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Ashley Smithers

Ashley Smithers specializes in presentation design. She's helped people prepare for TED talks, design important fundraising decks, and even worked with former vice presidents on their presentations. In this clubhouse discussion, Ashley offers five tips to help you step up your pitch game.

How to Design a Presentation
How to Design a Presentation

How to Design a Presentation

Ep
167
Dec
15
With
Ashley Smithers
Or Listen On:

10 tips to help you step up your pitch game

A great presentation will inspire you. It will leave you feeling excited, energized and most importantly: wanting more.

But a bad presentation will put you to sleep.

Ashley Smithers specializes in presentation design. She's helped people prepare for TED talks, design important fundraising decks, and even worked with former vice presidents on their presentations.

In this clubhouse discussion, Ashley offers five tips to help you step up your pitch game. And Chris matches her. Between the two of them you'll get over ten pro tips and techniques for giving dynamite presentations.

From how to structure your deck, to telling a great story, and even what to do with your hands. After listening to this conversation, you'll be equipped to give an engaging and compelling presentation of your own.

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Episode Transcript

Chris:

If somebody's staring at the screen trying to figure out what you're saying, then they're not going to be listening to you. And remember the slides are a visual aid. You are the presentation. You are performing. This is performance with visual aids. So when you're talking about this one idea per slide, I have some general guidelines for you here. The overarching idea is less but better. Don't try to cram it in, just make it better, design it better. Strip out everything that's unnecessary to leave what is essential.
Hey, everybody. First of all, welcome to this room. Hello, beautiful people. Good morning, good afternoon, good evening. Today, we're doing something a little different. A little different today. We're going to be talking about five presentation tips to step up your pitch game. You got a pitch coming up? You might want to tune into this. And I got my good friend, Ashley. She's here with me and she's going to bring a whole different perspective because she's used to working on decks that really deliver at the highest level. Like former vice presidents kind of level, right? And big time people.

Ashley:

Yeah. Big, big conversations, right?

Chris:

Big conversations.

Ashley:

Big huge keynotes.

Chris:

Yes.

Ashley:

But also little keynotes like fundraising.

Chris:

You talking about me?

Ashley:

No, we're not talking about you. Your keynotes. This is one of the good reasons why we blend well on this is that you come from the perspective on stage. And that is a completely different perspective than I come from where I'm the person that is preparing and getting everything ready and designing and writing that so that you look your best when you're on there.

Chris:

Okay. So some differences ready, and just to make this very clear, we're not talking about tools. You can use PowerPoint, the industry standard. You can use Keynote, the designer's favorite tool. We forbid you to use Google Slides, but that's another story. That's our common enemy right now. Apologies to Google. I just lost a sponsor. But what we're talking about is Ashley helps people to write, to design, to prepare for their moment on stage for a TED talk for a big keynote address.
We're talking about powerful people in powerful positions, or to raise money, to raise millions of dollars for their idea. I use it very differently. I write for myself. I use these tools for myself and I'm going to be the person who's going to be on stage or on camera presenting these ideas. So these are two very different worlds. I think we're both very passionate about it.
I believe no matter who you are, you got to pitch a presentation that you have to do. You're going to get value from two perspectives, sometimes overlapping. So what we've prepared today, it's kind of a dual of two people who are in the pitch game, Ashley and myself. So what we're going to do today in this format is we're going to go one at a time and ping pong back and forth. She's going to share a tip and then I will share a tip and we'll do this.
Then maybe if there's time, we'll bring you up on stage. But I have 60 minutes to do this, and I think that's plenty of time for us to get really deep. So sit back, relax, take some notes and let's do this. So before we get into your first point or first tip Ashley, can you introduce yourself to our audience in case they don't know who you are?

Ashley:

Yes, I can. Hi, audience. I have no idea how many people there are here, but I'm not looking. My name's Ashley Smithers and I run 1821 Design Studio. We specialize in presentation design and keynote direction for companies from the first pitch deck, all the way up to post-IPO when you are doing a large keynote like CES. Yeah, that's me.

Chris:

And what is your background?

Ashley:

So I am a recovering industrial designer. I started out learning how to be an industrial designer and then I moved into graphic design and art direction. And that led me into this amazing specialty where I realized that taking really complex information and pushing it into a digestible presentation for people was something that I was super passionate about and quite good at. So that is how I came to be here. I specialized.

Chris:

And yes, you have. You specialized in presentation design. Now, a couple years ago, I didn't even know what that meant. I thought a presentation designer is a graphic designer who makes someone's PowerPoint or Keynote presentation look good to format it, but there's so, so much more at the level in which you're working. Okay. So we understand that.
In case you don't know who I am, my name is Chris Do. I'm a loud introvert. My mission is to teach a billion people how to make a living doing what they love and today's mission or today's topic is really to help you make a living doing what you love, because you have to convince people. You have to sell your idea through. You have to win them over whether it's your design or some piece of copywriting or campaign. You're going to present it. So let's just dive in. Ashley, do you want to go first or should we flip a coin?

Ashley:

Let's flip a coin. Let's flip a coin

Chris:

You want to call it heads or tail? Okay. Coins have been tossed. Okay. What do you call?

Ashley:

Heads.

Chris:

Heads? Heads it is. You want to go first or second?

Ashley:

I'll go first.

Chris:

Beautiful, the floor is yours.

Ashley:

Okay. So first things first. This presentation, whatever presentation you're about to give is not about you. It's about your audience and it's about the information that you want to display. So you really need to be considerate about engaging with your audience and making them feel really seen and really heard. One of the ways that you can do that is to be prepared, to be clear and to be driven by your story versus your slides.

Chris:

Is that a pregnant pause?

Ashley:

It's a nice pause. But you know what, I think this goes into yours as well. Your first tip.

Chris:

It does.

Ashley:

It does.

Chris:

Yes. I just wanted to make sure you were done and not just breathing.

Ashley:

No, good.

Chris:

Okay. Well we just introduced one concept, the pregnant pause. It actually creates drama intention for the next thing. So you can use that in your speaking when you're on stage. So yes, I have something very similar. So there's an overlapping idea here, which is to check in with the audience that it's not just a presentation, it is a performance and you are a key part to that performance.
So whether you are in the boardroom or on the stage, in front of 10 people, or in front of 5,000 people, you need to bring them in. You got to draw them into the conversation. And I love to do this. This is my favorite part of public speaking, which is to engage with the audience. I don't want to just go over my slides.
I could do that from home via Zoom. So participation is something I think about a lot. How can I use the entirety of the stage? Maybe not always, but if I want to speak to one specific area, I will physically move to that side of the room and speak to them. I try to be aware of where I'm at. The city that I'm in, the venue that I'm in, and speak to that.
So I'll look up to the rafters and there's the blinding lights. And I was like, "I see you up there Peanut Gallery. I'll never forget about you in the cheap seats, way, way, way up there." And then I get a chuckle. I'm drawing the audience in. I've asked people who've attended talks, and I sit in the audience. I'm like, "Why would you do this? Why wouldn't you just watch this on a screen?" Because there's always that edge that you ride like you don't know what's going to happen next.
So sometimes these ultra smooth and polished presentations remove that what might happen factor, the car accident, if you will. And I like bringing in that tension. So storytelling is about developing tension and releasing tension. So think about the entirety of the performance. The slides are just your visual aids and you want to use the power of rhetoric.
You want to ask rhetorical questions that get the audience to start thinking about what the answer might be. There have been many examples of this. You start with what questions, how. You ask why questions. And from there, it plants a seed in the audience's mind. You ever wonder why this happens or how these other companies were able to do this and what made them so different and special? They start thinking like that. Okay. Back to you.

Ashley:

So what you're saying really resonates with what I am saying too, because it's also that... Think about the time of day that you're meeting. So when you're looking at when you're presenting, don't just look at, okay, I have a group of 30 people in front of me. Think about who they are. Think about what time it is, what their experience was before they saw you so that you can figure out if there's anything that you really need to plan for.
So for example, if you are somebody who's giving a giant keynote and you are giving it to 4,000 people and it's the first keynote of the day, they're tired. They don't know what to expect. Give them something. Surprise them. Give them something that they're not going to expect. Let them interact with you. Give them something to hold. If you have the opportunity to give something to people, use that and don't just put them... So this is another part. Pacing is so important.
If you have all these things and you have a toolbox of things that you want to expose your audience too, and you want to interact with them, don't put them all in the same place. Sprinkle it throughout your presentation. Okay? Because that keeps people engaged and it keeps people wanting to know what's next. And if you can get somebody to wonder, what is he going to say next? Or what's going to happen next? Am I going to get something? Is something going to happen? They're going to ride with you the whole way.

Chris:

Was that point two or just a recap? I'm a little lost here.

Ashley:

I know. You got me all looking at everything just going point two.

Chris:

Yes, point two.

Ashley:

Okay. So point two as a presentation designer, I should be able to strip every piece of aesthetic out of your deck and still see your story. So to me, this goes to clarity of offer, clarity of story, clarity of information, and clarity of design. So that you're not relying on extra animations or extra imagery. You're really relying on the message that you're saying. And I say that to my clients. I need to be able to strip everything out of these decks and still have that story that you have able to speak. Does that make sense?

Chris:

It does. You're saying once they remove the icing off this cupcake. Is it still a delicious cupcake because you can't just spread that frosty sugar over everything, right?

Ashley:

Exactly. Is it nutritious or is it just an empty, empty Hostess, sad little wrinkled thing?

Chris:

Okay. There goes our second sponsor out the door. Okay. Sorry, Hostess.

Ashley:

Sorry, Hostess.

Chris:

Okay. I guess, I will kind of go out of order on my list here, but just to match it up with yours, since you talk about clarity, clarity of purpose, clarity of message, clarity of offer, my tip number two for presentation tips for your next big pitch is one idea, one idea per slide. And this is probably the cardinal sin, the death by PowerPoint that we always hear about when our eyes glaze over because there's 36 points on a slide. Quite literally.,
What's happening there is you're telling the person to read the slide while you read it with them. And how interest thing is that? Not one idea per slide. And the reason why this happens in PowerPoint presentations is because people are told you can only have 10 slides, and they have a lot to say. So don't be afraid to have hundreds of slides. Many of my presentations are over 200 slides long and they move at a pretty fast clip. You want to tell-

Ashley:

A lot of...

Chris:

Sorry.

Ashley:

A lot of people get confused with the 10 points of information rule, the 10 slide rule, right? What they see is, "Oh, I need 10 slides. I'm only allowed to have 10 slides." The overarching theme of 10 slides is the idea that in a meeting, you can only digest 10 individual concepts of information. So when I'm working with clients, if it takes me three slides to convey that one piece of information in a way that is clear and in a way that is honest and shows what they need to project, I would rather use the three slides than have somebody go, "Well, this doesn't make any sense."

Chris:

Yeah. If somebody's staring at the screen trying to figure out what you're saying, then they're not going to be listening to you. And remember, the slides are a visual aid. You are the presentation. You are performing. This is performance with visual aids. So when you're talking about this one idea per slide, I have some general guidelines for you here. The overarching idea is less, but better. Don't try to cram it in to just make it better.
Design it better. Strip out everything that's unnecessary to leave what is essential. I like to tell stories that are visual or very graphic, meaning not like crime and those kind of graphic, but like icons. Very simple, bold graphics. You want to use the slides as cues for you to talk. So a lot of times we get stuck in like, "Oh my God, I got to read all the points." Or if I don't tell this story in the exact right order, if you're pulling a lot of stats and quotes, you get stuck reading versus feeling and living the story and expressing and communicating and sharing that energy with your audience.
So a long time ago, when I struggled with making presentations and sticking to a "script", it caused a lot of anxiety and stress in me. But I watched this professor speaking at Stanford talking about how to make public speaking easier. So he said, "Ask yourself a question." So the slide can be a question. It serves us a prompt that gets you to speak. So it could ask you like, "What is the top two tips for..." Fill in the blank. And it could be a visual. It's a reminder for you to speak about that, and then you can tell that story. You can deliver that answer.
So tip number two for me is one idea per slide. Use as many slides as you want. Less is better. Make it visual. These are memory aids for you and visually designed to draw on the audience. Back to you, Ashley.

Ashley:

Okay. So this ties directly into my next one is know your presentation. Know what deck you're building. So your idea of one concept, one point per slide does not work for a pharma company. It doesn't work for a biotech company, when we have to talk about four different clinical trials and three different pipelines and things. But that's okay. So as a designer, I want you to take a look when you've first get a deck in and say, "What kind of document is this?"
Because the words, pitch deck have become synonymous with many different things. So we have a pitch deck that is a Silicon valley investor presentation. We have a pitch deck that is for a showrunner who's doing... They're launching a show and they want to get funding. We have a fundraising deck for a not-for-profit. We have investor presentations for public companies and we have the keynotes like Chris does.
So really take a look at what exactly you're building and build there first. Okay? Because if you give... It's just as much of a disservice to strip as much information out of a presentation as humanly possible, and give somebody something that has no meat on their bones as it is to give an overloaded presentation. So it is reading the client, reading the audience and then working from there.

Chris:

Okay. So if you're listening to me and you're like, "Yes. We hear you, Chris. Keep it really simple. One idea per slide." But I get a big pharma presentation coming up where I have to connect four different ideas on a single slide, I have some good news for you. What you do is you design the slide first to communicate the things that you wanted to say, and then using a metaphor here of like a spotlight. You shine a light on just the part that you want people to see.
You can use color, opacity and contrast to help you. Or you can just animate the different parts on... An animation is a great way to move someone's eye to the area in which you want them to see. I'm not talking about those crazy anvil exploding comment animations. A simple fade up or write on or a very gentle slide in is all you need to draw someone's attention.
Movement is what attracts the eye. So if you have like a grid of four things, quadrant one, two, and three, four, you can have the grid, the quadrant thing up, but nothing in those four quadrants. And then as you speak, it animates on one at a time so that they know what to look at so they can follow along in your presentation.
Use very short truncated sentences. Just keywords, because they're not going to want to read all of it, but it's more for you than it is for them. It'll prevent you from reading your own presentation. So just have keywords, bullet point fashion, busted sentences. It doesn't matter. And then animate them on change the color, change the opacity and change the contrast so we know what to look at. Beautiful. Okay. So now we can live happily together. Right, Ashley?

Ashley:

Yes. Now it's time for something.

Chris:

Yes. What is that?

Ashley:

It is time for a PowerPoint and Keynote pro tip.

Chris:

Oh, pro tip time.

Ashley:

Yeah, pro tip time.

Chris:

Okay, beautiful. Go ahead.

Ashley:

Super simple. If you are running through a deck and all of a sudden there's a picture up that shouldn't be there, push B for black or W for white, and that will take... It'll turn your screen instantly black or instantly white.

Chris:

That is a power tip. I think we need a stronger sound effect than magic fairy dust flying across the internet. Wow. Okay. So you goofed. You didn't really run through the thing. And this happens to all of us to the best of us, something weird has happened and a weird slide is there, you're not quite sure. Or you change your mind, you don't want to talk about it anymore. Hit B for black, W for white and it'll just black up the screen. Fumble, recovery. Beautiful job. I didn't know that. See, so Ashley is flexing her PowerPoint-Keynote muscles right now and she's like prime Arnold right now.

Ashley:

Oh, I am. I am prime cigar smoking, camouflage vest wearing Arnold. 100%.

Chris:

Like commando.

Ashley:

Oh, yeah.

Chris:

Yeah, yeah. Okay.

Ashley:

Well, I'd say more Ellen Ripley. All right, we'll go there.

Chris:

Okay. Hold on. I think I'm on tip number three. You've done three tips, right?

Ashley:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Chris:

Okay, my third tip and this, I learned from my friend Jose Caballe, and he said, "Chris, it's stressful to try to design the whole presentation at once. He's like, "Try an emotional graph." I'm like, "What is that?" It's like, "Yeah, just take a marker and draw the emotional graph. The higher it is on the why coordinate, the more exciting and dramatic it's going to be." So do you want it to start with a bang like a big car crash?
So then the graph would be high on the left, and then it's going to have a moment where it goes into the valley and there might be of bumps and jiggles, because you're going to rebuild the audience back up again and it's going to have one big rise and it's going to fall and you're going to give them one little bump.
So design the shape of the conversation of the presentation. It makes you really think before you commit to words and images, the shape of the conversation. It can move up like a roller coaster. Imagine like a slow, slow build. And you know it's coming. It's building up to this highlight, this climatic point, the crescendo, and then it's going to be amazing drop.
And maybe, it's got a couple of loops or some things like that, some bumps along the way, but design the arc and shape the conversation and emotional graph. It sounds silly. Surprisingly effective. Okay. Back to you for tip number four, Ashley.

Ashley:

Tip number four. If you are a graphic designer and you are looking to start a presentation and you open up InDesign, turn around and walk away. Yep. No InDesign people. We're looking for PowerPoint and we're looking for Keynote. And this is why. Chris, I knew that coming in, I would be able to trust that you were going to tell people amazing ways to prepare a story and to talk to that, right? Game recognizes game. So I started looking at what are the things that when I have a client come to me, I can see that mistakes have been made. And this is a large one. Okay?
Your clients need to be able to update, and iterate, and access these files. So this is the other one of, it's not about you, it's about them. So if they love Keynote, if they're all Mac based, awesome. Run with it. If they want PowerPoint, run with it. Go for those. But those two should be where you work. I know that I'm going to lose. I'm going to lose sponsors too, because I'm like no Canva, no Pretzi, no Google Slides. Stick to the basics because those files are going to grow with your client.

Chris:

That is something I don't have to consider because I'm building my presentations for myself. Except for when I'm building from someone else. Then we have to make sure it works for them. And if they're PC based, you better do it in PowerPoint. If they're Mac based, Keynote, it makes a lot of sense. So design for the end user in mind. That's just good UX principle there. Okay.

Ashley:

And it applies to this. It applies here. These are really important documents, guys.

Chris:

Okay. Next up. Number four for me is to tell stories. Stories is what brings people and it's the hook. It's what makes things memorable. It's one of the three ways in which people learn, right? So stories draw people in. So now we have to learn how to tell a better story. So a story has a couple of components. It has a character, it has a want, and it has an obstacle. So somebody has to want something and they can't get it. An obstacle stands in their way.
So to be able to tell a good story, you're looking for those components because the conflict is where the story happens. I couldn't save my grandfather from passing away due to a rare blood disease. Hence, that one fake blood company. But there's a story there. The thing that drives us, that compels us and the stories need to be rich with sensory detail and rich in dialogue.
And stories, in combination with data points are the most powerful and effective ways to communicate to people. We love stories. We love to consume them. We love to make them. And that's why stories have endured. That's why stories dominate entertainment from video games to comic books, to feature films and everything in between to novels, stories is what hooks us. So learn how to tell a great story. Back to you, Ashley for the fifth tip.

Ashley:

Fifth one. I like how this is going. Stories are what drives us, right? And the story that you have, especially as a startup founder is probably the most important piece of information in you because it goes to your why. But we're going to break down an investor meeting for a second. An investor meeting can be as short as a 62nd elevator pitch, or it can be a full hour.
But the first two minutes of those presentations, the first 20 seconds of your elevator pitch, that's where you're going to start telling your story and why. So make it as concise as humanly possible. Write it down. Write your story down. Sit there and talk about it. I know that you have... If you saw a dog in the street and then this led you to this, that led you to this, that is now why we have this vacuum in front of us. Take a look at that story and find the most important parts, pull them out and use those.
Make that first piece as clear and concise as humanly possible so that you can show your problem. A lot of investors, sometimes they think this way. They look at this story and they think, "Okay, why do I care about this story? What's in this for me? And why should I believe you?" Those are the three things that sometimes they're looking for, right? "Why do I care about why you're here? What's in this for me? And why should I believe you?"
So it goes back to, yes, make sure that that story is there and it is wonderful, but make sure that it's clear and that the end results are selling you.

Chris:

All right. A tip number five for me, this is it. This is the last tip I have. I mean, I have more ideas, but here's how we've organized it. Right? So start at the end. And this ties into what Ashley just said, which is, if you know where this story ends, you can go back and edit everything that builds up to this. And more often than not, people don't have a problem putting things in, they have a problem taking things out.
They're like, "Oh, I need this." But if you know how the story ends, if you know how the hero saves the day or how the guy gets the girl at the end of the story, then you know how to edit out all the other parts that are superfluous. You can get rid of that. So start at the end. You want to start strong, but you need to finish stronger.
So if you have three clear takeaways or one big idea, then you now these other stories don't line up to that. And that's what Ashley was talking about. Make sure the story pays off. All the buildup, the setup, the context leads to the conclusion. As an educator, as a person who does keynote presentations to teach people, I want to make it as valuable for my audience as possible.
So usually at the end, I'm going to have like one big summary idea. I'm going to include resources and possibly a challenge, a 72-hour ask, something I want them to do. Because it's nice to learn, but it's better for us to take action. So start at the end and build your presentation to pay off at the end. Okay. Ashley, I think we've done what we needed to do in terms of the big five. Right?

Ashley:

Well, technically people got 10.

Chris:

Yes. Five each. So we over-delivered.

Ashley:

We under promised and we over delivered.

Chris:

That's probably tip number six.
Time for a quick break, but we'll be right back.

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Chris:

Welcome back to our conversation.

Ashley:

Here's a Keynote tip just for Keynote people.

Chris:

PowerPoint? Oh, sorry. Is this another power user move here?

Ashley:

This is a power user move.

Chris:

Play the sound please.

Ashley:

Yeah. Keynote, Keynote only. Okay. When you're zoomed into a slide on Keynote, and you're not selecting anything else, you can use your space bar the same way that you use it in Adobe products as your hand tool to drag and zoom around your slide.

Chris:

I did not know that. I think I tried this the other day and didn't work. So I have to try again. Something did not work for me.

Ashley:

Great.

Chris:

Yes.

Ashley:

That's great.

Chris:

But I bet between the two of us, we could probably write several chapters on the tactical Keynote-PowerPoint tips. We're not going to go there just yet. I have another tip, a loose one here, and it relates to something that Ashley had said before, which is to be aware of the time, the context, are you opening up a big keynote, I mean a multi-day event? Are you closing? Are you the closing speaker? There's this thing called a callback, which is you reference what was said before, or potentially your excitement for what's going to happen after. You can do this. Right? So if you refer to other people that have spoken before you, this is what TED speakers do all the time and you weave that into this.
It makes the presentation feel alive and fresh. It's like adding some fresh herbs on top of a dish that's gone a little stale. Just do that, sprinkle that in. And that's awesome because it also recognizes the other speakers and it just shows like, "Hey, man. This is not so rehearsed that I can't be a little spontaneous," and improvise. Do you have another tip, Ashley?

Ashley:

I was also going to say, when you're on stage and you're presenting, there are many different ways to do it. I like to apply the same theory that I applied to when I was running is imagine you each have a chipping your hand, a potato chip in each hand so that you're not clenching, right? You're not opening up loosely. You're not waving. Just imagine that you have a very gentle potato chip sat in each hand. It'll keep you not too... You're not grasping on, but you're aware of your yourself. You're aware of your limbs because then you don't necessarily look like an airline host. This is how we do this, right? Be mindful of your whole body.

Chris:

All right. I have another tip for you. I didn't realize this is pretty sad considering I've been building presentations now for six, seven years, maybe a little bit longer is that some of the magic move, auto key framing functions inside of Keynote are just really, really beautiful. What I'm talking about is if you take one object and you duplicate that slide across, I guess the object across two slides, the computer will automatically interpolate the animation between those two moments, which can create for beautiful Parallax animations that would make people think, "Oh my God, you're doing this in after effects, when in fact you're not, which is a real benefit because there you can update and change those up to the last minute."
What I'm talking about is that if you break the assets that you use on screen into many different individual components and you change their position on the following slide, the magic move tool inside of Keynote will just figure out like, "Oh, this has to start here and it ends there." And it adds a lot of production value. So it can look like an in infinite scroll up and down, or you can almost make it feel like it's swiping left and right as you're moving from slide to slide. Whenever possible, I try to add those in, because it just adds a lot of production value to create that sense of Parallax.
As a super power tip, if you have characters like people on your slide, and if you break up the components of what's in the foreground and the mid ground, and you do a little Parallax animation and you slip some type in between someone's hand reaching out towards the audience and their body, When that thing moves, people are like, "Ooh."

Ashley:

It's beautiful.

Chris:

Ain't it?

Ashley:

It is beautiful. Expand your Photoshop files, guys. If you're making a beautiful title slide, if we're talking in The Futur Pro Group, then I expect graphic designers to be on top of their game. So I think that when you are making a title slide and you're doing a Photoshop file, expand that Photoshop file out and treat each individual item as a separate transparent layer. It interacts within that. Give them more than just a standard title slide, a standard presentation. I don't want to see things downloaded off of Envato Elements because that's not presentation design.

Chris:

That's the whole make it pop thing.

Ashley:

Make it pop, man.

Chris:

Make it pop. You made it pop.

Ashley:

Make it pop.

Chris:

You're there. It popped.

Ashley:

We just popped our roads.

Chris:

Yeah. Something had just happened there. Yes. There's another tip here that I picked up from reading Nancy Duarte's book, Slide:ology, which is to use illustrations that are isometric. Isometric illustrations, you can't tell the perspective and everything feels like it's living on the same ground plane. It's a weird illusion. It's really weird. So if you are using a stock illustration library, which I am, I'm using something like Shutterstock, all I do is look for, and I search for isometric illustrations that are vector based and I could deconstruct them.
I can move something in the foreground, in the background and it all works together. So it's really nice. It's a nice way to introduce illustration and keep the perspective consistent between different assets. Back to you, Ashley.

Ashley:

It's interesting that you brought her up. She is one of the women that I admire the most in my field, just for the amount that she has been able to convey and communicate to people about the importance of what we do. So I have a lot of lofty goals when it comes to how I'm doing this. So yeah, that's a fantastic book.

Chris:

And speaking of which, if you don't know who I'm talking about, look up Nancy Duarte or Duarte on TED and you'll see her presentation. And it's amazing. It really is. She breaks it down. She is probably the best known person as far as I know in the presentation design space. I think last time at checked, she had a hundred people probably more now working for her full-time doing presentation designs and you're like, "What?"

Ashley:

Yeah. She's amazing. So I just want... Yeah.

Chris:

All right, Ashley.

Ashley:

[crosstalk 00:36:46]

Chris:

I'm out of tips for right now. Do you think it's safe to bring some people up on stage?

Ashley:

I think so. I think it's safe.

Chris:

Okay. We have a couple of friends there. I'll just bring them up right now. Akima and Eric, let yourself be known. Come up on stage with us and either give us a tip or ask a question. Either way, you're good. So Eric, you have the mic first. Go ahead.

Eric:

Well, Ashley, you know I had to jump up here. I am like her Robin to her Batman.

Ashley:

Hello, Eric. How's it going?

Eric:

Good to hear from you both. Thank you, thank you. Ashley, and I have ran in some similar circles building decks for, well, let's just-

Ashley:

You've used my decks before.

Eric:

Yes.

Ashley:

Yeah, I tried to whip Accenture in shape, but you used my decks. Yep.

Chris:

Okay, okay. Enough with the love festival. Let's get to it. Do you have a tip or a question?

Eric:

Yes, Chris, I have a tip. You both equally spoke about clarity, and Ashley, you also brought a point up that different audiences are going to require a different heft of PowerPoint presentation. And one tip that I've come to learn is that you can actually present a very small deck, but give them a takeaway. And that takeaway might be the loftier heftier deck. My name's Eric, and I'm done speaking.

Ashley:

So the appendix. The power of the appendix.

Chris:

Wait, what does that mean? You guys lost me.

Eric:

So Chris, you had made a point that sometimes the decks should be short and punchy albeit that you can expand it and have lots of decks, but there are... Those are great for keynotes, but when you got to get up and pitch and do it quick, sometimes 10 slides is all you get. But what happens in those 10 slides is the individual who takes it offline has no context. They can't read it unless the presenter is there with them. So what I'm offering or what I'm suggesting is that you have two decks, one for which you present and one that's a leave behind, but that leave behind has a lot more slides in it to explain the story.

Chris:

I see. You're talking about that was the trailer, now here's the director's cut of the movie. The Peter Jackson three-hour epic with 14 endings. I get it. Okay. That's very good. That's a very good tip. And I think that ties into what Ashley, you had said before, which is to know your audience, to know the context and design for them. So if it's intimate presentations and you're looking to raise a lot of money, you probably only have a few minutes to get your idea across. So don't go crazy, right?

Ashley:

Yep, exactly. Think about it like an angle report. An angle report always has about 10 pages in the front where they talk about the goals, where they talk about the things that they've achieved and they do it really beautifully. Then in the back you get all the meat. So if you can treat, if you have a... You can't treat them that way. That's a thing.

Chris:

Yes. Now, I want to say something because Akima actually accidentally butt dialed somehow and raised her hand, but she was typing furiously saying, "Man, I need the transcript to this because I'm taking notes so fast, so many gems being dropped." I just want to say this, and, Ashley, if you're okay with this, I will provide you guys my five plus points, my tips as well with Ashley inside The Futur Pro Group. So you guys don't have to sweat. All you, Futur Pro people just relax, put your pens down unless you just want to take it for notes, okay? We'll take care of you. Don't sweat it. Okay. Rachel, you now have the mic. Do you have a tip or a question for us?

Rachel:

Hi, guys. I have a question. So thank you so much for this wonderful room. First of all, I love all the tips that have been shared. And I love that Eric brought up a second deck because it actually has a lot of relevance to my question. So it's regarding a preliminary part of the design process and I'd love to know how involved in a copywriting or are you and also if you have any guidance or suggestions for other designers for how to be involved or how to oversee this part of preparing the presentation.

Ashley:

Yes. So I'm involved from the start. I'm involved from content creation all the way through to design and that definitely includes copywriting. It's a large part of this job. It's an important part of this job. And So I think that that is... There's a lot of tips that I could give for this. This could be a whole different room on itself, Chris.

Chris:

Okay. So we'll just say that's the teaser for the next call. Is that okay? But can you give us-

Ashley:

That's what you think.

Chris:

Can you give us a high level like here's what it's going to be about?

Ashley:

Me?

Chris:

Yeah, you. Or did you already do that?

Ashley:

Sure. So the things that we'll cover is how to write copy for title slides. How to write copy for slides hook. How to write copy to make really complicated topics on human. How to write copy that a company's data. There are so many different ways to write this.

Chris:

Okay. I'll give you one tip right now. Let's say you can't make that call, or you can't find this and that for whatever reason, but you have a presentation. You need to design to put together really soon. Here's what I'm going to tell you to do. Get away from the computer. Get on a blank piece of paper and write down the one thing you want people to know when they walk away from your presentation, whether it's an investor deck, whether you're selling a logo or whatever. What is the outcome that you want? Start there and write that thing down.
Then draw a big black box around that and start to write whatever you think you need to say about this. There's reasons why I would prefer are you to do this with good old fashioned pen and paper is because you're going to be less likely to write a whole chapter on it. You're just going to write keywords. You might do a little icon or diagrams. As you're doing this, you're kind of just mind mapping, then draw little arrows like, "Okay, begin here. Go to that."
It's much more fluid, and if you feel like you don't have enough ideas, you have to sit here and think on this a little bit longer, but you'll quickly know where the gaps are and how it flows. And it's not a lot of commitment for you at this point. I've done it many different ways. I've literally worked on a deck before from the first slide to the last slide and it's a mess.
I get caught up in the weeds, and then I bring in an image, I'm like, "Oh, this is a terrible image. I need to cut it out." So you get distracted from what really matters. And oftentimes I will throw away 30% of the slides when I do it that way and it's a mess because there's this thing. I think it's called the Ikea effect. The more you work on something, the more you fall in love with what you work on. When you build a piece of furniture, it's a piece of garbage furniture sometimes, and it's like, "Well, I love it so much. I have an emotional connection to it." I just lost another sponsor.
Okay. However, with your slides, if you sit there and you just sit there and polish that turd, that one frame, and then later on, you're like, "It's not serving the story. It's distracting and it's just too much," you're not going to delete it. So the best way is to use a very non-committal process to be very fluid to limit what you can actually do, so it forces your brain to only write down what's important and necessary. That's my tip there.

Ashley:

So we can do a-

Eric:

Hey, and I can help you save face on Ikea real quick. Real quick

Ashley:

Hang on. We got a sponsorship in here that we can get, Chris. Post-its.

Chris:

What?

Eric:

Yes.

Ashley:

Post-its, guys. Three by five sticky top Post-its work like a slide. So go out, go to Costco or wherever and buy a giant pack of the three by five, sticky top Post-its because they become slides and they're color coded too.

Chris:

Okay. So that's 3M. We're going to bring 3M in. I've tried the Post-it thing before. You know what happens to me? I write with Sharpie and I get 55 Post-its into it. I'm like, "Wait. Where am I going with this?" For me, it works better, if I'm contained within an eight and a half by 11 piece of paper and everything I ever want to say about this one topic is it's got to fit in here. I could literally do the threads and I could do drawings. It just flows for me. I've tried many different techniques including index cards, Post-its and I found like the now the most efficient way for me is just break out a piece of paper and draw it. If it's messy and it's nonsensical, put the paper aside and do it again. Each time you do this, you're going to cut away the fat.
It's an interview technique. Many years ago, I used to work as a director. And when you would ask your subject a question and they would give you a long wind answer, and this is a tip I learned, which is you just pretend like you didn't hear it or there's a problem with the audio. You're like, "Yeah, that didn't come in cleanly. Can you say it again?"
You keep doing that until they give you this really great, amazing juicy sound bite. So that's the process. It's like boiling it down to its essence. I wanted to make sure Eric had something to say here. Eric, did you want to add something?

Eric:

No, I was going to help you save face on Ikea. The thing that you're talking about is actually called the time-love continuum. The more time you spend with something, the more in love you become with it. And the less likely you're going to take any criticism about it. So Ikea, you have good furniture.

Ashley:

The time-love continuum.

Eric:

Oh my God.

Ashley:

It's sounds like a Prince album.

Chris:

We need a little Prince guitar riff right there. Okay. That's not quite right, but yes.

Ashley:

That's not quite right.

Chris:

Like from When Doves Cry. Okay. Next up, we have, let's see, Anusha. Is that how you say your name? Do you have a tip or a question for us?

Anusha:

Yeah. You correctly pronounced my name. Thank you. And I agree with Eric, time-love continuum. Yeah, absolutely. You didn't lose a sponsor there if you mentioned Ikea. I do have a question. Whenever I make my presentations, I land up making two. And the reason I make two different types are one is what I have been requested for where I have ample time to present. And there have been so many occasions where I have been told when I just enter and I have to present and they're like, "Oh, we have to wrap this up soon."
It's literally less than half the time that they have given me. So I most of the time make two separate presentations. One, which is which covers the actual time. And the other one is mostly a 60-90 second pitch. So my question is, how do you still keep the enthusiasm that you regularly have in your normal presentations from a storyline from start with a bang and end with a boom, that kind of a thing in a 90-minute presentation? Thank you,.

Chris:

Ashley, you want to take that one?

Ashley:

So I was going to start talking about the breakdown of the initial hour, because when you said you get to the end and you run out of time, a really good way to work with that is to plan in advance. So what I do is when I'm looking at, okay, they say they have an hour, they have three-hour long presentations next week. In reality, you have 20 minutes. So when you look at an hour or you look at 90 minutes, it's never that. Take a look at the timeframe, book out for a Q&A, book out for introductions, book out for time for people to pause and ask questions or respond. So take whatever amount of time you've been given and usually divide it by a third.

Chris:

Great tip. Did you want to say something, Anusha?

Anusha:

I don't think so I articulated the question properly. So let me try again. So usually my presentations, I've been given about a 15, 20-minute slot, right? And I pretty much leave ample time for the audience. My question was, and the reason why I said I prepare two decks all the time is one is for the actual presentation, whether it's a 20-minute for and stuff, but I always make a 60, 90-second pitch presentation. How to keep the enthusiasm in that one and a half, two minutes where my executive does not have that much time and I have to just give the entire idea out in those two minutes, but still keep the enthusiasm? So I'm able to deliver the idea and stuff, but the enthusiasm of, you know?

Chris:

Yeah. Your question is a little counterintuitive to me because it's hard to keep your enthusiasm for long periods of time, but much easier to keep your enthusiasm for two minutes. I'm not sure what the challenge is. Ashley, are you hearing something different?

Ashley:

I initially thought, and I apologize because I initially thought you said 60 to 90 minutes. So the 60 to 90-second pitch, you can get things in there, but that's the one where you really need to pull back everything and hone in into what exactly is that you are doing. Right? It has to be super concise. When it's a 60 to 90-second pitch, you're not going in there asking. I usually don't suggest that people do an ask because that opens it up to longer... A 60 to 90-second pitch, I want to know your X, Y, Z. I want to know why you're there. What is that problem that you're going to solve and make it really, really concise. You're never going to be able to effectively convey a 10 slide investor presentation in 60 to 90 seconds. And so that really is that moment. That 60 to 90 seconds is where you're really concentrating and relying on the power of copywriting.

Chris:

Yes. Okay, we have a couple more people and we don't have that much time left. I do just want to remind people here, if you do a really long presentation that you have to keep in mind that someone's attention span is fairly finite. So for a two-year-old child, it's about five minutes. And for an adult around 20 minutes. Somewhere between a child and an adult is where your audience is going to be. I don't think it's any coincidence that TED talks max out at 18 minutes, unless something has changed. 18 minutes.
Some people love to hear the sound of their voice and they just keep talking. But the better thing to do is ask the audience a rhetorical question, get them to engage and think, because otherwise, you need to interrupt whatever it is that they're doing, because otherwise they're going to fall asleep.
Okay. I have one quick hip to share with you from many years of doing this, which is you save as, and I was like, "What?" So you work on a deck and you're reluctant to make the changes because, guess what? You're in that time-love continuum thing. You don't want to delete anything. The way that you free yourself from doing that is save and then save as, so then you can work on the next one, knowing very well you can save all that work that you put into the other slides. And then you could be more free to edit judiciously and just cut stuff wholesale like that's not working. That's dumb. That's confusing. That's too much.
And more often than not, you'll be left with a better presentation. But you won't have the fear of throwing away work. Okay. We have time for two more questions here. One from Carlson and one from Dave. It could be a tip or a question. If it's a question, just start with a question. Carlson, you're up?

Carlson:

Hi, Ms. Ashley. How long do you usually take to practice on the presentation tips to make it natural and not make it appear like it's scripted?

Ashley:

How long do I recommend that my clients rehearse?

Carlson:

Yes.

Ashley:

Okay. Once again, it depends on the presentation. I have clients right now that are rehearsing in between fundraising pitches. Right now they're iterating every single time and they've had about a week to prepare. I also have clients who, if you're doing a giant keynote in front of a huge ton of people, we usually start rehearsing four months in advance and then we will ramp up a month in advance and then we'll do onsite rehearsals. So it really does depend.

Carlson:

How about for quick presentation tips?

Ashley:

Quick presentation? Presentation, just get going. Don't sit in rehearsing it too much. Okay?

Chris:

I can help with this one.

Ashley:

Yes, please.

Chris:

Because all I do are last-minute presentations. People are like, "Hey, Chris, will we see you at the after part?" I'm like, "No, no I can't." I'm literally working on the deck all the time up into the minute which I'm stepping up on stage, and even until then, which annoys everybody. I'm usually in my hotel room to four in the morning. I go to sleep and I wake up again and I just sit there and cycle through all the slides over and over again.
Then I'm just mouthing or miming what it is I'm going to say and I just keep doing that so that I know exactly how it's going to flow. My problem isn't so much what I'm going to say in the slide, but how it transitions to the next slide. And on a different call, we'll talk about flow and transitions because that's very important to me as a speaker how one story, one data or one idea flows the next thing. It's got to move and it's going to be slippery versus like, "Oh my God. That was a non-sequitur."
I see this happening in a lot of presentations. It'll tell you a story and switch and it seems like this is a whole different presentation. So that's what I'm looking for. I'm looking for points where this doesn't make sense. I need to change the order because it's not flowing. So I'm working more like an editor on a film, moving the storyboard around really quickly. All right. We don't have that much more time. I'm going to move to Dave. Dave, what's your question or comment?

Dave:

Yeah. I just had a quick tip. I do use the deck mechanism to do creative updates and I'll put in like a small creative brief, high level considerations, assumptions, some style guide info of what to do and what not to do. Also, if I can capture KPIs and I usually do this a few days after I do a first brand of creative for the clients. They usually really love this because they chose the thought process in that book format and that slide format. It was actually inspired by Ben Burns video from The Futur on how to present a logo, because he goes into the retrospective idea of how they got to that place.
The last bonus tip on this is that it's fodder for case studies. If you stay on this and you keep using it and you just update the clients with, "Okay, now we're going to look at slides 15 to 20 because this is how far we got." Once you're complete, if your project is successful, you could totally use this for case studies. So that's just my quick tip for that. So it's just such a flexible, powerful format for telling stories. Yeah, this is David. I'm done speaking.

Chris:

Thank you very much. That was great. You just reminded me something about how Guy Kawasaki talks about how to do presentations, because he's well known in the space to do presentation design or at least give presentations, right? He's like, "If you do a top 10 or seven points or five things you need to know it's helpful for the audience because they know and they can track along where you are in the presentation." So like earlier today, I'm like tip number one, and you know, it's five. So you know, okay, we have four more. So people like this, hang out.
But if it's dreadful, you're like, "Oh my God, four more lame tips? I'm out of here." But allows the [crosstalk 00:56:39] audience... 10, I know. But then they can follow along. So that helps out a lot. And that's why I've started to adopt something like this so that they know where they're at. Okay?
I'm going to give you one more power tip and then I'm going to give Ashley the last word before we get out of here. Another tip I'm going to share with you is this. I made this mistake before as a person who just knew that I have 30 minutes to give a presentation and I'm just cramming as much information and value as I can. What I didn't realize was a lot of people at these conferences, A, have no idea who you are, what the topic is about, whether they should listen to you or trust you. So by the time I'm halfway through, if I've done my job, they're like, "Oh, I guess I could listen to this person." But now they've missed half the presentation.
So now I've adopted a different process, which is to present the problem first, to make it painful for them to want to know the answer and to hook them with a couple of rhetorical questions and tell them why it matters to me and why I'm talking about this. Then I tell them the answer, and I'm going to use about a third of the time, just to bring them up to speed. That means I have to cut out a lot of things that probably at the end of the day, probably don't need to be there, but I find this to be much more helpful, because they're going to walk away knowing this, right?
My friend, Joel Pilger, he did this thing where he gave a 35-minute talk on one idea. I was sitting there in the audience like, "How much more can he stretch this piece of taffy? Because it's getting real thin. It's getting real thin right now." But you know what, the women that were sitting around me, they're like, "Oh my God, he's the best speaker." I'm like, "What the fudge? I'm trying to give you 35 ideas. Joe, just gave you one?"
So I learned, you know what? Pair back to 35 ideas because they're not going to remember any of those. Give them one, and they'll love you for it. Ashley, last word to you.

Ashley:

Last word. Don't just think about it guys as the presentation on your screen, think about it as the words that are coming out of your mouth, the body language that you're using. There are so many different layers on this. And if you take the time to consider how they all come together, then that's when you're going to get a presentation that starts to just move people. Okay? I've done one two-hour presentation. And in that presentation I released an exoskeleton robot and had all sorts of crazy stuff, and not every buddy gets to do that. Right? But the base framework is the same, engaging your audience, being consistent, taking them on a journey, using story and being prepared.
So I hope that somebody in this audience gets to up their level. And I really hope that this helps somebody gain awareness or raise some funds because this is a fun, important little niche of the design industry. I'm happy we did this.

Chris:

Did you just give a quick recap without me?

Ashley:

Did I?

Chris:

You just threw me under the bus on that one. Yeah. I don't know what that monkey is talking about, but I'm going to give you a quick recap. So here are my five tips, Ashley. Okay. Start with an emotional graph. Figure out the contours of the conversation, where the emotions going to be, where the excitement and energy is going to be and where the lulls are for them to process what they just heard. Have one idea per slide. Just remember less is better. Less but better. Okay? And make the slides visual because that's really what it should be about.
Focus on storytelling and data points. Story and data is a deadly one- two punch combination. That's really what you want to. And stories are about the rich sensory details and dialogue. Check in with the audience. This is a performance. You are part of that performance. It's not just a slide. So engage with them. Use the entirety of the room and the experience to draw the audience in.
And last but not least, start at the end. Figure out what the one thing you want them to know and to walk away with and design the entire conversation and the presentation around that, and you're going to do a wonderful job. I hope you guys found our 10 tips on presentation design to be helpful.
I think Ashley and I are going to do another room at some point in the near future. So be sure you give her a follow. She needs a few more followers here. Come on 670. Come on, guys. Give her some follow.

Ashley:

I know, lame.

Chris:

Come on.

Ashley:

So lame.

Chris:

God, I can't hold a stage with someone who have less than 1K. Come on.

Greg Gunn:

Thanks for joining us this time. If you haven't already, subscribe to our show on your favorite podcasting app and get a new insightful episode from us every week. The Futur Podcast is hosted by Chris Do and produced by me, Greg Gunn. Thank you to Anthony Barro for editing and mixing this episode and thank you to Adam Sanborne for our intro music.
If you enjoyed this episode, then do us a favor by rating and reviewing our show on Apple Podcasts. It'll help us grow the show and make future episodes that much better. Have a question for Chris or me? Head over to thefutur.com/heychris and ask away. We read every submission and we just might answer yours in a later episode. If you'd like to support the show and invest in yourself while you're at it, visit thefutur.com. You'll find video courses, digital products, and a bunch of helpful resources about design and creative business. Thanks again for listening. And we'll see you next time.

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