A presentation at Top Talks February 2019 by
Designing Slides: Techniques for Emotional Appeal
Top Talks | February 2019
Hi, I’m David, I’m a designer.
Today I’m going to talk to you all about slides.
We use slides to present information, but I feel they can do so much more. They can make ideas more concrete, jokes funnier, lessons sticker and truths more profound. We’ll look at some ways to do that.
These ideas will apply whether you’re pitching an investor, presenting research findings, or giving a TED talk. There is one major consideration that applies when you’re on a stage or podium with a big screen…
…you. In this scenario, you become part of the slide. I try to design all my slides to account for this. Even on a smaller screen, your slides will typically dominate a darkened room.
So back to our main event…how can we use slides to create emotional resonance?
Just like a well-produced song, you want highs and lows, big bits and small bits, builds and drops.
To continue the musical metaphor, a DJ uses ambient visuals to reinforce the vibe and energy of the music and engage more of your senses. I like to imagine my slides have “volume knobs” and ask myself how “loud” I want a particular moment in a talk to be. For example:
I could say “let me tell you about my last trip”, or…
“let me tell you about my last trip”, or more likely for me…
“let me tell you about my last trip”.
I don’t feel like as a speaker I have to say everything I’m trying to communicate—often I say some things and let the slides say others. There are a few ways I do this, you’ve already seen a few of them:
The punchline; this doesn’t have to be a joke, I’m just super awkward and hide behind humour. The basic idea is call and response. Done well it looks like you and your slides know each other so well that you complete each other’s…
No…why would it be pineapples? Obviously sentences. Sentences.
This one I call the “inner monologue”—it’s about saying what I’m thinking, or what I want the audience to think at that moment. Again, it doesn’t have to be humour, it can be a humblebrag or your sales numbers. The idea is to say it without saying it.
Quotes—often I’ll put a quote up in its entirety and not read the whole thing, but instead highlight bits of it (sometimes literally) and speak to them.
We already talked about “volume” when it comes to creating emotional appeal, but we can also do that with rhythm.
This we saw earlier, a sequential reveal (if you’re reading this as a static slide, the gifs appear one after the other)—this technique can be used for bullet points, charts and data viz. The idea here is to use time to focus attention on different details while allowing the audience to appreciate the wider context.
For shorter talks, or if you want to get through a lot of material, you can also take the audio off a video and roll it as you speak rather than stop to watch it—this maintains momentum. (As an aside, when working with video I recommend having descriptive thumbnails as a backup in case the video doesn’t work.)
Finally, over the course of a talk, I try to prime the audience by using discrete slide types (templates).
The basic idea here is that by creating these distinct colour spaces, you help the audience recognise the different elements of your presentation. This creates anticipation and comfort but also makes information stickier. A tip here is to build a colour scheme that allows you to rotate between background, text and accent colour to keep all slides in the same family.
So to bring it back to the beginning, once we’ve done the basics of clearly communicating ideas, we can leave it at that, or we can go further.
We can stick to garden variety facts…
Or we can go for emotional appeal.
View Designing Slides: Techniques for Emotional Appeal on Notist.
Presenters often use slides to share information, but how might we use them to create emotional resonance and amplify the effectiveness of our speaking? Here are a few techniques I like to use.
The following resources were mentioned during the presentation or are useful additional information.