Presentation Tips From Nancy Duarte's Slide:ology

12/13/2012 12:21 pm 12:21:05 | Updated Feb 12, 2013

No, it's not a mistake. The title of this entry is taken from a book written by Nancy Duarte: Slide:ology, The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations.

In a previous entry, I talked about how humans have evolved to survive in groups. This means that communicating ideas effectively is essential for our existence. This is even more valid in the sphere of business. On the other hand, teamwork is one of Grupo Salinas's fundamental values. Without effective communication, this value is impossible to realize.

That's why I continue to expand on this topic, emphasizing the tools that allow us to develop our communication capacities. One is the ability to present ideas effectively in public. Often an effective presentation makes the difference between closing a million-dollar deal or leaving the meeting empty-handed.

In her book, Nancy Duarte writes that a presentation is often the last impression a client gets before closing a deal. How is it possible that businesses spend millions of dollars on an ad campaign and at the same time are totally indifferent to creating a good presentation? This is what her book is all about: advice and practical tools to develop good visual presentations.

  1. Avoid bullets as much as possible -- we are so used to them that they may be counter-intuitive. This is perhaps the most valuable piece of advice in the book. An effective visual presentation should have very little text and lots of images.
  2. Distinguish between a presentation and a document. If a slide has more than 75 words, it has turned into a document and is inappropriate for showing to an audience. People can't read and listen to you at the same time.
  3. Take into account the time you will need to put together a good presentation. Nancy Duarte estimates that the process can take between 36 and 90 hours total. Don't prepare your presentation the night before.
  4. Take into account your audience's needs. To do this, you have to ask yourself the following questions: What are they like? Why are they there? What keeps them awake at night? How can you help them? What do you want them to do when they leave the room? How might they resist your ideas? How can you convince them?
  5. Structure your ideas: create mental maps and diagrams. Use your notes so that your ideas flow smoothly.
  6. Create diagrams, graphs and images so that your ideas are appropriately illustrated and your audience can remember them easily. Good graphics are often the precursors of new ideas. In a diagram, individual concepts acquire context, sequence and association -- they come alive.
  7. Display your numerical data appropriately. Use the following five rules: (1) display the truth, (2) go straight to the point, (3) pick the right kind of graphic, (4) underline what's important and (5) use simple graphics. This means avoiding redundancy, 3-D graphics, heavy screens or grids, overly busy illustrations, pie graphs with lots of "slices," heavy shading, etc.
  8. Optimize three elements: (a) Arrangement, which consists of contrast, hierarchy, unity, space, proximity and the flow of content; (b) Visual elements like background, color, texts and images; and (c) Movement, which consists of time, space, distance, direction and visual flow. Use a consistent layout, but whatever you do, avoid overloading your slides and use a lot of blank space to avoid visual fatigue.
  9. Favor images over text, because they are easier to remember. Take your time choosing a consistent family of images and diagrams that you can use instead of text.
  10. Rehearse and prune your presentation. Practice these three Rs: (1) Reduce -- or eliminate -- text, leaving only images; (2) Record and remember your presentation; and (3) Repeat. Tell your story, refining it through repetition.

According to Duarte, when you restrict the size of your presentation, you force yourself to be concise and to cut out anything superfluous in your messages. You can find a wide sampling of concise, direct and well-prepared, as well as interesting, presentations at

I conclude with a quote from another expert in the field:

People have a hard time coping with excessive cognitive strain. There is simply a limit to a person's ability to process new information efficiently and effectively. Understanding can be hard enough without the excessive and nonessential bombardment by our visuals that are supposed to be playing a supportive role.

- Garr Reynolds, Presentation Zen