Sales Presentation: Design

Thursday, February 4th, 2010 0 comments

sales presentation designThis week in our sales presentation tips series, we look at PowerPoint design and the use of other visual aids in presentations. How can visual aids help your audience to understand your message? What commonly-followed advice has actually been proven to be ineffective? Our tips from specialists in presentations and sales provide a range of expertise, from opinions on clip art to the relevance of number of slides.

Avoiding Decoration

Don’t confuse decoration with communication. As brothers Chip and Dan Heath say in Made to Stick, ‘We need to end once and for all the cult of clip art, as well as the splinter church of stock photography. “Show, don’t tell” doesn’t mean that you take your slide about “thinking globally” and add a clip-art world map.’ Sales presentation design should use graphics that genuinely help the audience to understand, and don’t be afraid to bring props into the room to supplement your slides.

Slides Should Reinforce Your Words

Well known marketer Seth Godin knows as much as most about persuasion, and doing things that aren’t necessarily the norm. ‘Bullets’, he says, ‘are for the NRA’. Presenters should create cue cards but ‘put them in your hand’ and not on screen. Then, as the slides don’t need to serve as cue cards they should ‘reinforce your words, not repeat them’.

Attractiveness vs. Effectiveness

Mike Pulsifer, author of the blog Thoughts on Presenting and Design, argues that presenters should really rethink their design. There is a big difference between attractive slides, and effective slides. What is the point of slides that look good, if they don’t convey your message? Take time to rework your presentation, and “change your whole office culture.” We couldn’t agree more.

Number of Slides

Don’t worry about how many slides your sales presentation runs to. As Jan Schultink, author of the well-regarded Sticky Slides blog notes, when people worry about the number of slides they have “they are choosing the wrong metric; number of slides, kilos of printout, presentation file size, it does not matter. Time is the only relevant factor.”

Other Visual Aids

Remember that slides aren’t the only possible visual aids in sales presentation design. We think PowerPoint is great when used well, but they aren’t the only visual aid available. Make use of flip charts, boards and posters, paper handouts, your product, video, or other media if it helps to get your message across.

Using Your Surroundings

Own the room. This isn’t going to be possible when presenting for a rushed ten minutes in a prospect’s office, but there are plenty of situations where it is possible to get in to dress a room in advance. For Jon Steel, author of Perfect Pitch, ‘the room in which a pitch is delivered should be a physical manifestation of both the agency and its idea’, and the room ‘has to feel different’. This might mean dressing a room with examples of work, images produced in the research process, or even visual aides to make up the presentation. Dressing a room to relate to the core message of a presentation helps bring the message to life. But remember that the room must support the presentation, not distract from it. Keep things ‘on-topic’.


Do more with hand-outs. For many pitching solutions to creative briefs, it is important to remember that the prospect is buying both an idea and somebody to implement that idea. For this reason, leave-behinds should not simply consist of slide print-outs. They shouldn’t simply repeat the material of the presentation, but go further to summarise this idea in a way that helps to ‘demonstrate the relationship between the people who work in the agency and that idea’ (Jon Steel, Perfect Pitch). For Steel’s agencies, this means asking staff to bring in photos, write personal stories, and then binding these collections in glossy print. Pitching to design and build a school? Ask staff to tell stories about the best places they have studied in. Want to leave your slides behind? Record narration, or host slides online.

Share this page:

The Ultimate Guide to Sales Presentations