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How to Make a Last-Minute Presentation Deck

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Photo: Nattanan Zia (Shutterstock)

A digital slideshow presentation can be a beautiful, informative thing—if you know what you’re doing and how to use your software to the best of its abilities. You also need some time to get all your information together, decide how you want to present it, and create something visually impressive and useful. But what if you don’t have time? What if your boss lets you know at 10 a.m. that you have to present at 11 a.m., or you forgot about a project until the morning it’s due? You can still make a nice presentation, even in just an hour.

Your slideshow timeline

We’ll get into specifics below, but for now, here’s the timeline you should follow if you only have an hour or so to create your slideshow:

  • 10 minutes identifying key points and messages to share
  • 10 minutes sourcing stock art, graphs, photos, or other elements
  • 35 minutes building the simple presentation
  • Five minutes downloading the presentation and setting up to give it

Stick with the basics and what you already know

When you google how to make a slideshow fast, you get an assortment of offers from websites that promise to help you make a great slideshow quickly. If you haven’t used one of those presentation builders before, though, don’t start now. It takes time to learn the ins and outs of a new software, plus how to play the slideshow when you’re done with it. You run the risk of slowing your progress on the project significantly if you pick a random online presentation generator and then spend the bulk of your time figuring out how the hell to use it.

Plus, you could finish your project using an online designer only to find out you can’t download it unless you pay or sign up for a trial that will eventually start sucking money out of your checking account every month, long after you no longer need the software. Instead, use the software you already know or have available, like Microsoft PowerPoint or Google Slides.

Use pre-made design templates

The major presentation-building softwares have design templates pre-installed that you should you really use. In Google Slides, for instance, you’ll find “Theme Builder” under the View tab. You’ll be shown dozens of possible themes, all of which have their own layouts for individual slides. Each slide template is unique, but fits with the color and font themes of the others with the same theme. Your presentation will look cohesive and thought-out, even if it was a rush job. This only takes a few seconds to access and helps you deliver a presentation that looks so much more professional than a blank white slide or, worse, some kind of eccentric WordArt nightmare.

Include only the most important information

You do not need to have every single word of your presentation shown on your slides. In fact, the fewer words you have, the better off you might be, as long as what you do show is impactful and helps you remember what you want to convey verbally.

Before you start making the slideshow, go through your notes, research, stats, or whatever it is you’re expected to present. Pull out the key results or points that your audience needs to see. Build around those. If you’re looking at sales for a quarter, title one slide “Sales in Q3.” Include a bullet point or two that demonstrate the sales. Throw in a graph if you have one available, but don’t labor over creating one if you don’t. There’s no need to add in superfluous information about what it all means; you’ll discuss that out loud as you present. Your next slide could be a year-over-year comparison to the sales of the previous third quarter, or a comparison to the sales from the beginning of the year. Again, just stay simple.

To that end, font choice is very important. According to Pickit, a digital asset management company, you should “try to use no more than two different fonts in your presentation, and make sure they flow well with each other and don’t clash or distract.” If you’re using a pre-made template, the work of font selection is already done for you.

Use at least a 30-point font size for headlines, and something between 24 and 28 points for additional text, of which you should really not have much.

Organize your ideas

Every slide should feature one message, point, or idea. Do not smash a historical overview onto the same slide as future projections, for instance. You can use plenty of slides, and it won’t take you that much time to do, but you’ll give away that you were stressing and rushing if you present something disjointed and confusing.

Pickit also suggests only using three to five bullet points at a time, and no more than five elements per slide. We would recommend even fewer elements if possible, because you don’t have time for all that uploading, dragging and dropping, or arranging. Pickit does have a great tip related to that, though: “Make your images larger and reduce the quantity of text.” If a picture or on-hand graph would explain something just as well as a set of bullet points, always go for the picture.

Per Pickit, “We know our brain can process images up to 60,000 time faster than text, and using a large image gets your point across quickly, without being a distraction.” Plus, it’s just faster on your end. (PCMag also recommends not shying away from free stock art for this purpose, but only attempt that if you’re familiar with how to search for quality photos, and, if your presentation will be available anywhere public, how to source them.)

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