Tips to present better

If you want to improve your ability to create powerful business presentations you have to master three aspects: preparation, design and delivery. In these articles I'll show you how.

In the previous articles we introduced the cornerstones of presentation design: signal-to-noise ratio, picture superiority effect, white space, rule of thirds and colour theory. Here I’m going to show you four more fundamental principles of design in order to create impactful presentations. Remember C.R.A.P.: Contrast, Repetition, Alignment, Proximity. 


If there are elements within the same slide that are different from each other in some way, emphasis should be given to those elements.

For example, let’s assume that in a presentation you want to show a bar chart. You may want the audience to focus on a particular bar because that bar identifies the element of interest of your message. In that case, you could change the colour of that bar, thus creating contrast.


Colour is just one of many ways to create contrast—there are others:

  • Using type: bold and light 
  • Using space: close and distant 
  • Using position: up and down 

Our brains are hardwired to notice similarities and differences. If an element in a slide is different, the audience will focus their attention on that element. 


In order to give a sense of unity to a presentation, you can repeat some elements throughout your slides. 
For example, have a look at these slides (created by the presentation design agency Big Fish Presentations). Notice the repetition of some elements in each slide: the text is always boxed in a rectangular yellow shape. Repeating the same design element throughout the slides creates a sense of unity. This way a presentation is not just a succession of slides but one single piece of work that amplifies each slide. 


The positioning of the elements in a slide should be the result of intentional choices—nothing should be placed at random. One of the most effective ways for intentionally positioning the various elements on a slide is the rule of thirds. While repetition applies among slides, alignment applies within the same slide. 


The principle of proximity is simple: you should bring closer together the elements of a slide that are connected to each other and move away from each other those that are not connected. For example, in the slide on the left-hand side the text is placed in the same way without establishing any priority among the various elements. On the right, I’ve applied the principle of proximity so that the proximity of the common elements and the distance of the others is tangible. (You can also achieve better contrast by adjusting the colour and the font size. Notice how these principles are all connected—they aren’t concepts that live on different planets).


If you want to learn more about how to make better presentations, download my report Top 7 Mistakes People Make When Creating Business Presentations.