No matter whether it’s the classic Pac-Man or a mind-boggling Sudoku puzzle, there is a technique to win in every game. The same goes for sales. There are certain techniques that can help one achieve unreachable targets. With this list of top sales techniques, you’re all set to turn those impossible targets into reality.
1. Internal Evaluation
The top mistake that most sales teams make is jumping straight to selling services and products. Making profit. Little do these teams know, understanding your teammates and company from the inside out goes a long way. Without the fundamentals of a proper sales structure, and how your team works, you may encounter many difficulties in the sales process. In order to avoid such mistakes, here are three questions to assess your team’s dynamics and progress – What are the methods to monitor sales results? Has your team been hitting the sales target? How is your sales compensation system like?
a) What are the methods used to monitor sales results?
The very first step is to understand your own sales results. The crux of this understanding lies not in values and numbers but a consistent variable to measure results. This variable will be used throughout a long period of time in cohesion with the company’s goals. Besides the usual KPI, a constant variable can be calculated using distinct formulas such as the percentage of revenue, close ratio or productivity level.
These statistics are important as it will provide valuable insight for the following your team’s performance as well as identifying key areas where some extra help could come in handy for your company/product.
Having a consistent measurement also ensures to aid your sales team to compare and contrast sales results currently and results from months or years ago. It also helps the team to focus on a clear goal.
For example, your company is trying to drive up sales from new customers. One way to go about doing this is by using the number of sales closed. With the help of a supportive compensation plan, your sales team will be driven towards closing sales from new customers. With the fundamentals of identification covered, a sales dashboard can be very helpful in managing them. It aids your team in measuring and tracking sales results, as well as giving them a specific direction to aim for.
b) Has your team been hitting the sales target?
If the answer is no, the reason is because your team has not identified their ultimate goal. Here’s an example: Say you want an A for that test. In order to do that, you need to achieve a goal like 80 marks an above to get the grade. However, to reach that goal, you need to make a plan to study consistently every day before the exam – likewise with sales.
A goal is the primary result you and your team wants to achieve.
The plan or objectives are the measurable strategies used to achieve this ultimate goal.
Fitzhugh Dodson once said, “Without goals, and plans to reach them, you are like a ship that has set sail with no destination.”
Without a specific goal and plan, your team will be heading aimlessly into the abyss of the corporate world. Discuss and ensure the team’s goal is aligned and then once this is established, make a plan to achieve that goal.
Having a target set, be it for individuals or a team, helps to give a gauge of the progress made. Using details such as the difference between target and actual sales will provide a better differentiation between salesmen.
With your newly found information, you are now able to strategize your other sales techniques better.
Forming sub-teams is an alternative to this problem. Pairing the lowest performing members with the best performers can motivate them to do better while giving your top salesmen a chance to mentor and lead others.
c) How is your sales compensation system like? Does it promote the right attitude at work?
Different cultures in companies may affect what kind of benefit staff are motivated by. To do so, company must know their staff and how they work. For example, Company X motivates their employees through compliments and acknowledgement vs Company Y that motivates their staff by providing bonuses/promotions.
The truth is, people are motivated by benefits presented to them. However, knowing what type of benefit motivates them is another story. For some, a compensation plan can help. Be it team dinners or commissions, it has to be attractive enough to propel your team towards self-driven sales.
Besides keeping them hungry for sales, it is also a good way to keep aligned with the company’s goals as mentioned before. For other companies, they maybe be motivated differently.
2. Value Parity V.S. Value Wedge
Value parity is that overlapping space where you realize that your business holds similarities with others in the same industry. Putting yourself in that tier makes your product a dime in a dozen. Why should customers buy your product when it’s the same like every other product out in the market?
On the other hand, value wedge is something that differentiates you from your competitors. Something that makes your product/company stand out from the crowd.
Thus, it’s natural to focus on your value wedge. This difference between you and your competitors acts as an advantage. But how do you know what your value wedge is?
First of all, your value wedge has to be unique. It has to be something which only you will have or be able to provide. Aside from that, it has to be important to the customer. It doesn’t make sense to have a value wedge without a unique selling point or something your prospects could care less about.
Second of all, your value wedge has to be defensible. When customers start questioning the different options available, those who fail to justify their uniqueness will always be at the losing end. For instance, most companies in the interior design industry are able to provide similar services. If you are the owner of an interior design company which can provide services at a lower cost, try tapping into this selling point as your value wedge and prospects will be keener to choose you over your competitors.
Being able to differentiate yourself through a value wedge will help you in narrowing down the unique strengths that you can use in encouraging prospects to choose your product amongst the many in the market.
3. Be An Effective Listener
Being an effective listener is always harder than it seems to be. When we jump straight into getting the prospect to understand our value wedge, we tend to get ahead of ourselves and miss out important details about the prospect.
The moment someone thinks you’re not listening, you’ve lost them. Besides the importance of being heard by you, an effective listener has to sieve out information from your prospect. Through the different cues given, you will be able to craft your pitch better. These hidden clues such as how they’re feeling or thinking can only be spotted by listening.
Being an effective listener will generally help you in bringing about a positive impression to your prospects while gathering hints from them regarding their business. When they know you’re listening, they usually go one step further telling you more about them.
So what is active listening? Active Listening is fully concentrating on what is being said rather than just passively ‘hearing’ the message of the speaker. It involves listening with all senses.
Another way to demonstrate active listening is through questions. It is the easiest and fastest way to get quality answers from your prospect. The most important part of this interaction process is to learn more about their pain points and help them solve it. It provides better insights on the issues and how you are able to play a part in it.
Observing Body Language is also another form of active listening. By observing their body language, one can understand how they feel and think as well. One example is mirroring. If you catch your prospects mirroring your actions, it can be deduced that they are comfortable with you and keen to know more. However, if their feet are facing in an outward fashion, they might be indicating that they are feeling uncomfortable.
Provide a summary
After gathering information from your prospect through listening and questioning, you may want to do a summary in your own words of the things covered. During this process, you will be able to clarify any doubts or misconceptions while aligning both visions. Doing so will bring you across as someone who is attentive to details and willing to take time to understand the pains of their business.
4. Build sustainable long-term business relationships with clients
No one likes to be sold to – buyers prefer to be guided to make their own decision. As a salesperson, you’re meant to facilitate the sales process, not dominate it. With the constant need to meet targets within tight time frames, many sales professionals struggle to empathise with their clients.
To overcome this, sales professionals need to understand that the only way to build sustainable long-term business relationships with their clients is for them to first buy you as a person. Only then, will they be willing to buy what you sell. One of the best ways for your prospects to buy into you is empathy. This is the sales professional’s’ ability to understand a given pain, situation or challenge from the prospect‘s point of view and provide on point solutions and responses that build trust.
There are many ways to exercise empathy in the sales process with your prospects, which can range from body language to verbal expressions. One other way a sales professional can exercise empathy is to understand the D.I.S.C personality model which provides a very simple but effective understanding of the 4 main personality traits and how people with different traits like to deal with people, challenges, and tasks. Understanding this allows the sales professional to prepare their appointments and information in a way that their prospects’ will be receptive to.
5. Crafting scripts to counter commonly faced objections
Rejection should not be a foreign word to salespeople. You may be wondering how you should deal with it or maybe how can you turn those objections into yes-es.
This is when you will identify the common reasons for rejections. Gather your team, list them down and start brainstorming for solutions. Some things which should be covered during this process include:
a) The cause of rejection (eg. too pricey, do not need the service now) b) What are some problems they face? c) How can we turn that around?
Here is an example of using this sales technique:
The cause of rejection? Limited budget set aside for the service.
How can we turn that around?
One way to counter this is to offer an installment plan or to provide reasons for the high price. You can justify the price by showing how it includes premium services or service customization, and mention that the customer is paying more for something that is of better quality and tailored towards their needs.
This may be a very tedious process which could take up to a few days to complete. However, through this, you have formulated the ultimate cheat sheet for your sales team. With the script in your hands, you and your team will be much more prepared for any common objection and be better equipped to tackle these difficulties.
For a more comprehensive guide on how to tackle rejections, you might want to cover the different approaches towards different personality types as well.
According to a research done, 80% of sales requires at least 5 follow-ups. This shows the importance of building a continuous relationship when it comes to sales. You may receive empty replies or rejections, but it is always good to continue working on building rapport with your prospects.
The beauty of follow-ups is the personalized customer service each prospect receives, which makes them feel important and valuable to the company. Even if you receive an initial ‘no’, doing follow-ups provides you with leverage over your competitors as the prospect is likely to think of you first when future opportunities arise.
Follow-up methodologies in the sales process vary from one industry to another. Suffice to say, it’s important for sales professionals as it allows them to keep in constant contact with the prospect in hopes that somewhere along the way, the prospect will convert into a client. Many times, longer sales cycles are due to industry-specific trends and not particularly affected by the quality of the salesperson. In these cases, following up religiously is a salesperson’s best bet for securing a sale.
One challenge many sales professionals face is asking for a follow-up. Studies show that the chances of closing significantly increases during the 5-8th appointment. The only way you can have that many appointments is if the prospect wants to meet you and for him to meet you, you need to have something new to offer or give every single time. Hence be sure not to “reveal” everything that you have or know in the first meeting, this will give you an opportunity to schedule another appointment with the prospect.
Having this in mind, here are some age-old principles that you can use to evaluate the quality of your follow-up so that you eventually get the opportunity to convert your prospects to clients.
a) Be consistent – Ask for permission to follow-up, determine the frequency and do that consistently unless the client requests an earlier response.
b) Value – Each follow-up should be different and progressive from the one before. It should respond to a NEED or WANT
c) Consolidate – After every follow-up meeting, consolidate what was discussed and indicate next steps
So here you have it, the top sales techniques right at your fingertips. Remember to keep on practicing and perfect those persuasive techniques of yours.
Value Parity VS Value Wedge
Be an Active Listener
Crafting scripts to counter commonly faced objections
There’s no doubt that a riveting story structure and a visually arresting deck are both requisites of a great presentation or pitch. However, apart from the other presentation mistakes you might make, all your work developing your presentation might be for naught if your audiences don’t trust you. If you can’t establish credibility early on in your presentation, it’s as good as not delivering the presentation in the first place as your messages will likely fall on deaf ears and you can’t influence your audience.
The adage: “Trust isn’t given, it’s earned.” usually rings true here. Problem is, trust is typically hard to earn and sometimes, you simply don’t have the luxury of time to build trust quickly from scratch on the first contact with your audience.
Unlike personal selling, you don’t always get to build rapport with your audience on a one-to-one basis. Instead, it’s likely you’ll only be able to speak to a group of people at a time when you’re delivering a presentation.
From our experience, your credibility during a presentation depends on a few factors
i) If the audiences feel you are authentic and honest as a speaker
Nobody likes a sleazy salesperson. If you appear to be untrustworthy or evasive when delivering your presentation, you can expect to face obstacles getting them to take action or believe what you say.
ii) Whether you are perceived as an expert on your topic of choice
There are way too many people calling themselves gurus in the market and audience members are quick to make snap judgments based on whether you have the requisite knowledge or expertise.
iii) How well you can appeal to your audiences
Even if you hit all the right notes in the other two areas, you might not always be able to appeal to certain audience members that might have deep-seated prejudices which go against your cause.
It’s easy to make sweeping claims like: “We’re the best company in this industry”, but supporting these audacious statements with hard facts and data is where it gets challenging.
Naturally, you won’t always have research papers to back up every assertion or opinion you might have. Here are some ways to reference other people or hard evidence in varying degrees of credibility:
Referencing actual research papers and aggregated statistics
You’d be surprised at the extent of research that has been published. Scientists have conducted experiments and research on anything from cognitive biases on how to be more persuasive to stats on mobile penetration in specific countries.
For example, in a formal business presentation setting, there’ll be occasions where you’ll need to reference quantitative evidence on why certain business decisions need to be made. These obviously can’t be based on your own personal opinion but hard, indisputable factual evidence. Using data in your presentations is essential to building trust.
Quote respected authorities or experts
In some cases where you’re trying to make a case to take action on something that you can’t find quantitative data on, citing a strong ‘endorsement’ or quote from an authority figure is the next best thing.
Similarly to how we trust authority figures purely via conditioned behaviour in our lives (doctors, police, teachers) as theorized by Robert Cialdini in his book, Influence, we tend to lend trust to people whoare considered authorities in their respective fields (aka the Principle of Authority).Principles from Influence also apply in presentations.
For example, Jack Ma of Alibaba has risen to fame as an entrepreneur and business magnate to the extent that his foresight on market climates and the ‘future’ of industries is widely cited. Can we say that his statements are 100% accurate? No. Yet, we still afford his words credibility because of his stature, background, and inherent expertise.
2. Develop your expert identity
A Nielsen research study found that consumers in a marketing setting unanimously seek out information and take action on content provided by companies or journalists they perceive to be experts.
It is integral that when you’re speaking on a topic, you have to be perceived as someone that has the relevant expertise and that you ‘know what you’re talking about’.
A way to do this implicitly is weaving a mix of client testimonials, credentials and relevant awards to signify your deep domain knowledge and expertise.
Show past client testimonials and credentials
A great way to immediately build credibility is having someone else talk about you in a positive light. Testimonials are a quick way to do this without seeming like you’re selling yourself – instead, it’s someone else doing the selling.
In Robert Cialdini’s epic, Influence: The Psychology Of Persuasion, this effect is known as ‘Social Proof’ where we augment our behaviors to match what is perceived to be socially acceptable or correct behaviour as dictated by the masses. It’s almost like a herd mentality of sorts. He goes even further to talk about the more pronounced effects of it when the source of social proof is similar to the subject that needs to be persuaded.
What this means is that if you quote clients that are similar to your audience during your presentation, you’ll have a much easier time establishing trust from the get-go. At the same time, showing a list of past clientele can also help to assure listeners that others have put their trust in you prior and this can improve your image of trustworthiness.
Look the part
We tend to make snap-judgments on different unconscious signals by salespeople or presenters. It could be a hint of contempt in their microexpressions or the way they shake hands, but half the battle is sometimes won by simply looking the part. The visual aspect and first impression lends to build part of your expert identity.
If you try to make someone pay for an expensive meal that’s wrapped in cling wrap in a dingy little store versus a posh, clean and well-designed restaurant, you’ll definitely get push back. In most cases, presentations aren’t too different.
First impressions can be affected by anything from sloppy dressing to cluttered slides. Venngage put together an excellent resource on expert presentation design styles you can adapt for your next presentation.
Have an unconventional opinion
True experts are expected to have original ideas that sometimes go against the grain of commonly touted advice or industry norms. It’s not to say that you should actively seek to be contrarian for the sake of it, but being able to hold your ground and have a clear stance is indicative of an expert that knows what he/she is talking about. For example, Gary Vaynerchuk can be considered a prolific and polarizing figure because of his irreverent way of speaking as well as his contrarian opinions.
An easy way to do this is to identify a common, but misguided belief that the industry has and logically debunk it with your own theory. Having an original stance and supporting it with evidence can quickly help you become perceived as an expert.
We buy into the brand of industry moguls like Steve Jobs and Elon Musk precisely because they seem to offer ideas that are novel and unique. At the same time, because their ideas are at odds with the current status quo, we’re drawn to their narratives because of either the Underdog Effect(e.g. when Apple is up against conglomerates like IBM) or the protagonist-antagonist dynamic of their vision(e.g. Elon Musk fighting against pollution and innovating beyond the public’s current perception of what’s possible).
Share relevant credentials that matter to your audience
Different audiences have various ways that they use to evaluate speakers on trustworthiness. Being aware of these early on will give you an edge in establishing trust with your audience.
For example, if you’re aware that your audience values globalized insights, having a slide that validates your experience in a global setting can help you develop a strong position of authority.
Hence if you’re speaking at a tech-related event, it might not be the best strategy to try to boost your credibility by boasting about your age via public speaking. Being prepared for the right context can make or break your presentation.
Only after establishing the needs in #1 should you “formally” introduce yourself or your company to make yourself relevant
3. Have genuine intent to add value to your audience
Remember that the presentation is never about you, it’s about your audience. It’s about what they want to achieve and how you can help them get there.
As such, it’s imperative that you find out as much about them as possible prior to developing your presentation and work towards adding value to them, instead of force-feeding them a solution that they don’t need.
The best way to do this is to put in a couple of extra hours to deliver timely, relevant content coupled with effective presentation design that’s obviously tailored to your audience.
Use examples that your audiences resonate with
Think back to when you were back in school, listening to your lecturer offer examples that didn’t interest you in the least bit. Similarly, if you were speaking to a group of millennials today, they would have specific areas of interest that you can take advantage of.
Referencing recent trending news and drawing relationships between what you’re speaking about and what they might find relevant is an easy way to build rapport quickly. If you’re talking about a business-related topic, try referencing popular companies like SnapChat or Instagram that they interact with on a daily basis. You can be sure they’ll sit up and listen if it hits close to home. That way, you’ll have their attention and appreciation for taking the time to put together relevant examples.
4. Have a process for execution
According to an Accenture study, 94% of B2B buyers conduct online research at some point in the buying process. This makes it difficult for you to try and breeze through the sales conversation without any real substance.
In another study by Bain, 375 companies were asked if they believe they delivered a superior value proposition to clients. Eighty percent said yes. Bain then asked the clients of these actual companies if they agreed that the specific company that they bought from actually delivered this superior value proposition. You know what’s funny? Only eight percent agreed.
Buyers that need to make purchases quickly now rely on how believable you are rather than make logical comparisons on the actual value proposition.
For those that are selling a product or service, a great way to quickly establish trust to get you closer to buy-in is to detail a process of execution especially for sales presentations or investor presentations. Generally, when we’re buying anything in today’s age, we have unlimited access to information online to make comparisons that lead to an informed choice.
Showing that you or your company follows a repeatable process helps to put your buyer’s mind at ease. Instead of putting their trust in a single individual doing guesswork, they can now rely on a proven methodology or framework rather than just the words of the person they’re speaking to. In some cases, this is communicated at the end to conclude your presentation and to suggest next steps.
Whenever you’re in doubt as to whether your presentations will establish trust during your sales pitch or presentation, ask yourself if it fulfills these four criteria:
Have you ever sat through a presentation where the data just looks so.. dull? Or overwhelming? Don’t worry, we can relate.
Don’t get us wrong. Data is wonderful, and plays a key role in our decision making – especially in business. But, it can get a little boring sometimes. Furthermore, we tend to tune out after 10 minutes of listening, where it becomes easier to focus on anything except the presentation.
So, now that you’re the one conducting a business presentation, why not avoid giving your audience the same misery you’ve experienced?
Here’s the thing. As presenters, we often make the assumption that the more content crammed into slides the better. After all, more information does show that you’re more knowledgeable about what you’re sharing, right?
In fact, when you first begin creating your presentation slides, one tip is to start by thinking of a headline that summarises your content succinctly. Think of it as a ‘Twitter-friendly headline’ as Carmine Gallo would say. This helps you focus on your key message so you can decide on which relevant information to include.
Data such as statistics and facts are fixed, but should not be rigid. If you have not decided on whether the information should be placed on your slides, ask yourself: What is your motive in presenting the data to the audience? If it’s just for the sake of showing, would it not be better placed in an appendix or word report?
The purpose of a presentation is to convince the audience to buy into what you’re selling, be it an idea, product or goal. That means it’s not just about using facts and figures – it’s also about appealing to their emotional side and gaining their trust. You need to craft a persuasive presentation
Here’s where data storytelling comes in.
The Art of Data Storytelling
“Numbers have an important story to tell. They rely on you to give them a clear and convincing voice.” –Stephen Few
Data storytelling is visualising data effectively. But despite so, it needs to be more than just creating visually appealing charts or graphs. It needs to be able to communicate the message across via the data presented. Basically, it all boils down to a combination of these three elements: data, visuals and storytelling.
When your story is coupled with data, it helps to explain to your audience what’s happening in the data and highlight the important points.
It helps enlighten the audience to insights that they wouldn’t see without charts or graphs. Visuals ensure that the data attracts the audience’s eyes to look at it – to be interested by it.
If you can combine these three elements together, you’ll definitely make your data come back to life.
Below is a video of Hans Rosling who is able to blend data and storytelling beautifully, so much that it can captivate anyone seeing him present:
Now you know how a good data storytelling is executed, learn how to prepare one as well. Here are our 3 proven tips that help boost your data storytelling:
1. Make It About Them
It is easy to talk about statistics. ’34% of children between the age of 7 to 9 in Singapore suffer from myopia’. ’13.3% of Singaporeans are smokers’. However, these are merely figures to the audience.
For example, if you’re sharing about myopia to a group of parents, ‘34%’ sounds rather insignificant, doesn’t it?
Here’s where the problem lies. The percentage of children suffering from myopia seems small, and using a pie chart gives the impression that the probability of it happening to their child is low. In the end, the figure you’ve shown is easily dismissed and forgotten.
Business presentations, especially those that you seek to convince with, are often filled with so much information that the audience becomes accustomed to it. Numbers lack the emotional impact that gets them to think, ‘okay, I need to pay attention because it concerns me’. So if you want to make an impression, you have to make it personal.
Start by amplifying the meaning behind your numbers. The beauty of data is that you can represent it in various ways to form different perspectives and opinions.
In this example, you can make it personal by asking the audience to look to their left and right. Tell them that amongst themselves and the two people beside them, one will have to tackle this problem with his or her child. Now the perspective has shifted. Instead of dismissing it as a low probability statistic, people now see themselves in the position, and they immediately realize the urgency to address the issue.
2. Get Your Audience to Fill Someone Else’s Shoes
“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view, until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it” – Harper Lee author of the book ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’,
In many situations, we frequently emphasise the need to empathise and presentations are no different.
Your audience is generally eager to see you succeed. Unfortunately, they have short attention spans and will eventually start to drift off. To make things interesting, and increase their understanding of what you’re saying, giving them the opportunity to see things from another perspective.
Here’s the first example: Let’s say you’re delivering a sales presentation on HR software.
“After making the switch to our HR Software, 55% of these existing users have a 120% jump in productivity”
Sounds alright. You heard the benefits loud and clear. But… you don’t see the need to do anything about it right? There is no motivation to make you do so.
Now take a look at this example:
“John is a HR Manager who used Program X. He feels so frustrated with the system as it caused him problems with managing his staff, tabulating salaries, and other issues that added on to his workload rather than reducing it. Then he made the swap to our HR system. Instantly, his burden was lightened. Salaries became easier to calculate, employee holidays were easier to manage and John no longer has to worry about the system breaking down. 55% of other users like John found a 120% jump in productivity”
Do you feel inclined to do the same as John? That is the power of storytelling. Its main goal is to get your audience to feel the pain of maintaining the status quo, and envision the positive results if they go with your suggestion. It makes the character relatable to them. Makes the audience understand why the problem is a problem and how the solution can help them.
Charts are fantastic, they demonstrate what we want to say without using dozens of words that clutter the slides. With a quick addition of a few bars and lines, we remove the need to explain the numbers individually.
But what happens when your charts get too complicated? You’re back to square one. Charts are intended to help the audience visualise data. But when ‘data-dumping’ occurs, your audience is once again faced with the task of digesting the information in the short span of time when you show the slide.
As we’ve said earlier, data is fixed but not rigid. You may not be able to change the figures, but you can change the way it is presented.
Let’s assume you’re sharing a comparison set of statistics between two companies.
Start by asking yourself, what is the intention of presenting these figures? Is it to show an increase or decrease on a certain month? Is it to show the difference?
Once you’ve figured out the purpose, remove all the unnecessary data. You can leave them in the appendix if needed, but since you’re not going to talk about it in your presentation, eliminate it.
The next step is to ask yourself what your audience requires to understand the chart. Are the guidelines needed? Do they serve a purpose, or will eliminating them make it look clearer? Is it necessary to label every single point on the axis?
Based on that, we can remove unnecessary lines and details, to keep the chart simple.
Once you’ve removed the lines, you can add labels to the key points that the audience should focus on.
Wrapping It Up
Remember, this isn’t school work, where the reader has to see every single step you are doing. These people whom you’re presenting to need the easiest way possible to understand what you are trying to say in the shortest amount of time.
Data is integral in showing why the audience should trust your presentation or you. The beauty of your data should be shown visually as well. Remember to keep these three tips in mind when working on your data, and have fun!
What do you think makes an impactful presentation deck? Many tend to think that it is the designing part that makes the cut. While this is somewhat true, there is no point of you having a beautifully designed presentation deck if it’s not designed in a functional way – where your message is able to be conveyed to your audience.
“What separates design from art is that design is meant to be functional” – Cameron Moll
An impactful presentation deck does not compromise the design or content. Or both. Instead, it reinforces the two so that the presentation deck has the best of both worlds – it is aesthetically pleasing to the eye while still being informative and succinct at the same time.
So how do you make sure your presentation sells? There are so many different factors that come into play. From the structure and colour, to the typography and image used.
All of these elements have a part to play. Hence, it’s important to understand these design principles which can help make your presentation much more impactful.
To make this easier, we have broken down the principles of design in a step-by-step guide. This guide will give you a solid foundation to launch any impactful presentation if you follow it closely.
1) Structure Your Content
First and foremost, it’s essential that you organise and structure your content. Many make the mistake of jumping right into designing their slides when they have not even created an outline for their content.
Even a great topic with the best content and ideas will be rendered useless if it’s not organised in a coherent manner. Not only will you confuse your audience, you’ll also find it difficult to design the slides – disorganised content entails an even more disorganised presentation deck.
One way to organise your content is to create an outline as it restructures your speech to make it clear and concise. After you’ve decided the points you’d like to bring up, start arranging them in a way where it can smoothly transition from one point to the other.
This leads me to my next point.
One idea per slide
Take a look at this slide:
Do you feel overwhelmed? Or as if you can’t tell what the slide is trying to convey? You aren’t the only one. The reason you may feel this way is because there are too many ideas placed on one slide.
Let’s face it. Everyone gets overwhelmed and blank out when bombarded with a sea of information. There is also a scientific reason behind this.
Low memory retention happens when your audience has to split their attention between reading the text on the slide and listening to you speak – an almost impossible task to absorb anything.
Therefore, ‘less is more’ when it comes to presentation slides. It all boils to breaking down the content in a way that your audience is able to digest and keep up with.
Here’s how to organise your points so that they are informative yet concise:
Identify the main points
Assign one slide per main point
Elaborate the details – the sub points and etc – in your speech instead (or put it under your notes as reference)
It’s important to be attentive to visual hierarchy. Take a second to think about the eye movements of your audience as they look at your slides.
Are they reading from left to right? Or vice-versa?
Take note of where, you should position your text based on the language you use. In most western languages, people typically read from left to right. However, other languages like Arabic, Persian or even Japanese are read the other way round.
People are also conditioned to read from top to bottom. So it is best to adjust your visual elements to go with the flow of their eye movements.
2) Create a Moodboard
After you are done organising and structuring your content, comes the conceptualisation of the presentation deck. One of the difficult parts of designing is executing it. Even if you have great design ideas in mind, it can be tough to know how exactly you will execute it. This is the part where moodboards come in.
So what is a moodboard?
In simpler terms, it is a collage of images and colours that help inspire the beginning stages of your presentation deck. It gives a rough idea of the look, feel, and tone of your presentation – a roadmap that shows the outcome of your presentation deck.
Moodboards of presentation decks usually consist of the following:
a) Colour Scheme
It’s important not to underestimate the effect of colours. A recent study called the “Impact of Color in Marketing” discovered that 90% of quick judgments made about purchase can be based on colour alone.
Colours are able to evoke feelings, associations, and experiences in us. Knowing this, you should make use of the appropriate colours to use for your slides to bring out a certain feeling you have in mind so that you can further reinforce your message.
Here’s a video explaining the meaning behind certain colours and what they are associated to:
With that in mind, now ask yourself what is the emotion or feeling you wish to evoke in your audience? When you’ve decided, create a colour palette that meets the emotion you wish to evoke.
Coolors and paletton are great if you need inspiration to create a colour scheme.
Mix & Match Colours
When selecting colours, you need to choose a harmonious combination that accentuates the message of your slides.
A good strategy for selecting a colour palette is to choose three that represent the following:
The rule is simple: background and base colours should be in a similar range of the colour wheel while the accent colour should represent a shade furthest away from the background and base.
Ensure that your background and base colours pale in comparison to your accent colour as the accent colour role is to captures your audience’s attention in the presentation. To make sure your accent colour remains in the limelight, it is best to make it the ‘loudest’ colour among the three.
You’ve probably heard this many time but a picture really is worth a thousand words.
According to brain research studies, we are six times more likely to remember visuals compared to text-based content.
With that being said, including images on your slides are not enough. This brings me to the next point.
Use High-Quality Images
When selecting images, it is essential you find high quality ones. Many speakers make the mistake of choosing low or medium quality images as from their laptop screen, it looks normal – fine even. However, if it gets showcased on a full-sized screen, it may end up looking grainy. So even if you provide great content, your slide designs will suggest otherwise.
Avoid going to Google Images and selecting the first image that appears on the search results – who’s to say the next person won’t do the same?
Visit this list of websites that offer free stock photos instead. If you are aiming to go full screen, we recommend that you go for pictures that are of at least least 1,000 pixels.
Apply The Rule of Thirds
Here’s a key principle to take note of when selecting an image.
Rule of thirds dictates that the most powerful images have their focal points at the intersection of the thirds of the lines on a given canvas.
So, if you divide your presentation slides into vertical and horizontal thirds, the intersections of those lines are like crosshairs, and you want to place those crosshairs right on top of the focal point of your image
Here are some insights by David Peterson, Digital Photo Secrets of why that is the case.
“If your subject is in the middle of the image, it’s considered static.Your eye is drawn to it then has nowhere to go from there because the object is equal distance from all sides.
Therefore, when your subject is positioned closer to one of the edges, it forces your eye to follow it…to find it.
This allows the viewer to linger on your image longer. It makes for a more captivating photo because it’s almost interactive. Like a conversation going on between the photo and you.”
He showed his participants three images labelled ‘A’, ‘B’ and ‘C’.
Image ‘A’ did not abide by the rule of thirds while ‘B’ and ‘C’ did. When asked which of the three slides the audience felt were pleasing to the eye, many roughly chose Image ‘B’ or ‘C’ half of the time.
Less than 5% of the audience chose Image ‘A’. When asked why they chose Image ‘A’, some said “It’s boring.” or “I couldn’t decide what was important in the photo.”
One Image Per Slide
Just like the principle of one message per slide, it is also important to not overwhelm your audience with so many images per slide – which only makes them look cluttered and hard to focus on. Space the images out across several slides.
It’s simple, powerful and highly effective. Also known as ‘negative space’, white space is a design term referring to space that isn’t occupied by text, images or other visible page elements.
You’re probably thinking, shouldn’t you maximise every inch of your slide deck? Instead of wasting it with this ‘white space’?
Firstly, it creates separation. White space helps declutter your slides by creating separation between objects.
In addition, it emphasises or bring out the important points. White space, in simple terms, is a blank canvas. There is absolutely nothing to look at when it is fully being utilised. But, add in content surrounding this blank canvas and that content will stand out even more.
Last but not least, white space improves readability. Want your slides to be impactful? According to a research by Dmitry Fadeyev, (creator of Usaura), white space increases comprehension by almost 20%.
Turns out, whitespace around a block of text helps people comprehend what they are reading better – and therefore, make your slides easier to remember.
An icon can be defined as an image of a high symbolic value, used for the purpose to communicate ideas and messages without the use of words.
With icons you can also draw attention and list things without it being boring and repetitive. You can also add value to your presentation by making use of icons so things are more understandable for your audience.
Icons make content easier to understand as it contains meaning. Unlike bullet-points, icons contain a drawing or picture which in the audience’s mind will associate it with a task, function or is aligned with the point you are trying to convey. If the meaning of the icon is clear, your audience will be able to link it easily to the content.
For example, an icon of a phone will quickly help your audience associate it to contacts or communication.
In addition, icons help facilitate text skimming. Although drawing your audience’s attention to your presentation is important, making it easy to skim through it is equally important as well.
People just don’t have time or interest to fully read everything they see. But with icons, you can reinforce skimming while ensuring the message is still being conveyed. This is because icons quickly tell your audience what the presentation or point is about.
d) Select a Font
Serif vs San Serif
Do you know the difference between serifs and san serifs? Urban Fonts describe the two types as the following.
Serifs have small lines detailing the edge of letters and symbols. Serif fonts are usually associated with something serious – formal even. This is because of their traditional and conservative look and feel.
On the other hand, san serifs do not have the small lines projected out of the letters. This gives a more minimalistic and modern effect as a result.
Knowing this, make sure to understand what type of feel you want your presentation to invoke. Choosing a font according to the age group you will be speaking to is also vital.
For example: sans serifs are much more appropriate to use especially if your audience are young children. This is because the simplified letterforms are easier for them to identify with as they’re still learning how to recognise letters and words.
Given the strengths of each font type, it’s also not a bad idea to combine the two types which can bring out a unique combination. You can make use of serif in headlines for greater emphasis while serif can be used in the body text in order to give a more cohesive feel and easier readability in your slide.
Imagine going to a speech where the speaker is speaking in a monotonous and rigid tone. There is a lack of intonation, speed change and excitement. Boring right?
The same applies to the usage of fonts. You need different fonts to add spice and texture to your presentation.
Experimenting the pairing of fonts can be fun, but time-consuming. As a rule of thumb, having contrasting font types help. Here are some examples:
Wide vs Narrow
Serif vs San Serif
Bold vs Light
Big vs Small
With that being said, although pairing different fonts help spice up your visuals, do take note not to overdo it. Only use two to three fonts at most to keep it consistent. If not, it will end up looking overwhelming, distracting and messy.
Supersize Your Fonts
It’s important to remember that you are creating a presentation deck for a room full of people. That means ensuring your audience from the front all the way to the back of the room are able to see your slides and the content.
To ensure that they do, make use of Guy Kawasaki’s 10-20-30 rule – minimising the number of words on your presentation slides.
This gives you a chance to supersize your fonts as a result and yes, although it is better to have slides that are short and sweet, make sure not to compromise any important information just to hit that criteria.
“Now at our studios we don’t write our stories, we DRAW them.” Walt Disney
A storyboard is a rough sketch of how you want your presentation deck to flow. It all boils down to two words – visual outline. Just like your content, even your designs and layouts need an outline.
Despite so, it also happens to be one of the most neglected practices in designing a PowerPoint presentation since many are unaware of this method.
Storyboards are important step to take as it helps you design you design a ‘deck that sells’ with minimal effort, time and money.
This is because it helps you to visualise the structure of your presentation- from the beginning, middle and end. Starting straight to designing your deck on PowerPoint or Keynote will only kill of any chances of how you want to layout your content and design.
Sketching your presentation deck also helps cut down the time taken for you to design your presentation deck. This is because it you are dumping all the ideas you have in mind as opposed to keeping all the information in your head – which you may forget about after a while.
If you are in a stump, however, there are many sites that you can visit to gather inspiration for your deck. Some examples include Creative Market and Dribbble.
And there you have it! Designing an aesthetically pleasing yet informative presentation deck requires a lot of patience, dedication and effort. To recap, remember that these are the design principles you should keep in mind the next time you craft your presentation deck: