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Tips and Tricks about Presentations

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This post was written by
Scott Schwertly

Scott is the Founder and CEO of Ethos3.

Think of all the icons you come into contact with on a daily basis. A cigarette with a line through it: No Smoking. A magnifying glass: Search. A box with people inside, up and down arrows on the outside: Elevator.

Iconography is simply universal communication without words. Icons should be understandable across all languages, and they should beĀ intuitive. As one of our designers sagely puts it: “If you have to think about it, it’s not working.”

Though icons can be complex, simplicity is key (as always in presentation design). When creating an icon or choosing an icon from a library, think of the most universally recognized way to represent the concept. For example, if you’re looking for something to represent construction, nails or a hammer would be appropriate.

Basic word association is a great way to brainstorm potential icons for a concept. Construction = hammer, nails, screwdriver, boards, etc. Marriage = ring, union, proposal, man & woman, etc. Exercise = running, lifting weights, push-ups, etc.

Below are several slides we designed for a presentation given by Commerce Ventures, a venture capitalist firm. The deck utilized iconography heavily throughout. Notice how the icons immediately summon a particular concept to your mind. Remember, the quicker the audience understands the icon, the better.

Here’s the title slide of the presentation. Though there’s no substantial information on the slide, the five icons give the audience an idea of what the presenter will be talking about in the presentation.

Each of the icons above communicates the words below them harmoniously. ‘Average $1 million investment’ would naturally be associated with a check, ‘investors and advisors’ is effectively represented by a handshake, and so on.

Also, don’t overlook the connotations associated with your icons. A venture fund, for example, is a complex concept and our designer chose to represent it with a tree because a tree is something that grows (as hopefully this venture fund would) and a tree is something that needs to be nurtured (which is precisely what the presenter would do with the investor’s money).

This slide is a great example of how simple it can be to visualize concepts with icons. The top half of the slide depicts the amount of money spent on driving to visit a store, so naturally, the icons used are a car and a store. And the bottom half of the slide is discussing the amount spent on promotions, which naturally brings to mind the word ‘Sale’.

Again, note how simple the icons are on this slide. Their simplicity lends power to the slide. They are beautiful, to be sure, and they’re also entirely communicative. They represent the concepts associated with them, and they do so effortlessly.

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  • http://coachingforleaders.com Dave Stachowiak

    Great article! Saw tweet from Michael Hyatt. It's so much about being consistent, isn't it? I'm very grateful to have work that I love and hope to get to do more speaking in the coming years as well.

    The perspective of the article is a great reminder of what to shoot for. Thanks for sharing!

  • http://aussiesaddle.com colin dangaard

    Many people have two lives. One is work, which a vast number actually dislike, even hate. The other is a private life, where they have fun and do what they want makes them happy. The really SMART people are those who have figured out how to make their "fun" life their "work" life. These people are not lucky. They just figured it out and MADE it happen. This group enjoys endless benefits. They never have to worry about "retiring", because that would mean qutting what they love doing. They do not need "things" to distract them boring work lives. Which means they need less money, which means they have less stress, which means they live longer, and work happily until they the day they die, when, hopefully, they have spent their last dollar. Just in time. Now finding space in this group, THAT is excellence.
    Colin Dangaard

  • http://www.authorstream.com Akash

    Hi, many thanks for introducing us to the other side of the people who always leave us in awe with their presentations. Wonderful insight!


    – Akash
    authorSTREAM Team