#InspirationFriday: Looking Professional

There’s the notion that if you need a PowerPoint presentation when you are pitching or giving a presentation then you are most likely trying to hide behind it, rather than believe in your words to carry the message. I’m not going to lie, I absolutely despise PowerPoint. Not as a platform or programme (because I understand it’s need) but i’ve seen enough presentations that just make you shiver with absolute design fear.

Above is a picture from a presentation slide given by the NSA. It looks like a website from the 90s. There is no branding, or appearance that it is a 21st century organisation. I completely understand that the information within the PowerPoint isn’t meant for public viewing, or even as a solid documentation. I’m sure that the organisation does have a style guide and certain stipulations that direct work in the same direction, however, this just looks dismal. But it only gets better because here are some of the other slides:

But this isn’t a post to argue against the NSA, and it’s intentions on the internet freedom. But this is a discussion on how items created on behalf of a company or organisation should reflect understanding of 21st century design. This isn’t a suggestion that everything should be flat, or minimal but it’d be nicer than looking like a WordArt assembled school project.

And the design doesn’t stop there. Here is another slide show presentation that was supposed to talk about the mobile market share, mobile advertisement revenue, among other mobile related specifications. Let that just sink in for a second before you look at the slides. It is supposed to be focused on mobile technology. Mobile.

There are two things wrong here, and you can see it quite clearly when side-by-side with a reimagined version of slides. Firstly, how can any person in their right mind give a presentation about a future technology with just primitive depictions? I completely understand not everyone is tech savvy or capable or even aware of Photoshop, but pay some money for a designer. They aren’t that expensive, and when you look at the end product as something that provides a staple in the official look of your company they price is easily justified.

Secondly, is it really necessary for that much information? When you are giving your presentation do you want people to listen to your words or look at all the text on the slideshow? We can’t do both, yet you expect us to.

I will mention again, like I do so often on these inspiration dissections, but Apple’s WWDC slideshow presentations don’t require that much, if any, burden on choosing which to pay attention to. The presenter will cycle through each slide that only contains a few words or images. This draws back to the opening statement – people are hiding behind their slideshows rather than using them to be a visual aid.

Their function should be no greater than to visually express your words. It is nicer for an audience member to see the difference of a 20-80% division with a pie chart rather than just listening to you mention it. But the golden rule should be this: your presentation should work whether the PowerPoint is there or not.

Do you remember those moments either in school, university, or even work where you are working and you are sitting waiting for the presenter to open their PowerPoint presentation? Moments wasted in not engaging with you, only to have the slides be riddled with ClipArt images of light bulbs. These need to look professional and appear as if you made them with the intention of them to be enjoyed.

Let’s look at the above NSA slides but this time redesigned to look more appealing (and professional).

Not only do these designs look connected, but it feels branded and made with the intention of enjoyment.

So next time you open up PowerPoint (because sometimes you are required to have a slideshow) think carefully of the image you are going to project if it looks like a 90s website. But also don’t expect a well designed presentation to make your words hold more weight. Part of looking professional is to know your product (whether it is the item of the pitch, yourself in an interview, or an update of your current work status). But if you can hold up your end of the bargain, don’t make yourself look like a fool with a poor design.

Always think that if you were to pitch for the Olympics, you would’t hope or expect the winner to be the track pant, sweater wearing, 90s styled slideshow team. You would imagine the suits and tie, with a well oiled verbal presentation, and neatly designed slides to win.