The revolution in presentation design over the past 5 years has mostly been about creating better on-stage experiences. Big pictures, one-message-per-slide, consistent colours, proper layout.

The definition of "presentation" is widening though. PowerPoint is replacing the word processor in corporate communication and is used to create documents that are meant for reading rather than presenting.

In my bespoke design work, I see more and more decks that are used as attachment to a cold email: VC pitches, sales presentations. The audience setting for these type of presentations is a little bit different from the classical standup presentation. Your audience is not captive and can decide to close the file, skip ahead, at any moment. A cold email deck is very similar to a web page competing with hundreds of other links to click to take you somewhere else.

Some design pointers to these types of presentations. SlideMagic beta testers will notice that I have put a lot of these requirements into my presentation design tool.

  • Look and feel. When you are on-stage, you can masquerade the unprofessional look and feel of your slides somewhat with your overall stage presence. No such thing in cold emails. If the slides look like amateurishly designed PowerPoint slides, the company that's behind them will be perceived as such.  
  • Must click. Like the beat in a piece of music, an impatient VC or potential customer has the urge "to keep on clicking". If the slides it boring, or hard to understand, she will not re-read the slide a second time, instead: "Oh, maybe the next one is clearer" [CLICK]. You do not control the beat, design your slides in such a way that the message comes across before the next click comes along.
  • The basics. You are not there to explain, you cannot keep the audience locked in the room and force them to go through your dramatic analogy as an opening. Tell them bluntly what you are about, right upfront. 
  • Keep them hooked. For standup presentations, you do not always have to throw those impressive stats early on. Here, you have to do all you can to keep people hooked. You can do this in 2 ways: mention the impressive facts (2 million paying users in 2 months) and - maybe even more important - anticipate the obvious questions: slide 3: "This looks like a Google me-too? Wrong!". 
  • Branding. On stage there is no need to remind people whom they are listening to on every page. In cold emails, a bit of reminding is actually good. A tiny logo at the bottom right of each page is hopefully enough to get people to remember your name by the end of the deck.
  • Explanation. You are not there, so super abstract slides will not be understand. Consider using 2 lines for the slide title. Or add a subtitle box under your slide with the full length narrative in point 8 fonts (SlideMagic ships with explanation boxes to the right of each slide).
  • Details later. The first part of your presentation is all about getting people to understand what you do, and why things are so great. You do not need the full detail of your team, technology, etc. for this. But, if you succeeded, the reader might want to dig a bit deeper. Consider adding the more dry information in an appendix of your deck, in a denser presentation style. Bios of team members are a good example where dense text with rich backgrounds can add value.

In short, put yourself in the position of the impatient clicker who has the urge to press the mouse button every 10 seconds and will read straight over buzzwords and fluff. Also that clicker, might tab on a table or mobile device. 

Presentation design blends with web design to design slides for an non-captive audience.


Art: Eduard Charlemont A Drink for the Drummer, 1889