#HTP: Design Matters


You know that designer friend who keeps telling you how important the look of your presentation is? It turns out they’re right on the money. While (as I’ve stressed before), the most important aspect of any pitch is truly knowing your industry and company inside and out, it’s also important to never underestimate the visual aspects of your presentation. But don’t worry if you haven’t the time or resources to have a professional designer go over your visuals, there are a few things you can keep in mind to ensure your pitch looks clean, professional and coherent.

If you don’t have a professional designer to work with the thing to remember is to keep the visuals simple. Don’t try to clutter up a good presentation with poorly made graphics, excess fonts or cheesy clip art. These elements are often overused by presenters trying to improve their pitch and can detract from the overall cohesion and legibility of the presentation. Simple design elements, limited colors and fonts and fewer graphics can help the content of your presentation shine through.

It’s always important to remember that this content is the goal of the presentation. You’re not up there to show off your photoshop skills, you’re there to get your message across in an understandable and interesting way. In her book Resonate, Nancy Duarte describes an ideal model for presentations that consist of sections that alternately describe “what is” and “what could be”. According to Duarte, it’s by contrasting the commonplace with the lofty that gives presentations dramatic tension and help to generate interest. Your entire presentation should be measuring past with the future, the pain with the gain, the question with the answer. Distracting visuals can often derail this cautiously laid flow and disrupt the entire pitch. Remember, the cleaner the presentation’s visuals are, the clearer everything becomes.

The last selling point for simple design in your presentation is that it’s less likely to break. And when everything that can break eventually will, it’s nice to limit the amount of time you need to spend apologizing to potential investors on behalf of Powerpoint. This is the same reason I urge presenters to ditch the video clips. Not only does it mean that you cannot adjust that portion of the pitch on the fly for the audience, but it also means that you’re putting a lot of prep time into a mechanism that has a good chance of failing.

If you already have a great designer or are skilled in design then you’re way ahead of the curve, but if not you should focus on keeping your pitch simple and elegant. To give the audience the best possible chance of understanding the presentation, you first need to ditch any visual element that could possibly distract them from the main idea. After all, you want investors to understand your core concepts, business plan and vision, not congratulate you on your gradients.


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