If you are a layman designer, here is how your guide to an effective presentation:

  1. Put your entire existing slide deck with all your backup slides and analysis in an appendix
  2. Think what you want the audience to do, and write down a simple story of the points you want to make to get them to do it (no, don't peek back into the appendix, it is all in your head already)
  3. Create a very simple slide template with just one accent color, and put all your text in light grey boxes to line up in a grid. Add a drop of accent color here and there.
  4. Create ridiculously simple charts using that grid that just, and I mean just, make the points you wrote down in 2. If you come up with a concept that requires more than a few text boxes, rethink the design and try again using your boxes.
  5. Run your presentation for real (speak out loud) and fix the flow where it does not work.

Here is how this approach prevents the layman designer from creating ugly and boring charts:

  • Separate the "analysis phase" from the "communication phase" of your project
  • Design a flowing, natural dialogue rather than a structured book with the full fact set
  • Cut your visual vocabulary down until you have an arsenal of basic visual elements (boxes in a grid) that you can morph into slides that pretty much always look good

Believe me, this will save you and the audience a lot of time. You can use my presentation app SlideMagic to do it, or in PowerPoint/Keynote. The latter option makes it a bit harder to align your boxes, but in the end will give the same result.

Image by Ian Sane on Flickr