Presentation Design – Before and After

Recently I gave a session on the SQL Server Days about the new features for business intelligence in SQL Server 2016. I have always found that the design of the slide deck matters and this time I was fortunate enough to have the assistance of 356labs, a presentation design agency founded by SQL Server MVP Boris Hristov (@BorisHristov). I’m not going to talk about why the design of your slides matters – even for technical sessions – or how good Boris is in his job, others have already done that for me:

What I’m going to do is show the feedback that 356labs gave me on my initial draft. Here’s my first version of the deck:

And here’s the final version I gave on the SQL Server Days:

Feel free to browse both versions and to play a game of spot the differences 🙂
I’ll give a quick summary. After the feedback from 356labs, the following was changed:

  • some of the sponsor logo’s were replaced by more high-resolution images
  • in a lot of slides, objects were moved, changed in size or aligned. Most of the time to give more space and let the objects “breathe”.
  • some redundant objects were removed, such as the bar on the bottom
  • colours were used more consistently. Notice how each chapter has its own colour now and that it reflects on the colour of certain objects in the slides.
  • animations and transitions were added to give a more natural flow to the presentation
  • screenshots of code had to be replaced with texboxes containing the actual code and colouring the code along the SSMS colour scheme. This was a great tip, since screenshots tend to make the code more blurry.
  • the demo slide had a make-over
  • content was dropped to fit the presentation in a one hour time slot.

Regarding the last item: 356labs really teached me that you don’t have to show everything on the slides. If you have for example 12 changes for MDS, only show the 3 most important changes. Include the other 9 in the notes and talk about them during the presentation. People can always download the slide deck later on and read the notes. This really helps in reducing content on overcrowded slides.

Also note that all of the content in the final version was also already present in the first draft. The design is just more clear and focused now and it really helped me in successfully delivering my session. Given more time, Boris probably would have made more (drastic) changes. You can take a look at his portfolio to see what I mean and more specifically this one which is how he really believes presentation design should be done. This is his personal deck from the recent SQLSaturday in Sofia.
Anyway, I’m really pleased with the end result and from now on I’m going to pay even more attention to the design of my slides.

Koen Verbeeck

Koen Verbeeck is a Microsoft Business Intelligence consultant at AE, helping clients to get insight in their data. Koen has a comprehensive knowledge of the SQL Server BI stack, with a particular love for Integration Services. He's also a speaker at various conferences.

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