20+ Presentation Templates and Design Best Practices to Keep Your Audience Focused

By Sara McGuire, May 17, 2018

presentation templates

What’s worse than sitting through a boring presentation?

Being the one to deliver a boring presentation.

Have you ever looked at the spaced out faces of your audience while you delivered a presentation and thought to yourself, uh-oh, I’m losing them?

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It’s not a good feeling.

How can you create a presentation that will not only grab the attention of your audience but hold onto it as well?

Saying goodbye to typical, boring PowerPoint slides is a good place to start.


Design a presentation that engages your audience

Think about the last boring presentation you sat through. What did the slides look like? Did they have a bland color scheme? Were there too many points (or worse, paragraphs) crammed onto one slide? Were the charts and diagrams clunky and hard to understand?

When people see the same old boring PowerPoint themes, there’s a good chance they’re going to lose focus.

The demand for creative, engaging visual content is higher than ever. If you want to really capture your audience’s attention, you need to use creative presentation designs.

That means incorporating eye-catching images, effective data visualizations, and bold typography into your slide decks.

Many Venngage users have told us that they’re always looking for ways to make presentations more engaging. But most of them don’t have any formal design experience.

If you’re in the same boat, don’t worry–this guide is for you.

I’m going to share some fundamental tips for designing a presentation with impact. I’ll also be sharing some customizable presentation templates that you can use in PowerPoint, Google Slides, or directly in Venngage’s presentation tool.

1. Dedicate each slide to only one topic

Just as it’s important for your slides to not be cluttered, it’s also important for your slides to be cohesive.

Keep each slide focused on just one topic. The topic of each slide should be clearly stated in the slide title.

For example, this presentation template covers different ways to be creative. Each individual slide covers one approach:

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This simple, straightforward slide pattern will help the audience follow along without any confusion.

Or take this presentation template that introduces some of this year’s biggest business trends. Rather than listing multiple trends on one slide, each trend is fleshed out in its own slide:

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As a presenter, keeping your slide topics organized will help you organize your thoughts as well. Each new slide will signal a new topic.


2. Start with a presentation template

Before jumping into the other tips, let’s set the foundation.

You’ve decided to create something a more interesting than a standard PowerPoint theme–good on you! But that doesn’t mean you have to start completely from scratch.

Instead, you can give yourself a head start by using a creative presentation template. While most PowerPoint themes are fairly limited in how much you can customize them, a freeform presentation template will give you the freedom to alter the design as much as you want.

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We’ve got a ton of creative presentation templates. You can take a look at them in our templates library.

Cool? Now let’s talk presentation design.

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3. Don’t overburden your slides with text

Even if you decide to ignore most of the other tips in this guide, don’t skip over this one. This is presentation design 101.

When you flip to a slide covered wall-to-wall with text, there’s a good chance your audience is going to think:

  1. I don’t want to read all of that.
  2. This presenter isn’t well-prepared.

In fact, a study published in Business and Professional Communication Quarterly found that anxious presenters tended to use more text on their slides, usually because they used their slides as speaking notes.

Instead of using a bunch of took, look ways to present information visually using images, charts and infographics.

For example, this presentation slide template uses brief text and some simple icons to summarize the information:

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4. Establish a visual hierarchy on your slides

When you flip to a new slide, your audience will be seeing it for the first time. Their eyes are going to naturally be drawn whatever the focal point on the page is.

The focal point is the most dominant area on your slide–the point that draws the most attention.

You can create a hierarchy of information on your slide by making the most important information the focal point of your slide. In most cases, the focal point will be the slide title, or a particular visual, or an important phrase or number.

There are a few ways you can create a visual hierarchy on your slides.

You can bold important phrases, like the word “Facebook” in this slide:

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Icons also help to establish a reading order. They draw your eye from point to point. Placing icons beside headers and important points will make them stand out from the other information on the slide.

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Icons can also be used to indicate where a new point begins:

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Color selection can also be used to establish a visual hierarchy. Take a look at how the colorful blocks in this slide help to make the slide titles pop:

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Your eyes are drawn first to the title text, then to the supporting information beside it.


5. Pick a visual motif that runs throughout your presentation template

You can use visuals to pull your presentation design together and make it cohesive. Picking a visual motif will allow you to use consistent visuals throughout your presentation.

A visual motif is a repeated pattern, design, or image. In your presentation design, a motif can take many forms.

One of the simplest approaches is to use a consistent color motif (or color scheme). That could mean using one or two colors for all of your headers, background and borders.

For example, this presentation template uses to shades of purple for a modern design:

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But combining different colors and patterns can also make for a more interesting design. For example, this presentation template uses a blue stripe motif to link the slides together visually:

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You could also use a recurring shape or image, like the the circle image frames in this presentation template:

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Or you could use a motif that reflects the theme of your presentation. For example, this pitch deck template uses a recurring cloud motif throughout the presentation to reflect the “dream” theme of the brand:

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This is a case where starting with a presentation template can really come in handy, because the template will already have a motif. Look for a presentation template with a motif that fits your topic and brand.


6. Visualize data using charts and infographics

Replacing text with visuals is one of the best ways to prevent your slide design from becoming cluttered. Charts and infographics present information in an engaging, digestible way.

I won’t go into too much detail here about what types of charts you should use for what data. We’ve got an in-depth guide to picking charts for that.

But I’ll give you a few ideas for some types of charts and infographics that work well in presentations.

If you want to visualize steps in a process, the history of something, or a roadmap, use a timeline.

This slide template uses a simple timeline with complementary icons to emphasize each date:

pitch deck templates


To compare amounts or sizes, a bubble chart can help drive the point home:

pitch deck templates


For geographic and demographic information, a map can make a big impact on your audience:

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A classic pie chart or bar graph should be easily understood by your audience, provided you’re following chart best practices.

This presentation template uses a bar graph, a pie chart and a line graph to show different metrics:

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If you can, mix up the types of data visualizations you use. This will help prevent your audience from getting bored.

Those are just a few different ways you can use charts to visualize. For more ideas, check out our guide to picking the best charts for your data.


7. Create custom illustrations using icons to help tell stories

Custom illustrations are one of this year’s biggest graphic design trends. They’re fun, quirky, and more exciting than a boring old stock photo.

Creating your own illustrations might seem like a costly and time-consuming undertaking. And it can be. But I’m going to offer you a hack:

Use icons to create illustrations.

You can arrange icons together to create a scene–like the pieces of a puzzle. (Venngage offers over 40,000 icons, so finding an image shouldn’t be too hard!) presentation template


For example, this real estate presentation template uses icons to illustrate each real estate hack:

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When picking icons for your illustrations, make sure that the icon style you use is consistent. For example, this presentation template uses line art icons for a scribbly youthful look:

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For more ideas, read our guide to creating icon illustrations.

8. Highlight important information using big, bold colorful text

Returning the the idea of focal points on your slide: emphasize a key number or phrase using big, bold text in a contrasting color.

This will communicate to your audience that if they take away one thing from your slide, it should be that piece of information.

For example, this presentation template uses brightly colored font in several sizes larger than the rest of the text to emphasize important numbers on each slide:

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But you could also pick one color to emphasize key information with. That way, your audience will catch on to the pattern and look for that color in upcoming slides.

Take a look at how this presentation uses teal to contrast with the other text and emphasize information:

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9. Alternate between different slide layouts to keep your audience engaged

You may be tempted to use the same slide layout throughout your entire presentation–either for consistency, or because you’re not sure how else to design your slide.

The problem is, using the same slide layout over and over again won’t do much to excite your audience.

There are other ways you can create consistency throughout your presentation, while also using different slide layouts–like through a visual motif.

For example, this presentation template uses five different slide layouts. The consistent color scheme, image style and font style pulls the presentation together.

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To come up with different slide layouts, try dividing your slide into columns. This can make it easier to arrange the elements in your slide.

column layout

This can make it easier to arrange the elements in your slide.

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10. Add a progress tracker to your presentation slides

Creating a sense of forward movement will help keep your audience engaged.

Similar to how you would put the chapter title at the top of the pages in a book, you can track the progress of your presentations in your slides. This will let your audience know what stage you’re at in your presentation. Your audience will also be able to refer to the sections in your presentation more easily afterwards.

A simple progress bar along the bottom of your slide shouldn’t distract too much from the rest of your information. For example, take a look at how this presentation template uses icons to represent each section:

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11. Download your presentation as a PDF to give to your audience afterwards

It’s common for audience members to request a copy of your presentation for their reference. Make sharing your presentation easy by exporting it as a PDF or zipped file.

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If you don’t want to send a PDF, you can present directly in Venngage using our presentation tool. Simply Publish  your presentation to be taken to the presentation page, or click the Preview button to view your presentation privately.

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Now that you’re equipped with some fundamentals of presentation design, the best way to learn is by doing. So get started! If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment below.

More presentation templates and design guides:

108 Best Presentation Ideas, Design Tips & Examples (+ Presentation Templates!)

12 Business Pitch Deck Templates and Design Best Practices to Impress Investors

Which Of These Expert Presentation Design Tips Should You Use? [Quiz] (+ Presentation Templates!)

5 Foolproof Presentation Layout Ideas (+ Presentation Templates!)

How to Get Featured on the Front Page of SlideShare [Infographic]

About Sara McGuire

Sara McGuire is a Content Editor at Venngage. When she isn't writing research-driven content, she enjoys reviewing music and hitting up the latest culinary hot spot in her home city of Toronto. Follow her on Twitter @sara_mcguire