The brain is a lazy piece of meat. At least that’s what Karl Genest, Founder and President of PrezExpert — a communication training and design company, says when it comes to creating effective business presentations. Earlier this month, Karl shared his findings with a small group through an IABC Ottawa lunch and learn workshop. He underlined that simple and colourful slides are the most effective ways to help your audience process information and leave them with a lasting impression. How do you do this effectively using neuroscience and colour theory techniques? We summarized the key takeaways from his workshop below.

Content leads
The 44th President of the United States, Barrack Obama, did not become a well-known public speaker simply by winging his presentations. Instead he follows this simple rule: Invest 10x more of your time developing the content of your presentation than practicing how to give it. This will allow you to assess and integrate the four ways of impact, which are: what do you want your audience to remember? What do you want them to feel? What do you want them to believe? What do you want them to do? Once you develop this narrative, you’re ready to start creating your slides.

We’re sure you’ve heard that short generic titles for slides are the best way to start each slide, but data suggests otherwise. People are more likely to remember a header if it is an informative statement that colours the rest of the information on the slide because the brain remembers information in patterns. For presentations, this means the information at the top and bottom of every slide are key pieces of real estate. Here’s a trick: If you’re having a hard time coming up with an effective title for a slide this is usually a good indication that you don’t need to slide at all!

Tables/figures, and bullets
The best way to display data and big chunks of information is to focus on a few key pieces and delete the rest aka. less is more. You don’t want to overwhelm your audience with data they won’t be able to remember later! The best way to organize this information is through the use of tables/figures and bullets. For tables you will want to play around with thin grey lines as opposed to the stark black lines and try to utilize the horizontal space on a slide. For bullets, sub-bullets are your friend! Focus on using them to communicate qualitative information, ideas, and concepts and play around with the space between different levels.

It’s true, pictures are worth 1,000 words, which is why they’re the perfect tool for presentations. Try playing around with the white space on a slide by adding a photo as a background image with text overlayed onto it. It breaks the flow of typical slides and adds a special touch. Also, think of ways to use photos that can replace copious amounts of text. For example, if you are pitching your organization to a new client/partner and you’re highlighting the professional work completed by your staff, why not insert a photo of the team onto this slide? It’s an easy way to make your content personable and relatable.