any other application? Leave a comment or a question!

How to zoom into a slide and choose another slide in Slide Show view–PowerPoint 2013

PowerPoint 2013 has a couple of new features for Slide Show view that let you:

  • Zoom into a slide so you can see an area of the slide close up
  • Pan around the slide in that magnified view
  • See all of the slides and choose a slide to display

In this video, I show you how these features work.

How to present when there’s no time to prepare

A website visitor commented, “I find it a challenge to face the public if given an emergency task to address or chair a programme. I do panic and worry. How does one combat this?”

powerpoint-tips-present-without-preparation-1Last minute presentations are common

It’s not unusual to be asked to chair a meeting or even present on a moment’s notice. Maybe someone gets sick or there’s an emergency situation that needs to be addressed immediately. How do you handle it?

First of all, in this situation, the audience usually understands that you didn’t have time to prepare. Don’t apologize too much, just explain the situation and they will understand and be fairly forgiving. Usually. It depends on the audience, of course.

Most people find it a challenge to present with no preparation time, so you’re not alone.

Have a structure and fill it in as you go

Why don’t you write up some notes from your past experiences of what worked and what didn’t? And out of that, create a global outline that could work in multiple situations. For example,

  1. Introduce yourself
  2. State the purpose of the meeting
  3. Introduce others as appropriate
  4. State a general structure for the meeting
  5. Start with 3 main points that you’ll cover
  6. Unpack those points
  7. Conclude & summarize

Then, when you have to address a group, you can quickly list 3 main points as soon as you know you have to present/preside — or even as people are coming into the room.

The rest is pretty much automatic. Make sense?

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Have you been in a situation where you had to present on a moment’s notice? How did it go? What tips do you have to make the presentation a success? And to keep yourself calm?

Customize the PowerPoint interface

Your work in PowerPoint can go faster and easier if you customize the interface so that you don’t have to click so many times to find commands that you use often. In PowerPoint 2010 and 2013, you can customize not only the Quick Access Toolbar (usually at the top left of your screen) but the entire ribbon.

Many power users have a Quick Access Toolbar (QAT) that stretches across the entire PowerPoint window. If you want to do that, you should display it below the ribbon,  instead of above the ribbon — where it will run into the Title bar that shows the name of your presentation and the words “Microsoft PowerPoint.”

To move the QAT, click the down arrow at the right end of the QAT and choose Show Below the Ribbon.

I cover how to customize the QAT in an earlier blog post, “Work faster in PowerPoint.”

Customize the ribbonpowerpoint--tips-customize-powerpoint-interface-1

You can go further and customize the ribbon. Here’s how:

In any blank space on the ribbon, right-click and choose Customize the Ribbon. The PowerPoint Options dialog box opens with the Customize Ribbon category highlighted. (You can also get to the same place by choosing File, Options and clicking Customize Ribbon.


One of the simplest things you can do is to display a tab that isn’t displayed by default, such as the Developer tab. That tab has a number of uses and you can read about a cool one in my older (but updated) blog post, “Add notes in PowerPoint in Slide Show view.”

Notice the New Tab and New Group buttons. Yes, you can create your own tabs and add groups to an existing tab. (A Group is a section on a tab.)

Also notice the drop-down list at the upper right, below the Customize the Ribbon heading. Here you can display Main tabs (tabs that appear all the time), Tool tabs (tabs that appear when an object is selected) and all tabs.

The commands are on the left. From the drop-down list at the tip, you can choose Popular Commands, All Commands, and the wonderful Commands Not in the Ribbon. (You’ll find some gems there.)

Here’s the process

  1. Select an item on the right. You often need to click the plus sign to its left to expand it and see what’s inside.
  2. Find a command on the left and select it. Sometimes, there are multiple items with the same name, so hover over it to read a tooltip that explains more.
  3. Click Add.

You can also reorder items on the right-hand side by selecting them and clicking the Up or Down Arrow.

Here’s a 2-1/2 minute video showing how I add a customization to the ribbon.

Use multiple configurations

Do you do PowerPoint training like I do? Or just want the flexibility to save various ribbon & QAT configurations? You can!

In the Customize Ribbon pane of the PowerPoint Options dialog box, click Import/Export at the bottom right corner.

From the drop-down list, choose Export All Customizations.

This opens up a File Save dialog box where you can save a file with the extension .exportedUI. You can save it anywhere, but rename it so that the name says something about the customizations you made. Then click Save.

Back in the PowerPoint Options dialog box, you can click Reset to return to “factory condition,” that is remove all customizations. You might do this for a training session when you don’t want to show customizations that most of the trainees don’t have.

When you want to go back to your customizations, click Import/Export again and choose Import Customization File. Find the file you saved and click Open to reapply all of your customizations!

The flipped meeting

At the Presentation Summit, I heard Patti Sanchez, SVP of Strategic Services at Duarte, talk about slidedocs, which are slides that are used as short documents. One use she mentioned was for pre-meeting reading. (You can download Nancy Duarte’s free book on slidedocs here.)

At the end of her talk, I stood up and said that this reminded me of the flipped classroom.

powerpoint_tips-flipped-meetingWhat is the flipped classroom?

It’s a concept that flips the idea of learning in the classroom and practicing at home. The reason is that students often struggle when doing homework — that’s when they have to apply what they’ve learned but they don’t have someone to help them at that time.

So instead, the teacher assigns reading — or watching a video — to be done at home. That content teaches the lesson. Then the students come to class and can ask questions and do exercises — but the teacher is there to help them.

The flipped classroom is being used both at the K-12 level and at the college level. You can read more about it here.

What is the flipped meeting?

Could this approach be used for in-house meetings? Read more! →

Embedding fonts in a presentation with non-standard fonts

Are you a font freak? Do you just LOVE interesting fonts? I must admit that I’m a font idiot who can hardly tell the difference between Arial, Tahoma and Verdana, unless they’re right next to each other. Even then, I won’t know which is which. Designers are horrified when I tell them this!

powerpoint--tips-embed-fonts-1Fonts can be fun, but you have to be careful with them:

  • They must be legible!
  • They shouldn’t distract from your message
  • They aren’t necessarily available from every computer

It can be horrible when you open a presentation on another computer and the fonts are all wrong!

What to do?

Stick with safety

You can stick with fonts that are standard on all or most computers. Even then, if you have to switch between PC and Mac, you’ll find that text renders differently and takes up a different amount of space. For example, a line of text will wrap differently — and probably look awful!

Embed fonts

PowerPoint lets you embed fonts. This means that the fonts are embedded in the presentation file and another computer should be able to display them.  There are some limitations. For example, this process only works for TrueType fonts (TTF) and OpenType fonts (OTF). Here’s the technique: Read more! →

Make your webinars super interactive

This is a guest post from Brenda Bence, who is a corporate branding and personal branding expert. She wrote this as a tip for Speaker Net News subscribers and gave me permission to reprint it. You can read more about her at

powerpoint-tips-interactive-webinarsBrenda does live keynotes but then often follows up with “virtual keynotes” for members of an organization who are located elsewhere. These are small groups of 12 – 15 team members who are usually in Singapore, Hong Kong, Mumbai and/or Shanghai/Beijing. Here are 8 techniques that she uses to make her webinars super interactive. Note that she uses WebEx webinar software.

  1. Sign in: Get attendees to “sign in” when they first call in. I have a slide with all participants’ names on it, and they have to “sign in” (using WebEx Center technology). They also have to write a one-word description of how they are feeling about attending this program. This starts team members engaging and reflecting and helps me get a sense of the “energy in the room,” just as I would want if I were presenting live.
  2. Ground rules: Make a game out of generating attendees’ own “ground rules” for participation. Then, once the list is created, they have to raise their hand in the sidebar to show they will abide by those rules. Inevitably, someone will offer up ideas along the lines of “focus,” “put away cell phones,” “close up other computer windows,” etc. This avoids my or anybody else’s having to suggest that people pay attention — the audience has set their own rules and are more likely to abide by them.
  3. Notification: I let them know within the first five minutes that this will be a very interactive two hours and that I will call on them randomly throughout the program to answer questions. This keeps people on the alert.
  4. Executive presence: I  always suggest to the client to have a senior-level executive participate during each session, too, and ask him/her to (a) introduce me at the start, and (b) comment a few times throughout the program. Knowing that a senior exec is participating keeps people paying attention and wanting to speak up. Read more! →