Create engaging and beautiful slides in only 1 hour

In my previous posts, I have discussed how to develop great content and how to improve your presentations. In this post, you will learn about a tool that helps you create engaging and beautiful slides in less than an hour. No need to search for “best PowerPoint themes” or “best PowerPoint templates” as you can create the best looking slides using this online presentation application for free.

What makes a good presentation?

Before we jump to the tool itself, let me share some principles of a good presentation.

  • Ask yourself: “do you need slides?”. If your points can be better told with stories, you may not need any slides. Just have a conversation with your audience.
  • Create structure: a good structure will help you in designing slides with a good flow and making your points effectively.
  • Appeal to logic and emotions: you don’t want a presentation filled with numbers nor do you want a presentation filled with only stories, but no logic.  Mix them up. Appeal to both the faculties of the human brain: logical and emotional.
  • Do not read from your slides: you have been to such presentations in which the presenter stands behind the lectern and reads all the points on the slides to you. Respect your audience: if they wanted to read your slides, they could do in their own comfort.
  • Limit the words on your slides: do not fill your slides with text, instead have the keywords on a single line or two.
  • Support your points with stories: engage your audience by telling stories to support your points. Your audience will remember your points if you tell stories or anecdotes that make your points shine. That reminds me of a story from the Jataka Tales of a turtle who did not limit his words.
  • Augment your stories with slides: once you have stories and points ready, you are ready to create slides. These slides should not repeat what you are going to say, but advance and augment your stories. Often, a plain background with some text will work well, but if you think an image can speak better, surely add it to your slide. Make the background image bleed and follow the rule of the thirds.

Images and words

Chip Kidd in his popular TED talk described the key principles behind a successful book cover. I will never forget the cardinal rule he mentioned (around 3:27): do not show an apple and write apple underneath. Essentially, be economical with your words and images; make sure they complement and build upon each other; and do not repeat yourself with both. Watch his presentation to learn more about book cover design principles and a cool story behind the Jurassic park logo.

Introducing Haiku Deck for beautiful slides

Haiku Deck is a fantastic online presentation tool that by design stops you from making many mistakes. Its default template is a blank slide with two lines for words: one in a bigger font and other in a smaller font. Its coolest feature, I believe, is the ability to find great looking, free photos based on the text on your slides. Once you find the image you were looking for, you can easily set that as the background image and Haiku deck takes care of the rest. (This takes forever to do in PowerPoint) You can zoom in and pan the images if you would like, but the default placement works really well.

Now, the key with finding the images in Haiku Deck is that you do not want to break the cardinal rule, therefore, you will have to think and try out many ideas to find the perfect background image for your slides. Once you do so, it is very easy to create engaging, stunning, and beautiful slides for your presentation. For example, here are some slides on “what is analytics — and why should I care?” I put it together in less than an hour.

What is Analytics – Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires

You will notice that I am contradicting myself by repeating in text and images both. If I were to give this presentation, I certainly would remove the words in the bigger font, but since it is on the web, I want it to have some context. This is how I would present this talk:

  • Slide 1: open with a story or a question on how using data and analytics created big impact or how a person, whom you would not expect to use data, used it
  • Slide 2: provide examples (and numbers) of how analytics is used in reporting sense. Provide benefits of doing so. Tell a story to tie everything together.
  • Slide 3: do similar as slide 2 but for predictive analytics.
  • Slide 4: open with a story of how an entity gained substantial benefits using data (no moneyball though) and examples how the audience can gain a similar advantage. (See how the title  “gain advantage” is unnecessary as the game of chess would indicate planning and strategy)
  • Slide 5: Provide numbers and examples from a doomsday scenario. Tell a story on how an organization collapsed because of lack of careful planning. Summarize the points and call to action: use data.

It doesn’t end here, of course. You just have good slides, but you need to prepare the talk  by practicing your delivery. With Haiku Deck, there’s a danger that your presentation could look similar to other presentations, but I would take that risk than be boring.

About the Author

A co-author of Data Science for Fundraising, an award winning keynote speaker, Ashutosh R. Nandeshwar is one of the few analytics professionals in the higher education industry who has developed analytical solutions for all stages of the student life cycle (from recruitment to giving). He enjoys speaking about the power of data, as well as ranting about data professionals who chase after “interesting” things. He earned his PhD/MS from West Virginia University and his BEng from Nagpur University, all in industrial engineering. Currently, he is leading the data science, reporting, and prospect development efforts at the University of Southern California.