What is it that makes TED speakers so damn persuasive? Perhaps it's because they follow these public speaking tips or follow and learn from these public speaking stars. One thing they have in common is, on top of a fantastic stage presence and perfectly delivered words, they're usually accompanied by a well thought out and beautifully designed presentation.

The right set of slides can turn your speech from a generic snooze-fest into an engaging and immersive experience for your audience. Plus, knowing you have a great set of complementary visuals behind you as you speak can give you the confidence you need to really nail it.

So, we've combed through the TED archives and found 10 talks that are accompanied by beautifully designed visuals. Let's have a look at what they did, how they did it, and how you can do just the same.


1. David McCandless: The beauty of data visualization

Are you presenting facts, figures, stats, or bites of information? Not too sure how best to display that data? Check out this talk by David McCandless on the beauty of data visualization. Not only does McCandless talk the talk, but he walks the walk with a stunningly designed presentation packed with beautiful data visualizations.












If you find yourself needing to crunch numbers into stunning visuals in your presentation, take a leaf from his book and keep it clean, sharp, and easy to read. Keep your fonts, colors, and designs cohesive and consistent from slide to slide and make sure each visualization is easy to digest at a glance.



Remember: Data visualization is designed to make information more easy to understand. Always make sure that your data visualizations are simplifying things for your audience, not complicating them.



2. Denis Dutton: A Darwinian theory of beauty

It seems quite fitting that a talk on beauty be accompanied by a particularly beautiful set of visuals. This talk by professor of philosophy Denis Dutton on the human experience and perception of beauty is illustrated in live drawings that follow his words.




This mesmerising technique, while very labor intensive and intricate creates one truly mesmerising TED talk. As the illustrations evolve and bloom from idea to idea while narrated by Dutton, viewers are taken on a visual journey.












While such intricate visuals may not be on the cards, the big takeaway here is to try our best to illustrate elements of our ideas visually to help the storytelling process. Find an image or illustration that captures your idea and display it to further immerse your viewers in your presentation.







Consistency is king when it comes to presentations. You want your audience to be following along with what you're saying, and one key to that is keeping your slides consistent in terms of style, layout, color palette and typography.






Check out this presentation by Paul Kemp-Robertson and how he uses a consistent design elements, color palette, typography, and visuals. This consistency helps viewers focus on the topic presentation, rather than trying to figure out how each slide relates to the next.







It's easier to create consistent slide designs when you have a template to start from. Check out Canva's wide range of presentation templates here.



This presentation by David Epstein delivers some impressive facts and numbers through striking data visualizations. By combining powerful athletic imagery, a striking use of color, and a consistent design theme, he creates a visually beautiful and captivating presentation.



By using black and white masked imagery, occasional pops of color, powerful photographs and combining them together to create data visualization, he turns simple facts into striking pieces of information.



Notice as well how Epstein uses color to draw the eye to certain elements of each slide, in this case, the neon green/yellow color is used to highlight important elements. Be intentional with your use of color and let it guide your viewers' eyes.







Are you presenting a particular set of data, evidence or information? Sometimes the visuals you need to display don't particularly fit within your presentation style, or look mismatched when presented by themselves. In this case, take a leaf out of Tom Wujec's book.




In his presentation, Wujec presents a series of drawings and diagrams from various people that don't look united or cohesive on their own. But, he bumps up the cohesion from slide to slide by using borders, frames and a consistent palette and typographical approach.






Try your best to incorporate one or two consistent elements throughout each of your slides, whether it's a color, a font, a graphic, or a particular layout. This will help tie each slide together and bring unity to your presentation.





Struggling to figure out when to use type and when to keep your slides silent? Check out this presentation by Eli Pariser, which absolutely nails it. Pariser uses type to emphasise quotes, such as this one from Zuckerberg:




And in other cases, type is used more minimally to simply explain and enhance diagrams to help people better make sense of them, as you can see in this example of a "filter bubble" diagram.




And in other cases, type is entirely absent. Look at the slide below, the diagram may not make sense without Pariser's commentary, but this is because the two are designed to be consumed simultaneously.






Be sure you are not regurgitating information you are speaking onto your slides, or vice versa. Your slides should be a complement to what you are saying, a visual representation to enhance the understanding of your content, not a mirror image of your speech.


7. John Maeda: How art, technology and design inform creative leaders






Want to create a bit more of an immersive and engaging presentation design? Have a go at creating a presentation that interacts with your speech. This presentation by John Maeda does just that by incorporating moving visuals in time with his speech, creating an immersive storytelling experience.





By combining sleek graphics, illustrations, and video footage, Maeda creates a presentation that is informative, persuasive, and feels more like a story being told than a set of ideas being explained.




Despite his range of slide types, Maeda still keeps each slide finely designed in his clean, minimal, sharp style, with cohesive elements stretching from point A to Z, making his presentation not only a functionally superior one, but an incredibly good looking one too.



This incredibly interesting presentation by Russell Foster is another example of a highly detailed illustrative approach that captures attention in the best kind of way. This presentation design scrolls from illustration to illustration as Foster talks, immersing viewers into his presentation.





Each illustration is not complements his spoken words, but also acts as a data visualization for statistics or important details to better explain the complex points of information in more understandable, accessible ways.






Throughout his talk, on top of the detailed illustrations, Foster utilises props to even further immerse viewers and explain his points. Utilize visuals in whatever way you see fit to enhance your viewers understanding of your content.


Fabian Oefner begins his talk with "An image is worth more than a thousand words, so I'm going to start my talk by stop talking and show you a few images that I recently captured." And he's quite right. Sometimes the best way to capture attention to your message is to show rather than tell.




In his speech Oefner displays a series of psychedelic images that display his work and speak volumes for themselves.





Throughout his presentation, Oefner does not use typography or type in any way to communicate on his slides, he simply speaks and lets the images speak for themselves. This is a great tactic; use powerful and fitting images to complement your ideas. Don't feel the need to add in type just for the hell of it, sometimes less truly is more.




Typography can be a make or break point for your presentation. Some people choose not to use any type, some too much, and others just the right amount. If you choose to insert type into your presentation, I recommend having a look at this talk by Kirby Ferguson.



Ferguson combines type and imagery in a natural and effective way, by keeping a consistent color and font palette in place. Furthermore, he makes sure that his type is large and in charge, making it easily readable even for the person in the very back of the room.




Ferguson also uses a clever technique of scale and masking certain elements of the slide to draw focus from one element to the next, directing the eye exactly where he wants it to be on the slide at each point in his talk.





Over to you: Create Your Own Presentation

As we've discussed, the keys to a successful presentation are as simple as cohesiveness, a consistent design from slide to slide, an understanding of when to use a little type and when to stay silent, and a set of powerful visuals that perfectly complement the idea you are discussing.

Do you have any tips for creating a memorable presentation? Have you watched any TED talks that have some spectacular visuals? Share your thoughts, ideas, and links down in the comments below!

Published on: Dec 21, 2016
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