Presentation Tips: Balancing Variety with Consistency

This post was written by Hannah MorrisDirector of Assessment & Advancement at The Latimer Group.

One of the elements of slide decks that we often critique is the visual consistency. Are all text boxes in the same placement? Or do they jump around? Is the text in standard places (header, subhead, bullet, callout box) the same size? Are the bullet patterns uniform? Do the slide numbers all match up?

This is important because our eyes are looking for patterns. We subconsciously predict where things will be and want to find the same elements in the same places. When they jump around, or when they have a different look, it is harder to recognize them and it distracts us. And when they are predictable, we can relax and focus attention elsewhere – such as on the presenter and the content.

Slides pulled from different presentations and cobbled together in a new deck are often riddled with minor inconsistencies that distract the audience and make the deck feel less cohesive and polished. The final stage in our slide creation process must involve the “Finish”, where we scan the deck multiple times looking for these issues. (Using the gridlines also helps immensely.)

Making our slides easy to consume is critical to an effective overall presentation experience.

But a deck of 15 slides that all have the exact same format would be boring, even mind-numbing. Just like a monotone delivery, it would fail to hold our audience’s attention. Knowing that the brain attunes to new and unexpected elements can be used to our advantage. Within a basic style (i.e. a template), we can modulate our formatting to draw attention to information and attract our audience’s eyes.

Within each template, there are numerous layouts to choose from. Making use of a variety of different layouts can increase the visual appeal of your deck and aid in the retention of information.

The next time you build a deck, or cobble one together, vary the layout from slide to slide while keeping the style consistent in order to enhance the audience experience and increase the overall effectiveness of your presentation.

Does your team:
– Take too long to make decision?
– Fail to ask for what it wants or needs from you?
– Make things too complicated?
– Deliver unconvincing or disorganized presentations?
– Have new hires who are unprepared to communicate in the workplace?

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2 responses to “Presentation Tips: Balancing Variety with Consistency”

  1. Mark Williams says:

    I have often had this question. Thanks for the great insight, Hannah!

  2. Hannah Morris says:

    Thanks for your comment, Mark. This certainly comes up a lot. Especially when we are building a deck piecemeal, it is easy to ignore those little inconsistencies that can distract and undermine or the monotony that can bore. But we want to be ever conscious of the audience experience and make our slide content as easy as possible for the audience to decipher and attune to while focusing their main attention on us and our message!

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Hannah Morris

A book about change

The Latimer Group’s CEO Dean Brenner is a noted keynote speaker and author on the subject of persuasive communication. He has written three books, including Persuaded, in which he details how communication can transform organizations into highly effective, creative, transparent environments that succeed at every level.