How slide deck design can make the difference when presenting data visualizations

Written by Sean Dougherty,
5 minute read

Improving your slide deck design is a sure fire way to take the stories told by your marketing data visualizations from good to great. 

While the best slide deck presentations seem like they were crafted by a world-class designer, a simple shift in your perspective will have you building exceptional decks in no time. And the best part: your new found skill in creating great slide deck designs will make your marketing data insights shine. 

So, let’s take a moment to break down this dark art into manageable chunks that can really make a difference. 

Start with impact

You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. Your slide deck design is no different, and your opening slide is your chance to set the tone for your presentation. 

You are probably used to seeing standard slide templates that use a big image and a run-of-the-mill title. Take the image below, for instance. We’ve set up a title slide for a made up women’s e-commerce apparel brand called fake fashion. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this opening slide. After all, it features a nice, glossy image and tells the audience what the presentation will be about. 

It doesn’t necessarily promise any ground breaking insights or reporting inside, though. Something about the layout may even feel a bit corporate. The good news is that there is a ton of room to increase the impact of this opening statement. Check out this slide deck inspiration:

 

Can you feel the difference? In the second option, we selected an image that’s all about impact and attitude. Also, based on the composition of the shot, it appears as though she is looking into the future. It almost makes you expect to see data visualizations that guide the way for further growth, right?

Everything has a place

When presenting your insights and visualizations, it’s very easy to fall into the trap of over labeling and over explaining the points you are trying to make. In reality, the visualizations in your slide deck presentation need room to breathe.

Every graphic has the opportunity to deliver an insight. As such, they should command attention on the slide. They should be the singular visual focus-point of the page. Any supporting visualizations should also be delivered on their own slide. 

In order to maintain the focus on your visualizations in your slide deck design, keep supporting copy points to an absolute minimum on each slide. Supporting copy should be limited to information that cannot be delivered vocally during the presentation. Additionally, any source citations should be near or at the bottom of the visual hierarchy. This way, they won’t be distracting. 

Remember, this is presumably a presentation that you will be delivering to an audience. That means you have the opportunity to explain the details of each graphic vocally, reducing the need to have tons of explanations on the slide design. If there is a need to send the presentation to other stakeholders who weren’t present in the meeting, you can always add context and description in the speaker’s notes section of any given slide. If a reader needs even further detail, they may need to book a separate discussion where you both can dig into the reporting dashboard in detail. 

Getting emotional

We all know that a picture is worth 1,000 words. Some pictures are much more powerful than others, though. And powerful images can transform your slide deck design. 

Take transition or mid-presentation title slides for example. They serve as markers throughout the deck and serve to introduce new topics or concepts. Let’s say we want to set a marker in the middle of our slide deck presentation that queues up a particularly profound insight. 

Imagine we (a hypothetical board game company) discovered an emerging consumer profile of young families. They particularly enjoy playing our game after dinner. You could use a compelling image to illustrate the idea like in the example below. 

 

It’s nice, sure. But let’s take a moment to again crank up the volume on the emotional impact. 

Can you see the difference? The first slide design tells a story in a bit more of a literal way. It works, but the second option tells more of a story of a family connection. It should be obvious to your audience that this slide has something to do with our board game product. Instead of literally showing a family play the game, we instead focus on the ecosystem and atmosphere that the game is a part of. This way, we tell a richer story.

The second option ramps up the impact of your slide deck design. It draws the audience in, primes their attention for any visualizations on the next slide, and also elicits an equal emotional response. In the long term, this helps your audience remember the point you are communicating and can also increase buy-in. 

Devil's in the details

At this point, it should be pretty clear how much of an impact your main data visualizations and imagery can have on your slide deck design. It’s equally important to pay attention to the small stuff, though. 

Things as simple as clear labeling and typesetting can have a profound impact.

Imagine that you need to present a large portion of copy for approval. It could be a listing of campaign hashtags, the script for a Spotify Audio Ad, or the script for a YouTube ad. This slide will require a ton of copy and possibly some images. 

Clear and concise labels help your audience quickly understand what they are looking at, while also providing the important content as much space as possible. Additionally, as Funnel US Head of Data Operations Walter McHugh points out in this webinar, it’s also a good idea to make sure your labels are conveying the point of view or findings that you’re trying to communicate. 

Taking the time to typeset your slide deck design can also make a copy-heavy slide much easier to read. Your audience should see a consistent hierarchy that brings attention to important elements and identifies secondary information. In the first example below, the font choices and weights are quite similar to each other. The result is a slide that, on first glance, looks very overwhelming. 

However, by making more careful choices as seen below, that large block of heavy copy suddenly feels easier to consume. 

Rules are meant to be broken

We know what you’re thinking, my presentation templates don’t allow me to use big, sexy images. “My fonts are already dictated to me. The brand guide leads to boring slide decks. And it is really hard to realize great design in my company’s 5-year-old Microsoft Powerpoint.” The agony!

Well, your deck templates should be thought of as a guideline rather than something set in stone (within reason). It’s important to maintain the tone of the brand in your presentation deck. You should also maintain the core design elements.

However, your slide deck design should make your visualizations and concepts shine. If an element of your template works on one slide but not another, examine how you can adapt the template so it works more effectively. 

Your slide deck needs to tell the most compelling story about your insights as possible. What is more effective in your mind, a slide deck presentation that follows a template perfectly but comes across as expected, or a presentation that breaks the rules while jumping off the screen and inspiring your audience.

Every slide deck can inspire

Each time you are designing a slide deck, remember that it is an opportunity to make a difference in your organization. 

From presenting marketing performance reporting or pitching your next campaign concept, your slide deck can push the story you are telling from good to great. 

Just remember, focus on emotional impact, don’t forget about the details, and don’t be afraid to color outside the lines. Your slide deck is a love letter to your work. While crafting show stopping presentations may seem like a dark art, it just takes a little shift in perspective. 

If you like this kind of design inspiration, we’ve put together a handy and downloadable Google Slides deck of all the examples in this article. Download it now so you always have the pointers nearby.