Are slides necessary in a presentation? Does virtual versus in person change that answer? And what do you do if you don’t have a great eye for design?
Slides reinforce what you're saying and to help with understanding. And when used well, they’re a powerful tool for delivering your message more effectively.
Not to worry. In today's episode, my guest Emily Hall, founder and lead creator at E + M Creative (an amazing agency that does presentations and design for speakers and online entrepreneurs) joins us to talk about how you can structure your slides in a more sexy and effective way for your audience and your business.
She’s breaking down the top mistakes presenters make with their slides, how you can correct them and how to adapt your visuals for different environments (including virtual presentations). Stick with us until the end and you’ll learn her three C’s for more effective slides. I hope you’ll enjoy listening and learning from Emily as much as I did
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Well, hey, friend, welcome back to another episode of the show. I am delighted today to bring you a conversation with my dear friend who is local to me here, Emily Hall, who is the founder and lead creator at E+M Creative. It's an amazing agency that does presentations and design for speakers, for corporate, for online entrepreneurs. Emily and I had the chance to connect over Instagram last year at some point and we met for coffee here locally and instantly, I was like, holy crap! This gal knows her stuff. She knows her stuff. We actually have really similar backgrounds in presentation design in the corporate world, specifically in the medical space and both followed our hearts into the world of working with online entrepreneurs.
And one of the things, one of the reasons why I wanted to have Emily on the show, we do really similar things in terms of helping entrepreneurs and speakers structure their presentations in a more effective way with the through line of a goal. What's the purpose? How do you make it more pleasurable for your audience? They make it more entertaining, but also how do you make it more effective because as a speaker, as an entrepreneur, at the end of the day, you have goals for your presentation so we're very, very aligned on that. But one of the things that Emily excels at and is a bajillion times better than me which is why she's here is specifically slide design.
Now, I openly talk all the time how I don't use slides very often, when I do they're very intentional. I am a fan of using a whiteboard or a flip chart, or holding presence with an audience with nothing but my, it's going to sound weird. I think put my voice in a microphone, like I and my body language. That's how I speak. I'm a very, it's an experience, right? When you hear me speak live is an experience and it's going to be pretty captivating, but effective AF, and on slides, I don't know, but for me, take them or leave them. I do know how powerful they can be when done well. So that's exactly why I asked Emily on today to talk specifically around what are some of the biggest mistakes that we see presenters and specifically entrepreneurs make when it comes to slides and what are some simple shifts we can start making so that our slides can help our message land more effectively to our ideal customers. That's what we're talking about today. So Emily shares so many incredible tips. There's a few takeaways that I want you to pay attention to. We talked about things around how important it is to have your visuals different when you're on a keynote mainstage versus a virtual presentation. Pay attention to that one. We also talk about how to make your slides more effective with your brand visuals but caution. If you have a fancy schmancy scripty font, a little word of caution on that one and you're actually making it harder for your audience to stick with your content, oh, pay attention that one's coming at near the end. Emily also shares with us her three C's for more effective slides. That one, I'll let her share it because it was so good and we really talked about the importance of brand consistency. There's one of the C's, we also talked about how a lot of times when people create slides, they end up making a lot of visual white noise so how to avoid that. And also the big mistake around slide numbers and the associated with time of a presentation. So we dive into all of this today, plus a lot more. I really think you're going to enjoy it.
And I want to give a slight shout out here for just a moment. Pay attention to Emily's story. The second question that I asked her is all around her and I, our mutual experience in working in the medical space with slide design, and I asked her how did that really lead you to what you do today? I want you to pay attention because Emily actually shares her signature origin story through the lens. That's very, very helpful. So if you followed along on the show, you know, we talk a lot about signature stories. I had my friend Jono on a few months ago where we talked about his signature story. If you go back to, I can't remember the episode name, but I'll link it in the show notes. Five truths for telling your signature story. Pay attention because Emily has a really great story but specifically she focuses on what she's learned and how you can learn from it. So I just thought that was really good, pay attention.
And hey, you're listening to this episode, hopefully right in the month of January. Nope, it's going to be February when this goes live, right, in February when this goes live which is perfect timing. Stop what you're doing right now except for this podcast and I want you to open up an internet browser and type in heathersager.com/speaking workshops because my friend, the speaking workshops are happening very, very soon, and you need to get your seat saved. This is a brand new series we're doing. I did a modified version of it in September. We're bringing it back with some phenomenal changes and updates to the speaking workshops but this is your chance to learn how to be more effective when you're sharing your message as an online entrepreneur. Your voice is your best brand asset when you show up to the microphone or on a stage and you're able to articulate what it is you do in a very compelling way, when you're able to share your stories and connect to your ideal customer and share content that resonates with where they are and guides them to a solution which motivates them to join your programs or purchase your products or services. There's a skill with that. It is a marketing skill and it's done verbally through your voice and I want to teach you how to do that as an entrepreneur so that you can sell out your virtual programs, your coaching programs, without feeling like a schmuck-y schmuck trying to peddle your stuff out online, like selling can feel effortless. I know, sounds crazy, but when you learn how to speak in a more magnetic way it becomes possible. So if you want to learn how to do that more effectively, if you want 2020 to be the year where you show up more for your audience where you connect with new audiences and pull them towards your content. Be sure to head on over to heather sager.com/speaking workshops, plural speaking workshops, snag your seat in the workshops and I will see you there but for now, let's join in to the conversation with Emily Hall.
Alright, friends, I'm sitting here with my friend, local friend to me down the road. We're to be on Zoom. Emily, welcome to the show, my dear.
Emily Hall 9:22
Thank you so much for having me. So excited to be here.
Heather Sager 9:25
I'm excited you're here. I can't believe we haven't done this already. You and I have known each other now for well, I don't know how long. A year? No, not even a year.
Emily Hall 9:36
Heather Sager 9:38
Maybe. I don't know, we're friends. I'll probably talk about this in the intro or at this point I've already talked about in the intro if I did, which now we'll have to. We met locally. How fun is it to see real people in real life, you and I have now met in person multiple times and I am so excited because I am so envious of your skills for what we're talking about today. We're gonna talk about speaking in a different way with presentations, but I get people to run down around, like your your agency E+M Creative, what you guys do, what you specialize in and then we'll bridge into our conversation for today.
Emily Hall 10:12
Yeah, I'd love to. So we specialize in presentation and course design. So we really help people to develop, design and deliver engaging presentation content in a whole variety of formats, live and in person and virtual and pre recorded and courses and all sorts of different formats, but in a way that is impactful for your audience and really gets them to where they want to go but also helps make sure that you are keeping your ROI and your goals business wise and strategically in mind, so that your presentation is doing its job for you. It's doing what you need it to do in your long term business strategy. So really taking kind of two lenses to it, both the audience engagement and making sure that they're happy. They've got everything that they need but also that you as a speaker know that your presentation is getting things to where you want them so that's really what we do. So we do a lot of content consulting and development, we do custom design for slides, workbooks, all the things that go into creating a presentation or a course or anything like that and then we help with on the delivery side with tech setup and recording and all sorts of things like that. So kind of the whole range, we customize everything for what our clients need help with the most so that we just help people get through those barriers that tend to get you stuck. It's a fun time.
Heather Sager 11:27
Yeah, it is a fun time. Okay, so I love this. We have so many things in common around what we teach, but also very, very differently because one of the things that you do, which I'm very, like I said, a little jealous of your skill set on this is you are so good with presentation design, specifically slide and structural design which is what I wanted to geek out on today. But it is fascinating because you and I have really similar backgrounds. You used to do presentation design for executives at conferences, right? Can you talk a little bit like how did you make that shift from working in corporate on presentations to like, peace you all, I'm out. I'm getting paid for this on my own.
Emily Hall 12:05
Yes, it kind of happened by accident. I sort of fell into freelancing a little bit, which I think happens to a lot of us sometimes. But it actually goes back to my undergraduate degree so I actually got my degree in public health. So basically, creating mass level population behavior change through education and programs and initiatives. So really digging into that behavior change psychology of it, you know, how do you deliver things to people in a way that will move them from point A to point B, through all sorts of research and stuff like that. So then I fell into the corporate side of healthcare, and ended up doing presentations for essentially anybody director level or above at a pretty big healthcare organization and worked on stage presentations, education, sales training, sales webinars, all that good stuff, for, you know, an audience of two or an audience of 2000. It was all over the board and they all had different objectives. But it was a lot of taking these really complicated healthcare ideas on health systems and health processes and clinical, you know, clinical topics and making them digestible and actionable so that people would implement it, people would understand the importance of it. So that's really how I got started into it, I ended up there. I was doing things the same way that we're all taught to do things, you know, you make the bullet points, you do the thing, you modify the presentation that you've been using for the last eight years. And I realized, after watching a few of these, that the speakers that I was working with are incredibly talented, incredibly charismatic, very much thought leaders in their spaces but nobody was, people weren't paying attention. It wasn't clicking. And people were still checking their phones, they're looking at the door, they were doing all those little signs you can see that people aren't paying attention. That was happening and it blew my mind because what they were saying was incredible and it was so important. But what I realized the difference was, I started kind of testing a few things to see what it was. The first thing I tested was design. That's what I had a lot of control over. And I was like, what if we just change this up? What if we make it a little bit more visually engaging so that it is actually connecting to the visuals or connecting to what the speaker is talking about. It's delivered in a way that's a little bit different. So I dug really, really, really deep into presentation design as a specialty, which is a thing. People don't know about it, but they're a presentation design agencies all over the world that do this and there's a whole, whole host of research around it, which is great, just how you know, humans taken information, how we process the visuals, how that's paired with, you know, an attention split between visuals in the speaker, all that good stuff. So I started tweaking things. And I started saying, okay, what if we take off page numbers? What if we take off this? What if we, you know, break these builds out a little bit differently? What if it's, you know, a little bit of a different cadence? And a couple of really interesting things happen. The first was that audiences freaking loved it. They lost their minds. They were like, even ones that I did in the very beginning that had just small changes, small little tweaks to just modernize it. It was the most refreshing thing that people had seen and they were so excited about it. And so the speakers that use those were getting so many requests, they were getting so many connections on LinkedIn, they were getting people reaching out like. It was a moment.
The other thing that really shifted was that my speakers were more confident. They knew that they weren't just going to throw away their slides and skip them, like, oh, we don't have to talk about this, this is fine. It wasn't that requirement. It was something that actually was an asset for them and they knew that it was reinforcing what they were saying. So it changed how they presented things, it changed how they talked about things, it changed, you know, helped kind of standardize their cadence a little bit so they didn't feel rushed and built so it helped them with the delivery too. And then that also resonates with the audience, you have kind of that secondary effect. And so the more we did that, the more people started requesting, you know, different ways of doing things. So it really started in the design and then really backed into the strategy side of it. So with presentation design as a specialty and you know, the further I dug into that, the further I got into the messaging and how do you, you know, set your call to action, how do you back into that, how do you bring in principles of elearning principles of, you know, communication, design principles of sales and marketing, you know, the design science. So, presentation design is really multidisciplinary, which is a fun thing to be able to live in every day but because it's multidisciplinary people don't necessarily know what things need to bring so you know that you hate slides, but you don't know what to do instead. So that's a lot of the conversations that we have with people, because we've just kind of assumed that slides are a thing that you're just going to hate forever, like, it's a thing that we've had to do for 30 years, and they fundamentally haven't changed even though we've changed how we do pretty much everything else. Design has come a long way since 1991. Presentations have not. And there are actually a lot of reasons for that and there are very interesting and valid reasons but that doesn't mean that we need to keep doing what we're doing. It doesn't mean that we need to keep having our title and our 16,000 bullet points in our little decorative swoop at the top, and you know, our logo on every slide and the page numbers and the date, that's, you know, actually from last month, and all those things that that we have come to accept as normal, you don't have to do them.
So that was really what I dug into in that role which was fantastic so I did that for years, and then the more I did it, the more people started asking me to do outside of it. So colleagues that had left or friends that had heard about it and talked about it. So I really got asked to kind of freelance here and there and I was like, okay, this is a thing that I'm seeing as needed, so I worked on that was in healthcare, and I ended up doing freelance work with tech, with consulting, with education, with construction, all these different industries were having the exact same problem. And it was not surprising but also just so sad, because it made me realize that the more I talked to people and the more that I got into these different spaces, everyone was struggling with the exact same things. They were trying to get their message to their audience, they wanted it to land, they wanted to make the most of that presentation opportunity but they wanted to do it right. They just didn't know how. They didn't know what to do instead. And so that was kind of how it started. So I ended up like, the more I worked with people, the more I realized that I could do this. I could help people. And I was sitting down with a mentor one time having coffee and I was trying to figure out kind of my next career move. And she's like, you know, if you could do anything, just spend your days doing anything in the world, what would it be? I was like, it's gonna sound really ridiculous but I'd love to be able to build slides just all day, every day. And she's like, oh, that's really cool. You should talk to so and so, and so it kind of started from there. And so I actually launched E+M in 2019 focused primarily on corporate that was on my network and then that's what I had been doing, and it went great. I was doing workshops, I was doing training, I was doing custom design and templates, all sorts of fun things and then COVID hit and that all stopped immediately as happened for a lot of us so I ended up switching into the online space. It had actually been in my 2020 plan to grow the online side of the business, but it just was moved up in priority a little bit so I ended up essentially shifting what I was doing. The functionality of what I was doing with this was the same but I was you know helping solve a different problem, of solving, you know, workshops, and masterclasses and webinars and courses for people that are building online education. All the levers that we're pulling, all the things that we're doing are the same, we're just, again, calling it a different thing, instead of a, you know, a conference keynote. It's a masterclass, but functionally the same when you look at how it's built, how you need to go through the process of identifying your audience, building up the visuals, considering the environment, all of that, and so been kind of doing that ever since. So we work with a lot of people in the online space, we work with a lot of people in corporate, doing a lot of training and so it's kind of become this really cool agency that we get to really work in a lot of different spaces, but functionally helping people with presentations hasn't changed since the very beginning.
Heather Sager 19:32
Have you noticed people's ideas between, because you said there's not functionally a lot of difference between like in person versus virtually but a lot of people struggle with that shift. So I'm just kinda curious, whatever you noticed around what people get stuck with or hung up on between the end person versus the virtual?
Emily Hall 19:49
Yeah, so from a development perspective, it's interesting people seem to give a little bit less weight to the virtual because it seems more casual. There's less of an investment for you as a speaker. You don't have to travel somewhere, you don't have to bring your computer, you don't have to think about all the tech things, you just, you know, log into the Zoom call, say your thing and then get back to, you know, being in Facebook groups or responding to emails or whatever you're doing. You just go back to your life. And that's been really interesting to see how that has shifted. And so, you know, because I've worked with so many speakers before, there's such intentionality given to the opportunity to have a stage and in the virtual space, we want to give it that same intentionality. It's still a very big honor to have space on someone's stage and to be able to connect with an audience that we haven't connected before, or reconnect with an audience that, you know, continue to engage with but we want to make sure that we're still giving it that intentionality. From a design perspective, we actually need different things from it and we'll probably get into this a little bit but on a big stage, when you've got 5000 people in front of you, you don't want like a bright, colorful white background slide, because that's actually too much for the eye to process. So your audience's eyes are going to be overwhelmed with the amount of visual information, the amount of light coming in where we can use that we can create energy in a virtual setting because our audience is probably also, you know, at their desk, they've got their phone, they've got their dog, they've got their kid, they've got their, you know, the mailman at the front door, and so you actually design a little bit differently. You designed for re engagement, so you use color as a tool, you can use layouts as a tool to trigger the eye through your audience to re engage with your content at certain cadences. So that's a big shift that people have not 100% embraced, but that's something that people are seeing is it's helpful. And then on the delivery side, it's really, and I'm sure that you know all about this, but it's really hard to mimic the energy of a live room. And so that's been a hard thing I think for people to translate from in person to live. When you don't have that life feedback, when you don't have cameras on, when you don't have, you know, you can't really read people's facial expressions because they're just tiny little boxes that you have to scroll through. It's hard to really pull your energy or be able to modify on the fly. So a lot of people in person, you know, okay, if I'm going to ask this question and if they answer it this way and then I'll kind of take this spin on things, I'm gonna modify it this way. You know, people have strategies when they're kind of winging certain parts of their content, which can be really great when you know your audience really well, you know your content really well and you've got kind of that customization plan in your head to be able to personalize it. But virtually, if you're not getting that feedback, it can throw us off as presenters and it can kind of ding our confidence a little bit and you're like, okay, well, now I don't know which direction I should go. Do I go left? Do I go right? Do I highlight this? Do I downplay that? Then you kind of get into that overthinking cycle and it gets a lot trickier. So moving from that virtual to or from that in person to the virtual, you know, you have to really consider things, all stages and it really comes down to preparation and intentionality, making sure that you're giving it the appropriate amount of time and that you're coming in knowing that you're going to have certain barriers, you're going to have certain things to overcome. And that's okay, it's totally doable. You just approach it a little bit differently.
So let's talk about slide design since that is a huge area of expertise. You and I joked before, I don't really use slides very often. When I'm speaking physically in a room, I most likely am using a whiteboard or flipchart. But when virtually though, I've noticed there is a difference. There is definitely a time and place for slides, so this is where I'm curious. Let's just answer the question, because I get this all the time so I'm hearing your take. Does a presenter in today's environment need slides?
It depends. So yes, and no. There are certain, the more complex the topics, the more new an audience is to an idea, the more helpful visuals are. 65% of people are visual learners. So you can talk to them all day long, but it's not going to fully land unless they can see the relationships, they can see what you're talking about. So having slides that way is very helpful to be able to connect with people that need different types of input to learn. The way that it can go a little bit sideways is if you have really, I'm going to say bad slides. If they're distracting, if they don't match what you're saying, if they're really boring virtually, if you have, you know, a whole bunch of bullets on your presentation. I mean, spoiler, like your audience is going to read them and then move on to whatever they're doing. They're not going to listen.
Heather Sager 23:37
And they're going to reread it faster than you say them.
Emily Hall 24:49
It actually about twice as fast. So you're going to be halfway through your field and your audience's done and they're disengaged. So the more you have on that slide, the more time they're going to be like checking their email and the harder you have to work to reengage them. And when you're in a live setting, you've got a whole bunch of like social norms that are keeping people in their seat. They're keeping them facing you. You know, they're going to try and be sneaky about checking their phone, they probably won't like absolutely upright and leave. They're probably, they might be on their laptop, but you know, there are social expectations in a room that you can use to your advantage. In a virtual setting, you don't have that. People are going to do whatever they want so you have to work a little bit harder to be engaging. And so when your slides are not working for you in a virtual setting, they're actually going to be working against you because they're going to increase that likelihood of disengagement. Does that mean that you just shouldn't do slides? No, because again, it helps for those two thirds of people that are visual learners. It's really, really helpful. Like I said, when I was talking about the shifts in that visual re engagement and using design as a tool to re engage people, it's a really powerful way to keep people engaged. So when we're looking at a project, we say, okay, this person has five brand colors, we're going to use kind of these couple of neutrals as our faces, and we're going to, you know, do things a different way. We'll actually use some of their bold accent colors very strategically, around you know, bold statement slides, or transitions or, you know, moments were really want the audience to like, hone in and pay attention. This is a big thing to listen to. We'll use color, and we'll use layout, and we'll use that change so that, you know, if the presentation is running over here in on, you know, screen A and they're working on screen B, when that changes, their audience is pulled back to screen A, and you can re-engage them that way. So it's a really powerful tool to be able to stay with your audience, but using it the right way is a very important thing.
Heather Sager 26:28
Yeah, so thinking about that. I know, I hear from a lot of entrepreneurs, that they struggle with design, and just making things pretty, right. That's for a lot of people, the first thing they do is they hire a designer to create their logo or whatever, right? So that's one of the things I hear from people are like, what if I'm terrible at design? Like what do I do? Do I go to Canva and get it like a template? What do you typically address? I know, you build it for people, but for people who aren't building on their own. What do you recommend for people in terms of the artists challenged entrepreneur?
Emily Hall 27:00
Yes, the what to do instead. You're telling me I shouldn't make bad slides but what's my alternative?
Heather Sager 27:05
But I make bad, I don't. I make beautiful slides, by the way. Let's just all make sure we're all clear. And my slides are beautiful and I do use them, so let's just clarify. But for,
Emily Hall 27:15
Yeah, I have seen your slides. I did see them in person a few months ago. Yeah. I think I can confirm it.
Heather Sager 27:21
And they're all branded and beautiful and wonderful. But for the maybe the person who does not consider themselves to have a great brand eye. What do they do if they're just like totally struggling with this idea around, okay, I hear you. I need slides but my slides are not pretty. What do I do?
Emily Hall 27:42
Yeah, yeah. So starting with a template is a really great place to start. It gives you a head start. What you want to make sure is that you don't take that template as word of law, and only do things that are on that template because we really want our content to drive what is on the slides. So we want to look at using your slides, not necessarily as like a unit of time. So a lot of people when they say, okay, you know how long your presentation is. You'll respond with, oh, it's 10 slides, as if someone knows what that means.
Heather Sager 28:14
I can make 10 slides last, like a three day conference.
Emily Hall 28:20
That hurts me. It's very, very common, because that's how we've been conditioned to do it. You know, we've been conditioned to use a title and a whole bunch of bullet points, maybe an image, maybe not, some footers at the bottom so that people remember who we are and move on. That's it. But we want to look at our slides as not necessarily, since you've got your template in front of you. Look at the content that you've got, what are the ideas that you want to convey and break those out into essentially one at a time. And so you want each of your slides or each of your moments and you can use this if you're Canva has a little bit of a tricky time with like, animation builds so you know, when you see like up, one bullet point come up, and another, and another. Canva struggles with that a little bit. But like PowerPoint and Keynote, those are really great with it. Google Slides, they've got great functionality for it. But you want your content to come up one at a time. And so that we want to use that as a way to keep our audience from reading ahead so that they're not disengaging so that's kind of the first thinh.
Heather Sager 29:19
That piece right there, that's something that I see a lot of entrepreneurs really screw up because of the lack of functionality in Canva. So let's just be clear, just because Canva does not have that functionality does not mean you get to work around that rule. You copy that slide three times and eliminate the bullet audit so you're only bring it up one at a time because what you just said like, when you articulated so clearly, that when somebody reads through the slide faster than you speak which is all the time people read faster. You've lost them because they've like checked the box. They've heard you and now they're doing something different so like just that point. So so important on bullet points, like most entrepreneurs I know right now are building their slides in Canva but they are breaking this rule, so I love that you call that out.
Emily Hall 30:04
Which is I mean, when the tool doesn't have that functionality, it's hard to know that you need it. And that's, each of these software's really drives us to do what they do best. So PowerPoint, it's been around for 30 years. PowerPoints whole thing, Microsoft's whole thing is that they're backwards compatible, so they don't actually take features away. So everything that was still problematic about slides in the early 90s is still there. It's still a button that you can push. Should you push it? No, but it's still there. Keynote is really compatible with Apple products so they really push that functionality. Canva has all these searchable graphics, these frames, they do all sorts. They aren't really geared towards the functional presentation format. They're geared towards, we're gonna make it pretty which is great. You want it to look nice, but you have to figure out workarounds for those functionalities. And so knowing that that's something that you could do and actually what you said, Heather, is exactly what we do on Canva projects that we do for clients. On the design side is we shorthand, we say dupe and delete, so duplicate and delete the last thing and so you end up with a manual build. You end up with approximately a gazillion slides sometimes. But it's a really, really helpful way to break that content out. So it's helping you guide you as a speaker and guide the audience with the information that they're absorbing.
Heather Sager 31:13
Yeah, I think that's just like such a good point is even though the functionality might not exist, it does not mean that you get to break that rule. Because here's what's gonna happen, especially for those who do webinars, right, and maybe they have a site with a little bit more stuff on it, or there's two parts that they want to bring in. Most people are like, oh, it's fine, I'll just put it on there because they heard somebody say, like, the visual is going to reinforce what you're saying, and they have this really important, we'll call it, the promise slide.
Emily Hall 31:41
Heather Sager 31:42
Well, that promise slide is going to screw you because they're no longer listening to you make your promise because they're already done. So like, we really have to be careful around that volume of text on slides.
Emily Hall 31:51
Mm hmm. Absolutely. Absolutely. And what happens with a lot of people, you know, in the corporate space, is that they're told or even in conferences, you're told, you have to provide your slides. If you're doing a guest training and like, oh, we want to be able to send something out and so people assume that that has to be your slides and they're like that. That's the excuse. That's the reason why they're making them like that. They're like, well, you know, it has to be distributed and they have to be able to get all my concepts, and you know, know all the things. Well, the answer to that is just have two documents, or have two versions of it, have, you know, a handout version that has all those four takeaways, that has all the things that you're saying but keep your slides really, really clean. If someone could follow your slides without you as a speaker, you've done something very wrong because it's about you. It's about the expertise that you're sharing, it's about your connection with the audience, it's not about what's on the slides. Those slides are there to reinforce what you're saying. They're there to help with comprehension, to help with understanding, but it's really there to shine a spotlight on you and what you know. And so being able to keep the attention there, keep their focus on you, your slide should essentially be like a billboard, they should be able to see it really fast, know what you're looking at, know what you're saying, know what they're looking at, be able to understand what that core idea is, if they have to think about it for more than a couple of seconds. They're gonna stop paying attention or they're going to be trying to figure it out and not listening to you.
Heather Sager 33:09
Yeah. Oh, my gosh, that handout piece, it gets me thinking so many things, like so, let's say somebody has been accepted to speak at a conference, right, and this actually happened with multiple clients that I've had, and that people want their slide deck in advance. And let's say that the speaker, one, doesn't have their slide deck done, or two, that like their slides are pretty minimal. Do you have any recommendations for how they handle like, I don't even know, like, I'm going off on a tangent here. But like, I think sometimes conference attendee or conference planners just want the slide deck to know that their person actually knows what they're talking about?
Emily Hall 33:48
Heather Sager 33:49
So like, how do you recommend that somebody navigate that without giving away all of their content? I don't know. I'm just curious if like, how do you typically approach that?
Emily Hall 33:59
Yeah. How do you have that conversation? So I actually still have this conversation a lot. When I worked in corporate, I did a lot with conference organizers. I did a lot of this because we'd have to send slide decks in advance. It's a very common thing. And it's, you know, it's important. They're trying to check the boxes, they're trying to make sure that they're not getting weird garbage content at the last minute, that's going to totally derail the conference experience. I totally get it. But conference organizers have also been trained in presentations the same way that all of us have. They're coming in with the same limitations, the same perceptions of what slides can and cannot be that we all were trained with. It's not anything that we're teaching people at a young age, you know, people are coming in, you're learning to build presentations on the job, usually. And so you learn what the people, what your managers, what your leaders, you're giving them what they're asking for, and they only know what to ask for based on their experience. We're stuck in this cycle of, you know, not knowing what the other way is. And so offering conference speakers or conference organizers an alternative usually gets the job done. So usually, it's okay, I'm gonna have two versions. Can I either give you two versions of the slide deck, this will be for display, this will be for distribution. Because usually that distribution deck, like it's going to get pre loaded somewhere. They're going to take your slide deck, and they know that you're going to present it or they're going to present it for you depending on, conferences will do things differently, but they just want it so they could drop it in the platform, and they can check the box and know that it's gonna be accessible to attendees. So, you know, do you want this in a slide format? Do you want me to have the notes there? Do you want to read that piece of it? Do you want a whole separate document that has all the detail but is in a digestible handout, workbook format? There are different ways to structure that content depending on what the organizer is looking for, but 9.5 times out of 10, that's all they want. They just want something that they can send out to attendees that usually has to do with accessibility and download ability and being able to reach attendees that have, you know, different levels of ways to engage. And if they can't join, they won't be able to see the notes and different things like that. There's a lot of factors that come into that, but typically offering an alternative and just say, that's great, here's what I'm gonna present, but I keep it pretty minimal. Here's a takeaway that has all the core information, everything that I talked about and that's gonna make them happy, so that's a really great way to navigate that conversation.
Heather Sager 36:21
Yeah, I think that's great and I think the powerful part with this is, just because somebody asked for your slides does not mean that you have to share that. So I think that is one thing, like this, the power of being confident and having good conversations and good relationships, but you don't have to, like if you don't want someone to have your slides and distribute them, you don't have to give it to them but you do have to have an alternative or a conversation around it. So just something to think about, like I know, when I've talked to clients before, and they're like, they're asking for my slides. And I, did you ask why? What's the purpose? A lot of situations it actually is somebody who's running a conference that doesn't have a lot of experience running conferences, and they just want to make sure it's exactly as you said. They just want to make sure their speakers actually have a talk and they're not going to bring down the conference. And as terrible as that sounds, like, they're just trying to make sure that you're not showing up and just coming up with some stuff out of your butt, right. So you don't always have to turn over your slides, you have a conversation and come up with an alternative that works. But I see actually, a lot of times the handout thing that you talked about, around having an alternative, I think that's a super smart solution and anyone who's listening who is an entrepreneur, I highly recommend you think about this as how do you have some kind of complimentary handout, or even if it's the slides but more developed, that have like, additional things on them, so i.e., you can have people download your slides by doing an opt in if that's pre approved that you're allowed to do that at the conference, or if you're not allowed to do that, but you want to give out the handout, you could easily have your website or an opt in or some kind of promotional thing on the material. So think about those an extension that you can leverage in your marketing of your business.
Emily Hall 38:05
Heather Sager 38:07
Okay, lovely that you have that. Let's see here. There was another thing that you and I were chatting in advance, and we were talking about a couple of the mistakes that people make. There's another thing that you're talking about around not adapting for different environments. We talked about that a little bit in the virtual. And is there anything else that you wanted to add on that around things that people need to take in mind when it comes to slide design for how they need to, you mentioned before, right, what they shouldn't do is update the same version eighty-three times, like over and over again? Can you talk a little bit about that because I do believe that people should have like their master slide deck, right, with a good presentation. But how do you recommend that they adapt based around who they're talking to?
Emily Hall 38:48
Yeah, so there are a couple of different ways to do it. So when we look at the you know, how they adapt the content itself. So what I always recommend that people do is have, essentially, these core it's almost like modules, these kind of core modules that you can piece into a talk and you can customize that for your audience. So you might be speaking to one group that has a certain set of problems and you can solve those problems with, you know, pieces of content, A, B, and E. And then you're speaking to a different group and you know, they need a C and D and so it's a little bit different, but you can essentially build a master set of content and this typically happens over time. But you focus on making sure that everything is cohesive design wise so you're using things the same way. You're using accents the same way, you're using fonts the same way, you're using colors the same way, you're using, you know, a little extra things the same way, you're using transitions similarly, so it doesn't feel like it's part of a different presentation. But you essentially end up building a content bank that allows you to customize very, very simply and very easily so you're not reinventing the wheel the whole time but you're also not just like changing the title and calling it a day. You're able to customize the content for the audience that you're speaking to to really make the most of that opportunity. From the design perspective, the environment is a really big thing so what space will you be in? Are you going to be in a small conference room with four people giving a sales pitch? Are you going to be on a big stage with 5000 people and you've got this massive 60 foot screen behind you? Consider what the audience experience is going to be because your slides have, there's two interaction points. There's how you interact with them as a speaker, and there's how your audience is going to interact with them so they have to function for both of you. So you want to make sure that it's giving you everything that you need in terms of prompting and cueing, but you want to make sure that it's also giving your audience everything that they need in terms of how their brains are going to take in the visuals. So if you're in a small conference room, and or you know, whatever size conference room or a small space, and you've got a screen that has you know, it's not going to be a you know, an LCD screen, that's going to be a projector, you know that your contrast is going to be a little bit lower. So you really want to double check your colors and make sure that they are, you don't have any like neutrals that are too close, the contrast that you see in like Instagram and online, you don't have that in person necessarily. So you have to make sure that you're kind of checking for those pieces. But you also want to make sure that you know if all of your content is left justified because you have this certain style that you create visuals in, if your only space to stand is on the left, you're going to be standing in front of your visuals. And so considering, okay, where might you be spatially? How can you make sure that it's flexible if you don't know which side you're going to be standing on? If you know you'd like to stand on the left and kind of indicate to the right, you can actually align your content over to the far right so that you have a little bit more space to move around without feeling like you're standing in front of it or blocking anyone's view. If you're on a big stage, like I mentioned, you want to make sure that you've got a dark background so that their eye is drawn to just the things that are there, the most important things and that way, you're not fighting with this massive visual that's holding all their attention. If you've got a 60 foot PowerPoint behind you, and it's like white with flowers and banners and all these things and all these transitions, they're not looking at you at all. You are this little person over in the corner, maybe you're in the front. It's very, very hard to see you. So you want to make sure that again, your visuals are highlighting you as a speaker. When you're delivering virtually like I said you want to use your design as an engagement tool much more so than you necessarily need to in person, you want to still use it in person, but in person you can create that connection with with your your presence and be able to engage in different ways that you are limited in virtual settings. So those are some of the ways that being able to adapt both how you develop your content and then how that content is designed to make sure that it's a really seamless experience for your audience and make sure that you don't end up kind of stuck with something that's fighting you.
Heather Sager 42:55
Yeah. Okay. I love that you brought up the keynote onstage piece, just thinking reminded back when we learned this very early on in our event planning that most people build their slides right on a white background, as you said. I just imagine this, like imagine you're in a conference, the lights are dark, like they have like the spotlights on stage and they bring on the speaker and then giant white slides come up. It's aggressive. It's very, very aggressive. I think a lot of people listening are probably like, oh, man, maybe I'm not doing a keynote right now, like maybe those are not happening very often. But do yourself a big fat favor and burn this into your brain. Remember that if you ever have a keynote on a conference stage, do not bring bright white slides like the dark background slides, which feels counterintuitive, because we're like, ooh, massive dark with light text like that feels weird. But oh my gosh, like that is just huge. I wish everybody knew that lesson because it is so like, it's just really aggressive when you're at a conference with the big white slides. And it's like what you said the point around all this where they focus. The other thing, since you brought it up around standing, one of the biggest differences that I see happen a lot, especially with online entrepreneurs, when they're delivering their webinars, is they haven't tested their platform so therefore their little video bubble goes right over their text. Oh, my gosh, I know.
Emily Hall 44:25
That is one of my personal favorites. And my favorites. I mean, least favorites. That's where templates can be a trap. That's when you download something from Canva, you find something on Creative Market, you find something on Etsy, you pull down the templates. It's branded and it's pretty, but if they've got a bunch of very important information in the upper right hand corner, and that's where your face is going to be. It's going to be a problem. You don't want to be cutting off your information. So we'll actually design very specifically for that, to make sure that it's not an issue and we'll sometimes take it one step further and make it a feature. So we have actually worked on projects where, you know, like with Loom. Have you ever done like Loom recordings?
Heather Sager 44:28
It's one of the platforms you can get a circle. We actually tested out the size of that and designed an entire template with a frame. So that when she went to record her course, she could put herself right there and then everything on the other side was almost kind of like whiteboard style so it felt very classroomy. That became a feature and not something that she had to fight against. And so being able to know, okay, I'm going to probably be over here, I generally want to most people, if you think about Zoom and Teams and things like that. You're over on the right. That's kind of a good way to think about it. And our eyes tend to take things left to right. That's just how we tend to process things. You can left align things, you can center things, we want to make sure that your text isn't going, you know, all the way over where things are going to be fighting with it. You really just want to be able to test that because of that. It's, one, off putting. Two, little unprofessional because it's like, come on, like I can't read your stuff. It's like if you were to give a presentation and stand in the middle. You know, not a great experience. You know, it shows thoughtfulness and intentionality when you take that into consideration. It shows that you're prioritizing audience understanding and then being able to actually see the things that you've put time and energy into creating for them.
Yeah, it feels like when you show up to some of these webinars specifically, and then they go into that mode, where it's the slides of their face and their faces covering text, it feels unprofessional and messy. And I know that's kind of like a bit like, oh, man, but it's true, like the fact that you're showing up there and then people come in for free, but you're going to be charging for something in the end and if we can't pay it into those details, it sends an underlying message that we don't pay attention to the details. So I think an easy thing for I think every single person needs to do if they haven't done it already, is like, I think most people wait to test their tech platform until right before they present and that is a big freakin mistake. Like, if you use Demio or use Zoom, or you use StreamYard, whatever it is that you use, you should go on like this week and test out and say what's the layout? And then go fix your slides and like what you said, make it a feature. What I'll do because I forget all just put a gray box where that will be, and I'll keep that on slide while I'm building and I delete it before I actually go present because I want to be able to have options on how I show the slides. But I'll force myself into that because I'm like, damn it, that part right there, like that's my face is gonna go.
Emily Hall 47:33
You have a really good way to do it because that's like no man's land. You can put anything there. They're not going to see it.
Heather Sager 47:38
Yeah, yes, yes. I think like, no touchy. No touchy. That's no touchstone. Okay, I love this conversation so much. It is very highly technical so I don't want to totally overwhelm people with everything we're talking about today. But if you were to step out for a moment and say, okay, I'm kind of like top takeaways as a business owner who does do presentations most likely virtually right now, do you have any just like your main, Emily's rules of thumb, like your best practice tips for them that they really need to keep in mind as they move forward with their with their slides?
Emily Hall 48:14
Yes, yes, absolutely. So one of the biggest ones is one idea at a time, less is more. We all think that and we know that we should do that, but it's hard to do. So a really good way to do that is through something that I call the three C's. So I teach this to all of my designers. We all use it, we teach it, I teach it in all my workshops. They are clarity, composition, and consistency. And so clarity is making sure that there's clarity between what you were showing and what you were saying so it's making sure that everything matches. If you were talking about, you know, you want to make sure that the images that you have actually enhance what you're saying. If they're not, you don't need an image. You don't want anything to be confusing or distracting. You want it to be very clear for your audience to know what they're looking at. Composition, that's where we get into all of our design rules. And we don't need to get too technical with that, what we really want to look at is that it's you know, we've got things that are highlighting things in a certain way. We don't necessarily need to use bullet points. We can use shapes to highlight things. We can use change in color. We can use these different things. We can use alignment, make sure there's plenty of whitespace. We want to look at the composition of a slide and make sure that it's balanced. Make sure that you know the eye is tracking to where you want to go. A good way to test this is have you ever been in a formal event when you have to like take formal pictures and you're in the sun and they have you looked down for a few seconds and then look up really fast and so you're not like squinting. It's kind of like that, like if you look down at your slides, if you look down at your, your keyboard or whatever when you're creating things and then you close your eyes for a few seconds and you look up really fast. Notice where your eyes are going and make sure that that's where you want your audience's eyes to go to because when they look at it for the first time their eyes attract the same way. The third thing is consistency. So you want to make sure that you're being really consistent with the fonts that you use, with the colors that you choose, with the accents that you use. If you're using things with sharp corners as your design feature, and then all of a sudden you switch to circles, it's going to be a little off putting. You want to make sure that things are on brand, that it's consistent with how your brand is represented in other mediums. Is this what your website looks like? Is this what your social channels look like? Is this what your other presentations look like? Make sure that it's consistent so that you also have that opportunity for brand recognition and authority building through the visual experience that you're creating. So those are the three things: clarity, composition and consistency.
Heather Sager 50:30
I love that. And I love that you connect the dots on the consistency around how the brand visuals I mean, they're part of a bigger overarching, like brand. Does it go with your social? Does it go with your website? I think, I don't know, I work with a lot of and I think you do too, people who hire in your agency for this, people who sell more higher end programs. And I know there's a lot of people that I talked to that have this aspiration to be perceived as a higher end brand, the Nordstroms, if you will, of their category. And then we see people who use inconsistent slides or clip art, or really poor stock photography. Do you have any tips for someone who is that design eye challenged as we mentioned before? That they know they want to look, I don't want to say look expensive, but look high end. I mean, there is a look to it. Do you have any hacks for how someone who is design challenged could make for their aesthetically pleasing?
Emily Hall 51:30
Mm hmm. So I like to say, definitely, less is more. But the way that you figure out what that less is, is you look at your title slide. So typically, your title slide is going to have the most things going on. It's going to have a couple of fonts, it's going to have your logo, it's going to have some shapes and have some accent, it might have a little you know graphic up in the corner that is a branded something. If you've got you know, branded patterns or textures or anything, you know, it's going to be probably incorporated there to, you know, create this vibe. And you want to make sure that you are not adding anything else design wise through the rest of your presentation. So you want to essentially set your core thing. So we always like to say at least two neutrals, at least one to two accent colors, at least two fonts, preferably not more than three, and then choose an accent treatment. So whether you want to change the font color, whether you want to underline, you want to essentially look at how you want to deliver base information and then how you want to highlight specific information, and you want to pick a thing and then assign it a job. So we are going to use hexagons to be the shape that we're going to put our text in instead of using bullet points. And we're gonna use hexagons for the whole thing, and that is the job of hexagons. They are going to do this thing, that's all it needs to do. They don't need to be up in the corner, they don't need to be anywhere else. They don't need to be underlined somewhere, they don't need to, like have some weird shadow thing. That's just doing their job. You want to look at, alright, how are you going to treat your titles and making sure that those are consistent, so you want to have the same font. If you have a really scripty font, which is really common in the online space, you have, you know, a scripty accent font, be very careful with how you use that. We often want to use that as a kind of a secondary accent. So we want to use that as a way to include like, very non-essential information because it's very optional because what that creates is an accessibility issue. So there are a lot of people that are if they're hearing impaired or if they're visually impaired, there are systems that will essentially read those to them or transcribe it for them. And if system, those systems a hard time reading scripty fonts, or if somebody can't automatically see how the H connects to the E, you know, it's gonna be hard for them to understand and want to remove all those barriers. So we want to use those very, very sparingly. So choosing how you want to treat your accent, how you want to use your accent font, if you do have a script you want because that does, it creates that branded experience. And so if you use it in other places, you want to still be able to incorporate it. So what we'll do a lot of times is will, you know, write out a number and then put another font over it or use it as a shadow or do some different things that still gives it that elevated vibe, but isn't necessarily creating confusion or adding a new information where that's the only place they're going to see it.
Heather Sager 54:16
I love that you brought that up because you are so right, the scripty font in the online space. It's like the rite of passage for everyone, like everybody has their version of it, but it is harder for the brain to like, you have to think, right? You know those ads like Facebook, they share those things all the time where it's like, can you read this and it's like text, but it's a bunch of letters missing and your brain instantly knows exactly what the paragraph says and you're like, oh my gosh, how cool is that? The script does not work that way. Your brain actually really has to put an effort and what I always try to remind people is the if you're making your audience work to understand your information, you've lost them already. People are lazy, both of us included. When we're receiving content, we are, like laziest form, like make it easy for me to engage and scripting is not. That does not honor that. It's pretty, but it doesn't honor that. So I love that you brought that up. And now I'm thinking, oh man, I do use scripting, where am I using it? Okay, I need to gut check it because that is something that is so so important. Like, is it so funny like the the stupid of simplest things sometimes could be the most important takeaway that somebody has, from a presentation, right?
Emily Hall 55:33
Yeah, well, we generally, I mean, you know this. We only take away like one or two, three things tops from presentations. We want to make sure that we're focusing on that when we're creating it, but also know that like, you never know what's gonna resonate, you never know what that one little sentence is going to be that's going to really just click something into place for someone.
Heather Sager 55:50
Yeah, it's like using that as a parallel, I'm gonna get messages from people like, oh, my gosh, the scripty thing. Yes like, that was the one takeaway I took from the interview, and we're gonna be like, that was the thing. But that happens to all of our presentations, something so simple. Oh, my gosh, okay, Emily, I could chat with you about this stuff all day long but I know you have an actual presentation you're going to give here in a moment so we're gonna wrap this up. I want to make sure I know one of the things that you do really, really well among other things. You help people organize their thoughts into a really effective presentation. So if somebody is listening to this, they're like, man, I want to learn how to do it but I really would love to hire it out. How do they work with your agency and then also, where can people connect with you?
Emily Hall 56:31
Yeah, so the best place to find this is either through Instagram or website, so Instagram, at E and M Creative, E, A, N, D, M as in Mary, Creative. And then our website is www.eandmcreative.co.That's important one.
Heather Sager 56:46
We have all those links in the show notes so you all can get there directly so you don't have to remember how to spell that out.
Emily Hall 56:51
Fabulous. So those are the best places to get in touch with us. So we absolutely love doing content. We do run things through essentially content development sessions. So we'll dive in and look at what your business needs are, what your audience needs, dive into some psychology to really figure out what that outcome is and what that goal is. And then depending on how big the presentation is, so if it's a staged presentation, we can knock that out, give you like a very detailed outline in like, less than a couple of hours, and you have pretty much everything you need ready to go, if it's something like a course or something bigger than will you know, stack those and have two or three to really make sure that you have time to dive into the nuances of it. But that's a really, really great way to be able to get access to that help. So you know, some people come to us with they've got an idea. And they have something that they need to present that they were booked for a stage and they're like, how do I need to figure this out between now and then. Other people are like, I've got a draft and I'm stuck and it's terrible and I don't know what to do to fix it. So at any stage of content development, wherever you're at, we will pick it up from there and make sure that it's polished, and it works and that it converts the way that you need it to so that it's doing its job. And then we also do done for you design. So we do templates and we do take slide design off of people's plates. So we run all of our design in day rates, which is fabulous. One, it's more efficient for us. And two, nobody does slides in advance, myself included. Slides early last minute situations usually and so this really helps us to be able to meet our clients where they're at with, you know, okay, we've got a presentation in two weeks. That's great, we'll work on content, we'll get that finalized, and we are the equivalent of your, like 11th hour, we will create it for you. So you don't have to worry about it. You don't have to spend, you know, 20 hours building it. We'll create it faster, better in eight hours. And it's easy and it's done and you have it. So those are the ways that we like to work with people for stages and courses and all sorts of things. But it's very, very custom. There are a lot of ways that we present information. So we work with people on sales trainings, and like I said courses memberships, things like that, anytime where you're trying to present your knowledge, but it's helpful to make sure that you've got a strategy in place that you know, it's going to convert just having that safety net of knowing that it's what you get is gonna is going to be good is really helpful for a lot of our clients.
Heather Sager 59:00
Okay, I love it. I love that we have that shared passion around aligning everything back to purpose, right, for business owners like of making sure the presentation does that. There's a lot of speaking coaches in this space. There's a lot of people that do webinar coaching and all these other things. There's a reason why I don't have my show and there's a reason why I'm not talking about them. But you're here because I definitely love the way that you do slide design and we have and just presentation design in general. I highly, highly recommend it. If you have something coming up and you want some support on that specifically with slide decks, please, please give Emily and her team, I want to say a call like that sounds natural, but nobody calls anyone but you know what I mean? I appreciate you so so much. I can't wait to actually work with you later this year. You and I talked about having some work that I would like to bring in some external support to help me get some of my stuff done. So I'm excited about that. But for now, we're gonna cut things off today. Thank you so much for being here, Emily. I appreciate you so so much. Yeah, and make sure y'all give Emily's some love, be sure to tag E and M Creative on Instagram when you share this episode and send her a little DM and let her know. I'm curious. Was it the font thing. Was it the dark slides thing? Like what was the thing that is this seemingly simple yet it's going to stick in your mind what was the thing that stood out today? So be sure to send her a message on Instagram and my thanks so much.
Emily Hall 1:00:21
Thank you so much for having me.
Heather Sager 1:00:22