Creating the right visuals to complement your presentation

Startups need to get their message across — and fast. It’s therefore vital for every new business to create a great pitch presentation. To help you prepare a compelling case, we asked, Emma Ledden, author of The Presentation Book to share the secrets of how to produce memorable presentations that help put you on the map.

When preparing their pitch many presenters in business use slides as a preparation tool to help them organise their thoughts. They look to PowerPoint (or another slide generation tool) to give them structure in a presentation. I call this approach to presentations – Slide Focused Presenting.

Slide Focused Presenting

A slide focused presentation typically follows this approach:

1. The slides are prepared first

In preparing their presentation, most presenters open their laptop and start typing data onto their slides, believing this is the only step in the process of preparing a presentation.

2. There is no difference between the handout and the slides

Presenters will regularly prepare a handout which they will then use as their slides and also as their notes.

3. Presenting a written document

With a Slide Focused Approach the presenter has effectively written data onto slides. Very often this is every single word they are going to speak in case they lose their way.

Slide Focused Presentations don’t work

The reality is the majority of these Slide Focused Presentations leave their audience feeling confused, frustrated or jaded.

Slide Focused Presenting doesn’t work because this modern world we live in demands so much more of us and our presentations. This is especially true for a startup business trying to generate capital, create new leads and expose their brand to as many people as possible.

Are you missing the point of PowerPoint?

Today, more than ever, presentation slides are being over-used and abused.

The first thing I hope to help you understand is the slides are not for the presenter, they are for the audience. Slides are a visual aid to help the audience understand and remember your messages. You build the slides around your presentation structure and messages and not the other way around.

A presentation is not about the slides, it is about YOU. It is about you engaging with the audience and presenting a clear relevant message, slides or no slides.

One of the big issues with presentations is people spend more time picking animations then thinking about their audience and pay more attention to sound effects than structure.

It isn’t which software you use that is important, but how you use it. The important part is what goes on before you prepare the slides.

You need to create Audience Focused Presentations

In order to create great slides you must change your approach from Slide Focused to Audience Focused. To achieve this you must;

1. Profile your audience 

How to create and deliver presentationsTruly valuing the audience and investing in what they need from you as a presenter is the secret to presentation success.

This means the first thing you must do is close your computer and understand your audience before you can build any slides.

2. Structure your message

The way you introduce structure and deliver your content in a presentation is what makes an audience accept it or not.

Every day I see business people serve an audience unprepared, unplanned, unrehearsed, mashed-up content on ad hoc PowerPoint slides.

3. Create visual aids

Once you have relevant structured messages you can build amazing visuals to match them.

RELATED: How to avoid death by PowerPoint – 9 Practical tips to captivate an audience with your presentation

5 Tips to put the POWER into your PowerPoint

To help you prepare the perfect visuals for your presentaion, here are my Top 5 Tips for putting the power into your PowerPoint;

Tip 1 – A slide and a handout have different purposes

A visual aid (slide) and a hand out (slide doc) are two completely different pieces of communication with two completely different purposes.

There is a concerning amount of overlap in business today between visual aids and slide docs.

The term ‘Slide Doc’ was coined by the wonderful Nancy Duarte to describe a visual document, developed in presentation software, that is intended to be read and referenced instead of projected.

Presentation slides are meant to be presented accompanied by a speaker. Slide Docs are meant to be read alone by an audience member.

They are not the same thing. They should never be the same thing. They should never look the same.

Tip 2 – One at a time

Best practice says you should only have one message per slide

The audience should look at your slides and have an ‘Aha’ moment. Your slides are supposed to create clarity.

Your audience are not supposed to have to squint, have speed-reading abilities or have to frantically search through the spreadsheet on the slide to find the number you are referring to when you say ‘as you can see from this slide’.

Tip 3 – 5 words across, 5 words down

You are of course allowed to use some text on your slides but there is a rule about how much text is effective. For best results limit your text to five words across and five words down.

The slides should just show the key points. If you have more than five across and five down you need two separate slides.

RELATED: Harness the “Power of Three” to nail your pitch

Tip 4 – The Presenter must lead the slides

This is what most people do when operating their slides:

  1. They click onto the slide.
  2. They pause and have a look at the slide to get a prompt.
  3. They then start talking about whatever point is on the slide.

They repeat this for the entire presentation.

This is not how it should be. You the presenter should introduce your slide and tee up what is coming before you click on the slide itself.

The presenter needs to lead the slides and not the other way around.

RELATED: Harnessing the power of body language to deliver captivating speeches and presentations

Tip 5 – B and W

Finally, this is a little trick you might find useful.

When your slide show is on full view if you press the ‘B’ or ‘W’ the screen will turn to black or white respectively. If you hit ‘B’ or ‘W’ again it will come back to the same slide.

This is really powerful if you want to blank the screen, grab the audience’s attention and make a point.


In business today the ability to present a message to a group of people is something every startup must master.

For a new business to succeed they must have the ability to go out into the world and present themselves and their ideas to investors, clients or the media.

Great presenters are created, not born. Don’t let yourself down when you stand up to speak.

About the author

This article has been written exclusively for ByteStart by Emma Ledden, author of The Presentation Book, published by Pearson, priced £12.99. For more presentation tips from Emma, AKA The Presentation Mentor, follow her on Twitter –

More help on delivering great presentations

For more help on presenting, pitching and public speaking, try these other practical ByteStart guides;

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