Some random thoughts on designing keynote slides (in no particular order):
  • A keynote is a specific presentation setting. A large audience, an audience that sits there because of its own free will (i.e., not the annual budget review). An audience that has alternatives (walk out for a coffee, check email on a mobile device). You have to capture their attention
  • Every keynote speech starts with the story you want to tell. Don't  open your slide bank and see how you can stitch together something form existing slides. This might work in your weekly management meeting, it won't for a big audience
  • It should be possible to tell your story without slides at all. Use graphics only for specific purposes. A picture that clarifies an example. A minimalist data chart that shows a trend. A few words that highlight what you are talking about, or to signal a transition. A map of competitor logos that shows how you are different. One big number to show how huge something is. Insert black slides into the presentation sequence for those passages that do not require visual support. 
  • Dense bullet point slides won't work. But a constant barrage of "stunning" stock images that change every 2 seconds will make the audience dizzy and distracts attention from the speaker. 
  • If you have to use images, use real ones. Creative common images from Flickr with real people for example. Use images with a lot of white space. Scale images to the full size of the slide. Don't use images with a negative emotion: something aggressive, something ugly, something revolting, something depressing, something "college humor". Think aesthetics. 
  • Dark slides with light fonts work better, slides with white backgrounds on a huge screen makes the speaker disappear in a sea of light.
  • Have the mindset of creating a video: think of someone filming your presentation and putting it online for everyone to see. What combination of you as the speaker and supporting visuals will create the best effect. Use a beautiful, calm, non-standard font. Strip out all corporate logos, repeating graphics. page numbers, source references, confidentiality stickers, everything. 
  • Practice, practice, practice, and then: practice one more time

If you liked this post, why not subscribe to daily updates about presentation design via email? Just blog posts, no spam. You can find Jan Schultink on Twitter here.