This post is a tutorial on what not to do when preparing a visual deck for a presentation. If you jumped to that conclusion after reading the title, you've already made a mistake.

  1. Relying too heavily on the visuals.

    If you saw "presentation" and immediately thought about PowerPoint or Keynote, you've got it all wrong. Did the art of presenting cease to exist prior to the dawn of computer software? Think of the visuals as your ultimate wingman. Sure, they can build you up and make you look good, but it's still up to you to step up and close the deal.

  2. Content overload.

    Most of the time, less is more. Most people who fall for mistake number one tend to forget this. I'm sure you have a wonderful story to tell, and you're just dying to get it onto your slides. But don't make me squint to read about it. Be confident, and let me be captivated by your delivery. If you have a good story to tell, your slides don't need to be pages of a book. And if they are, I'll be too distracted to hear your good story.

  3. Data overload.

    Charts and graphs can be beautiful and effective, but let them breathe. If you have them on a slide, you shouldn't need to point out every individual aspect. As soon as I see the graphic, I should understand it. More importantly, I should understand why it's up there in the first place. No one is impressed by the simple fact that you are showing data. Pay attention to how it looks.

  4. Breaking your flow.

    So far, we've established that the deck is your companion, but you are the hero. Let the deck provide you with visual cues, but make sure it doesn't backfire. If you have too much content or too many slides, you may fall into the classic repetition trap. You know how it goes. You're on a roll, telling a great story, keeping everyone's attention. You click to the next slide, and everything you just said is sitting in plain view. Awkward.

  5. Making it ugly.

    Duh! Just because it's obvious doesn't mean it shouldn't be said. Especially in this day and age, with the wealth of available resources, there's no excuse for presenting something that looks half-assed and slapped together. It's like closing your eyes when you get dressed in the morning. Your presentation visuals are beautiful accessories, and you should be proud of them. Give them the proper time and care, and you will be.