How to build that Killer Presentation Slide Deck

How to build that Killer Presentation Slide Deck

14th February 2013

As you may have noticed it is event week here on State of Search. We have already looked at different aspects of the event business and especially also the speaking part. In the last two days we’ve learned how to recognise a quality speaker and how to become one.

A big aspect of a successful speaker seems to be the presentation format: the slides. Some have even made an entire profession out of it: creating the perfect slides. Now I am not a design king so I decided to again ask some experts for their opinions to showcase next to the pointers I myself want to give. So with the help of Eric Enge, Illiya Vjestica, Simon Penson and Anders Hjorth: let’s get started :).

Bullets are so 1998

Slides full of bullets were very hip back in 1998, when Powerpoint was ‘hot as hell’. It created the term ‘Death by Powerpoint’. These days bullet points seem to be slowly dissapearing and being replaced by images. I myself use mostly images on my slides, but not just any image. An image needs to stand for the message you want to get across or should make a point.

A screenshot for example will help explain what you are talking about, and an image of a Stratego game board shows you are talking about strategy topics. Visually interesting slides will keep the attention awake.

Author and speaker Eric Enge acknowledges this:

“Create visually interesting slides. No one in the audience wants to read lots of text on a slide. Visually interesting slides also help people retain more of what you are trying to say.”



Many conferences ask speakers to send in their slide decks way in advance of the conference, sometimes over a week before the actual event takes place. To be really honest: most speakers are not done a week before. They come up to do the presentation with a usb stick holding their presentation. I have seen many speakers even ‘making’ their presentation just hours before the actual talk.

To be really honest: that usually shows in the slide decks, because they seem a bit sloppy at times. So it is time to create your slide deck on time and then start perfect ionising the deck.

Simon Penson, managing director Zazzlemedia takes a six week preparation:

“I usually start my ‘deck’ around a month to six week out from the event and define the idea from a ‘ideas list’ I take everywhere with me and scribble down even the most random idea I have. From it I then create blog post ideas and presentations.


Once I know what to talk about I then ‘mark out’ the presentation, understanding schematically what is in and what’s out and what goes where. This tactic works a little like how the magazine flatplanning process works, which I have written (and spoken about) previously (here’s a post with more detail). This ensures you get the flow correct while also including all salient points.


With that down its then all about adding in the detail that will ‘wow’ your intended audience. Once happy I’ll run through it nightly for a couple of weeks beforehand when possible. Like anything in live there is no substitute for hard work!.'”

Again: Tell a story

Storytelling has been pointed out as being an important part of speaking these days. A quality speaker needs to be able to tell a story. Now you can do that without a slide deck, but if you have a deck it is important to make that story reflect in the slides. Images that don’t reflect what you are telling will have an opposite effect of what you are trying to get across. And when you are trying to be too funny with too many ‘weird’ images, it will distract from your story.

So when creating your slide deck you will always need to be thinking of the story you are telling and format the slides based on that. It requires some good research and good thinking.

Anders Hjorth, from Innovell says:

“When I build my presentation support I first do my research to gather the right pieces of information, then I build the flow of the presentation from introduction to conclusion and finally I format, animate, try and then reformat the slides. If someone else has provided elements for my presentation, I go through them very attentively as I will need to digest them 100% to be able to deliver the contents to the audience. I always end up starting too late with this but make sure I finish at the latest a day before the presentation! There is nothing worse than a presentation which doesn’t show right or which is not the right version or which has errors in it! Well there is, actually: when your presentation is not there, which is a complete nightmare. So have it all ready and have it double: usb stick, in your dropbox and in a webmail somewhere.”

Sharing your presentation afterwards

Many events tend to place the slide decks online after the event, some make them available for everyone, others just for the attendees. Some speakers put them online themselves. This can mean a nice push on online visibility for your work.

Illiya Vjestica, Chief of Design at The Presentation Designer, feels it has benefits for the speaker:

“Slideshare has become a great place to share content and an even more viable place to gain exposure and links. Having had a number of my presentations featured as a Top Presentation of the Day – putting something out that is really well designed and which offers tremendous value to people is my number one rule.


There is always a chance that other people will embed and share your presentations elsewhere on the web, even crediting you with a link back to your site. Not only is this a benefit to your SEO and referral traffic, it will even help you to increase your embed views on Slideshare meaning more overall shares and even more views of your content.”


I myself don’t put many of my slides online any more. And with a reason. It is not that I don’t want people to see or don’t want the link: I am a storyteller. Which means with the little amount of text I put in my slides it is difficult to understand the message I am trying to sent out. People could easily mis-interpret. For that reason I have been hesitant to put presentations on slideshare.

There however is a solution to my problems there, it just takes a bit more time (which is why I haven’t done it yet):

1. you can add single line ‘statements’ to the presentation deck ‘helping’ people understand what an image is about
2. you can add a description to your powerpoint slides which will then show up in Slideshare.
3. write a summary of your talk to go with the presentation.

Bonus Tips: name and soundbites

Finally I would like to share two more tips on creating a great slide deck:

Your name and Twitter handle

Be sure to properly show your name and Twitter handle on the first slide and on all other slides if possible. I have them in the top of my slides. It will make that people can easily follow you and also when they start tweeting about your presentation, you can make sure they know your twiddle handle to add to their tweet and ‘promote’ you!


The second and final tip would be to create soundbites. I sometimes put in one sentence slides making a statement. It is a statement which usually ‘triggers’ and people can easily tweet out. You have to make sure it is less than 120 characters to make it (re-)tweetable and make it juicy. Also be sure to leave that slide on for just a tiny bit longer to give people the chance to copy the text.


That’s it for now. I’d love to hear some of your tips on slide decks, do place them in the comments. And if you don’t mind, I have to go now, I have to finish my slide deck for SES next week ;).

Be sure to also check out the first two posts on this topic:

Signals to Recognise a Quality Speaker
Top Tips To Becoming that Quality Speaker

It’s Event Week on State of Search!

It’s event week on State of Search this week! We are looking at everything around events, looking forward to SES London and helping you make the best choices you can make when it comes to attending, speaking or choosing your events.
This week is sponsored by Marin Software


Written By
Bas van den Beld is an award winning Digital Marketing consultant, trainer and speaker. He is the founder of State of Digital and helps companies develop solid marketing strategies.
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