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Learn how to optimize the content of your presentation by focusing on relevance. In this sample chapter from The Non-Designer's Presentation Book: Principles for effective presentation design, 2nd Edition, Robin Williams shows you how to remove superfluous items, choose a complementary background, select high-impact photos, and more.

This chapter is from the book

Everything you put on your slide should be relevant to the topic of that slide and to your audience. This includes not only the text, but the graphics and backgrounds.

Remember, the point in your presentation is to communicate something clearly. The more irrelevant items you have on your slides, the more it takes attention away from you and the more difficult it is for your audience to mentally sift through the pieces and combine them into a coherent whole, all while trying to listen to you.

And keep in mind that what is relevant to one audience might not be to another. Does the older, conservative audience really want the loud and obnoxious video bits that are in the presentation?

Part of the clarity and relevance of the information develops from your commitment to do your homework—you cannot create one presentation to show to six different audiences. You might, however, create one master presentation with everything you want to say about this topic, and then make six copies of that master to customize each one for an individual market. Your thoughtfulness and care will show, and it will impress your audience.

Get rid of superfluous stuff

You don’t need all kinds of gewgaws sitting on your slide cluttering up your information. Don’t stick random rubbish in the corners—the corners really don’t mind being empty! The more stuff you stick on the screen that has nothing to do with your presentation, the more you disrupt the focus. If the focus is visually disrupted, it translates into your audience losing focus.


A shovel? I have to dig my own foundation? There’s buried treasure? You’re a grave-digger? Don’t you find your mind trying to make a connection between the shovel and the information?


Even if the clip art is related in some way, the more you make my eyes wander around the screen trying to figure out what’s going on, the more you lose me. Can you feel your eyes trying to make sure you’ve scanned everything on this screen? Can you feel them wandering around?

That includes the logo on every page

I realize there is a strong belief in making sure that every darn slide in the entire deck has at least one company logo on it, or perhaps two logos, or a logo and a tag line, or a logo and a company name and a tag line. Yes, you’ve got people trapped in a room for an hour and they have no choice but to look at the screen, so why not brand your brand into their brains?

Is the point to make sure they don’t forget who you are? Hmm, wouldn’t the audience be more inclined to remember you if 1) your presentation is clear and relevant, and 2) the handouts are terrific and useful and nice-looking so they will be kept and not trashed? It is on your useful handout that your corporate logo belongs, not on the ephemeral slides. After a few slides that logo becomes simply clutter and the brains of attendees blank out its meaning.


One logo on every slide. No, two logos on every slide. Combine that with the unnecessary background picture, the blue edges taking up space, and the horizontal line. If we take out everything that’s irrelevant, perhaps we can make the type big enough to read.


There’s still too much text (if it’s a live presentation) and the statistics could use more interesting treatment, perhaps with images of actual humans, but at least we’ve gotten rid of the irrelevant pieces and can start to work from here. After you read Chapter 8 on Repetition and Chapter 9 on Alignment, come back to this page and notice how those principles were applied.

Your brand is bigger than your logo—it includes your colors, your typography, your inimitable style, your critical information, your useful handout, your confidence, the professionalism of the presentation. It’s not just the logo.

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