Presentation Design 101: How to build presentations that really engage [with templates]

Keep audiences visually engaged with a slick, well-designed presentation.

If you’ve ever had to present to a group of people, you know how intimidating it can be. You know things can go wrong. Your voice can give out, your laptop can fail, and your left leg can shake uncontrollably.

These things can just… happen. But what shouldn’t happen is this:

Welcome to my presentation (1)

This is the first slide of a bad presentation. In this day and age, the visual quality of your presentation is completely in your control, and no one should ever deliver a bad one.

Now, you might never have learned how to create a good presentation — one that’s guaranteed to engage any audience — or you might’ve been fed some bad advice over the years that’s led you astray.

If that’s the case, we forgive you.

But after you read this article, you’ll have no excuse. To start, we’ve put together our very own presentation to show you exactly how to deliver a mouth-wateringly good one.

Why does this stuff matter?

Simply put, an engaging visual presentation takes a lot of the pressure off you, the speaker, to deliver something people actually want to listen to.

Give them the boring slides with Times New Roman and they’ll assume you’re boring before you even open your mouth.

On the flip, give them something with impact and visual intrigue and you’ll have them eating out of the palm of your hand from the get-go.

Broken down, here are our top 10 tips for creating impactful presentations. For each tip, we’ve included the best real-world presentation example we could find online to inspire you.


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01. Choose easy to read fonts

Don’t get too fancy with fonts and go for those that are easy to read. Sans serif fonts are more readable than serif fonts when it comes to a presentation platform and larger fonts will help those seated at the back of the room to see and read what you’re presenting.

02. Provide solid content

Before you begin designing a presentation, identify the purpose and goal of the presentation. What do you need to achieve? This will guide the content of the presentation and ensure it is worth viewing and sharing. Check out this presentation that has nearly 2.5 million views on SlideShare.

03. One main idea per slide

Keep slides simple with only one main idea per slide, preferably expressed in 6-10 words. Audiences shouldn’t be reading along with the speaker nor should they be distracted by the content of the slides. Keeping the text short and brief will deliver the need-to-know highlights.

04. Include high quality images

For a professional look only the best images will do. Use high-resolution photos (within a size range of 1000 pixels) that match the color scheme where possible. Avoid cheesy stock photography that can come across as fake or uninteresting.

Make the most of white or negative space to ensure there is room for text and it’s not dueling for attention with the images.

05. Choose a selective color scheme

Be wary of choosing too many colors for a presentation, as this can prove distracting. Select two or three colors for foreground tones, background base, and accents. Use images that harmonize with the color palette (or vice versa) and don’t be afraid to adjust contrast and saturation and add filters to pictures to suit the presentation. If text is being laid over images use a contrasting or complementary color and step away from the computer to make sure it’s easily read.

06. Be consistent

Keep the look of slides consistent. Images, color schemes, background images, fonts, layout, framing and logo placement should all follow the same style guide. But they also need to be kept interesting, so think of your slides as fraternal twins, not identical twins.

Some tips for consistency:

    • Use the same ‘banner’ or title font throughout your design.
    • Use the same ‘frame’ or ‘grid’ throughout your design.
    • Use the same background throughout your design.
    • Use consistent fonts

Make one fantastic slide, save it as a template and repeat the layout. Audience members will pick up other elements of your presentation without having to rethink each slide.

Follow Canva’s board Canva Layouts: Presentation on Pinterest.

07. Create a compelling cover

Your title slide is your calling card for the whole presentation and should grab attention while also conveying the feeling and topic of the presentation. Give people a reason to click through the presentation or to sit up and listen.

This presentation engages you on the first slide with eclectic, but never crowded, typography. A theme of blue and beige creates a sense of trust and ease as you navigate through the slides.

08. Filters are your friends

Filters are your friends. Use them to enhance the mood of your photos, and to create a perfect backdrop. Filters can also unify photos with different brightness levels or color values. To learn everything you need to know about using filters in Canva, click here.

Check out how well they’re used here:

09. Close with a call-to-action

Make the closing slide interesting and powerful to leave viewers with a final impression of the presentation. What do you want them to remember? Also include a call-to-action, such as a link to a blog, website or social media profiles; a request for viewers to sign a petition; or a place where they can find other presentations.

If the presentation is to be posted and shared online, include a hyperlink for viewers to easily click through.

Have a look at the last slide of this one to see what we mean:

10. Share it

SlideShare is a great place to post presentations online in order to increase visibility. Whether it’s a blog article, an opinion piece or short tutorial, posting it on SlideShare will increase its lifespan.

Create, save and load a .pdf into SlideShare and include these basics:

  1. Add a title and description
  2. Categorize the SlideShare
  3. Add relevant tags

Then share it to social media profiles such as Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Facebook and Google+. Include it in the next email blast and embed it in a blog post.

Check out the last slide of this presentation, which promotes the other Slideshares in the series:

Bonus! Bonus! Bonus! Canva’s Top 10

Learning about how to design a good presentation is one thing, but actually doing it is another. Without the right tools, following the tips in this article can be quite difficult. PowerPoint can only do so much but Canva’s drag and drop features answers a lot of the challenges a non-designer would face when creating stunning slides.

Plus, we’ve dug out the top 10 presentation templates in Canva. Click on any of the presentation slides below and they’ll open up in your Canva account. From there, you can completely customize the images, colors, and copy to make them your very own.

This first cool-toned template keeps the focus equal parts on the imagery and written content, making it the perfect starting point for your design. 

In the market for something a little more modern and sharp? Check out this clean template that is flexible enough to suit a wide variety of content while keeping things neat and stylish. 

Bring a world of personality and modernity into your presentation with this template that pairs bold typefaces, vibrant blocks of color and a stylish modular composition.

Want to ensure that your design packs a punch? Have a whirl with this striking template that uses sharp lines, punchy palette and clean elements.

This template design pairs classy serif fonts with antique color palette to help you create an elegant and sophisticated presentation in no time at all. 

Want to keep things simple and clean? You can’t go wrong with this template. Cool blue tones, plenty of whitespace and elegant typefaces will all ensure that your content shines. 

Modular, modern, and monochromatic, this template design keeps things sleek and sharp and super simple. 

Hunting for a minimal and clean template that is easy to customize? This one has you covered. With clean lines, simple layouts and a beautiful palette, this template is the perfect launching point for your design. 

Beautiful gradients, clean typefaces and warm tones come together on this palette to make an elegant and stunning template that is sure to show off your content’s good side.

This stunning template is equal parts elegant and professional, making it all too easy to customize to suit your own presentation.

Your turn…

Spend time designing the visual content of a presentation. Engage viewers with appealing and easy to read design that will keep them interested, keep them clicking and keep the listening so they walk away understanding the message of the presentation.

Canva makes design simple for everyone.