food design

Food design tips applied to presentations

food designI was reading up on design on different blogs the other day, and came across an interesting article on food presentation: The Art of Styling a Dish. The interesting thing was that most of the concepts the author shared about food presentation, could as easily be applied to presentations.

I don’t know about you, but when I go to a restaurant that serves dishes with a nice presentation, I feel like the food tastes better for some reason. The same is true with information, it’s not the same to see information just thrown on a slide, like when I make sloppy joes at home, that when it’s carefully presented, taking care of structure, content and design; the brain feels information  presented with good design “tastes” better, and consumes it more eagerly.

The article stated that when creating nice food design we had to keep in mind:

–          The support

–          The focal point

–          Colors

–          Flavors

–          Textures

–          Decoration

–          The garnish

The support

For food it’s the type of dish you are going to use, for presentations it’s the type of visual aids. We have, for some time now, associated presentations to PowerPoint, but you can use PowerPoint, Prezi, flipcharts or even props for a presentation. Decide which support helps you communicate your message better. The support you choose should enhance your message, not be the message. So even if you choose PowerPoint, don’t use it to hold the whole of your presentation, but to expand or illustrate what you are saying.

The focal point

The main point on each dish, the most important thing on the plate, what you are there to eat; that’s the focal point. Same thing in presentations, when you say you are going to talk about the importance of renewable energies, for example, that is what people expect to hear about.

The audience should not have to dig up you main point, you have to lay it out in front of them. If you are presenting that information on your visual aids don’t clutter the slide, give main points their own slide and explain them in one word or sentence so that people can instantly understand.


Colors are a delicate matter when designing a dish, you don’t want to use too many or inappropriate colors. When deciding on what colors to choose for your presentation always keep it simple. Make sure you have good contrast between your background and font color and choose one power color to draw attention and which will always be the same throughout the presentation

Flavors and Textures

The great thing of a well-designed dish is the mix of flavors and textures; equally a great presentation will have a mix of tones and feelings. As we all know it’s bad to be monotone in a presentation, but this doesn’t only apply to boring tones, it applies to all. Try to combine energetic moments with more solemn ones. When you pump up the energy and show your passion people are impressed and will listen to you, but if you keep that up for the entire presentation they will soon bore of the tone (or believe you are on drugs); on the other hand, when you switch to a quieter, more serious tone, to tell a story for example people are drawn in to what you are saying. The trick is to combine these and other tones in your presentation so that the audience is always engaged.


I love the example of decoration in food, because people don’t decorate a dish with clipart, do they? They use parsley, cherry tomatoes, a lemon slice… What do all of these things have in common? You can eat them. The decoration in your presentation has to be the information itself, something consumable. Don’t add pictures or clipart just for the sake of decoration, but format information to be well designed.

The article says: “the plate must have a balanced and clear appearance”. Think of this when designing your visuals.

The Garnish

That little extra that just gives the dish its character. How do you garnish your presentations? You can give a handout at the end, include a giveaway or even have a little competition. These details transform a simple presentation into an experience.

Photo credit Night Owl City

What you shouldn’t learn from your teachers

Lately I’ve been lucky enough to go to several universities and talk to students on how to make better presentations. The great thing about talking to university students is that most of them have not yet been spoiled by really bad presentations in the business environment. However, they have no examples on how to make good presentations, so they pull from what they see.

After I’ve given my talk trying to inspire them into being creative and presenting their information in more visual ways, as opposed to using a bunch of bullet points, they all ask me: But how do we learn to make good presentations? My answer usually surprises them, but at the same time puts a smile on their faces: Don’t learn from your teachers.

Photo credit Night Owl City

Photo credit Night Owl City

The reasoning is simple: teachers don’t give presentations, they give lectures. Yes, they usually use powerpoint to explain the subject and then distribute it easily to their students, but that is not a presentation. It’s okay to use powerpoint this way, it’s helping structure the ideas, students can print them and take notes and they can study off of them. The thing is that no one ever told the students that these aren’t real presentations. So when they are faced with giving a presentation in class they imitate what they’ve seen and make slides full of bullet points with as much information as they can.

A presentation is not a way to distribute all the information, we have books for that. A presentation is always going to be a summary of main and supporting points, a way to communicate your point of view or introduce something new. However, since students never learn that presentations are not a list of bullet points, but a way to communicate the essential to drive your point, they graduate from university, start working and make the same mistake! Which puts us in the present situation, as Guy Kawasaki says: 99% of presentations suck.

So how can we solve this problem? Communication and public speaking courses should be required courses in every degree if we want to stop wasting time with bad presentations at work. Failing that, don’t learn from your teachers! 🙂

Here’s a list of resources you can check out to learn how to make better presentations.



Back to basics: Editing the Master Slide

Have you ever wondered how people make their own templates in PowerPoint so that all their presentations look consistent? Or have you ever just lost it because your boss told you to add your company logo on every slide? Well, that’s where the slide master comes in.

Go to View -> Slide MasterThe slide master view is an option in PowerPoint that will allow you to make changes to the way your slides will look and apply it to all slides of that type. First thing we have to do is go to View in the menu bar, and then click Slide Master. Once in the Slide Master you can edit anything you want so that it stays consistent on each slide. No need to go adding something in to every slide last minute.

In this slide we added some arrows between the elements we are comparing and changed the style of the bullet points


The first thing you’ll notice is the left panel, which allows you to choose which type of slide you want to edit. You can choose a design for all your title slides, edit the footer, change the format for all the headers or, like in this example, add an element to comparison slides.


Changing the fontFirst, let’s say we want to change the font for the headers we use throughout the whole presentation. Select the title and then click fonts and select the one you want to use. Now that font will be applied to all titles in your presentation and the default font each time you create a new slide. Instead of having to go change it slide by slide.


Adding a piece of paperNow let’s say we want to add a different touch to my titles, let’s go to insert and image, and bring in a piece of paper. Send it to the background (by right clicking on it or using the arrange option) and maybe top it off with some sticky tape… And there you have it! Completely new and fresh looking titles for all your slides in about 2 minutes!

Adding the final touches

When you finish save your changes with a name and you can always go back to that template and use it in future presentations. There are many options within the Slide Master, you can change the background, slide size, font, colors, footers… Just go in and experiment.



My only rule for better presentations

The interesting thing about presentations is that they are totally subjective, although there are some practices that we all dislike when we see a presentation (too much text, background and fonts with little contrast, too many bullet points…), there is no step by step guide on how to make a good presentation.

For those of you who get annoyed at the fact that there are no guides to perfect presentations and those who are curious about how I improved, and still work on improving, my own, here is my only rule: Try something new in each presentation.

The presentation creation process has nothing to do with business and everything to do with design. We all know there are rules for good design, and they should be followed in the creation of each slide and the presentation as a whole; however, there is no guide that can explain step by step how you make a good presentation, since each person’s presentation style and what works for them is different. To make good presentations you need experience to develop an eye for them, to develop a sense of what is a good and a bad presentation. Enter my rule, if you try one new thing in each presentation and watch to see your audience’s response, you can start to identify what things people like in your presentations.

Here is a list of things I included in my presentations and that you can start applying to yours, in no specific order, as I said, this is not a step by step guide:

–          Substitute text for images

–          Use a slide without text

–          Draw attention to the most important word in a sentence by giving it a different color or size

–          Use two different fonts for two different purposes

–          Don’t use bullet points

–          Don’t use slides

–          Ask the audience a question

–          Post your presentation on the internet before you start

–          Give a handout with the most important parts of your presentation or extra information when you finish

–          Draw on a whiteboard while you speak

–          Don’t speak for the first minute of your presentation, just wait until you have everyone’s undivided attention

–          Include a video in your presentation

–          Record yourself presenting

–          Include Charlie Sheen in your presentation somehow (no specific reason, it’s just fun to see how people work around to fit him in, you can always substitute Charlie Sheen for any other ridiculous person you can think of)

–          Put tittles on the bottom of the slide, instead of the top

–          Don’t use your company’s template

–          Use QR codes to guide your audience to more info about the subject


Now I’m going to list a few things I haven’t tried yet, but which are on my list

–          Tweet while I present (not personally, automated)

–          Have a poll for the audience

–          Do my presentation on-line

–          Set a limit to my number of slides (present at Pecha Kucha)

–          Present wearing a hat

–          Use presentation styles more based on text, like Lessig or Takahashi

–          Present in rhyme

These are just some quick ideas, I’m sure there are many I’m leaving out or that will come to me later on. The idea behind changing only one thing is to see what you feel more comfortable with and what your style is without having to change everything in your presentation. If you realize there is some good advice there about things we’ve already talked about, and then there are others that are just for fun. Who said that presenting couldn’t be fun? Experiment and play with you presentation style!

If you try something new or you think about something I left out add it on the comment section.



Film reel

Presentation lesson from the film industry, or how to make people fall in love with your content

Presentations are nothing like movies. You can go to the movies and sit there for two hours giving your full, undivided attention. But have you ever been able to sit through a two hour presentation without wanting to rip your hair out? Usually not 10 minutes go by without people starting to tweet or answer emails.

Film reel

by Thomas Milne

There are many lessons to be learned from the film industry on how we present the information in our presentations to make it more interesting to the audience; much of it has to do with storytelling. But probably the most important thing to realize is that, no matter how brilliantly you tell your story, or how good you are at creating anticipation and mystery around your content, a presentation can never hold a lot of information and remain interesting.

When we start preparing our presentation there is much research that has to be done. Whether it’s because your boss asked you to present the company’s new product or because you’re giving a talk about your industry at an event, you never want to look foolish in front of the audience. After all the research is done we have a huge problem selecting what pieces of information are the most relevant. This usually leads people to not want to choose what makes and doesn’t make the cut and pack all the info on to their slides.

I’ve talked about this before, these type of slides are not really slides, they are documents, what is known as a slideument. When you have a large collection of information, its place is a document, not a presentation. This document is like a movie, it holds all the information, and is something you can refer to during your presentation and hand out at the end, or even just send a link to an online version to be more environmentally conscious.

So if the document with all the research, findings, opinions and information is the movie, what is your presentation? Your presentation is the trailer for your content. Trailers are short, they choose the most interesting parts of movies and leave some questions unanswered, as a result, they make almost any movie seem interesting. If you choose the most relevant and interesting parts of the information you are going to present wisely, you can make almost any audience fall in love with your content.


entrepreneur - by aJ GAZMEN ツ GucciBeaR

Never pitch investors

Two weeks ago the Tetuan Valley Startup School, program I’m proud to be a mentor at, kicked off. On the first session Alex Barrera was explaining to the teams the ins and outs of being an entrepreneur and creating a startup. We actually came up with this definition for an entrepreneur:

photo Jump off by aJ GAZMEN ツ GucciBeaR


One of the things Alex told the teams shocked me: “Never pitch investors”. He actually explained the reason very well afterwards, and I have to say I totally agree.

Alex told us how entrepreneurs usually prepare their pitch, trying to give the investors all the information they need to instantly know if they are interested in investing, something like: “Hello, I’m John Doe, I just created a startup that wants to solve parking problems in major cities with a simple app you can have on your smartphone. We’re looking to raise $8,000 of investment to get everything finished.”

It is true that this is a direct and clear message, but nonetheless not a very effective way of raising money. Alex’s way of getting an investor interested in what you’re doing is much more in tune with the social aspect of today’s communications. The idea is that you see an investor at an event, probably during a coffee break and you go over and actually start a conversation with him, not just rant off what you do; the interaction would go something like this:

–          John: Hi! So, what did you think of the last group that presented/the news about [insert trendy topic]/the coffee?

–          Investor: Very interesting actually it made me think of…

–          John: Yeah! I see your point, I thought… (don’t lie to impress, just give your honest opinion).

I’m John, by the way.

–         Investor: Oh, I’m Mr. Angel.

–        John: what do you do? (even if you know)

–        Investor: I’m an early venture capitalist. What do you do?

–         John: well, I just created a new startup that’s going to solve parking problems in major cities using cell phones. Did you have trouble parking when you got here?

–          Investor: Actually, I did!

–          John: see? If you were using our service you would have saved the extra 20 minutes looking for a parking spot!

–          Investor: Interesting, why don’t you tell me more about the project?

–          John: Sure, here’s my card, let’s set up a meeting.

That would be the ideal situation probably, but you get the point. The same concept as with the elevator pitch applies: it’s about getting the investor interested in what you’re doing. The only difference is instead of assaulting them whenever you get a minute of their time, you’re starting a conversation with them which is the best platform to build a relationship from.


Changing the background for the whole Presentation

I just started the Back to Basics section because a lot of people often ask me how to do this type of things, and because knowing how to do them is necessary to follow a lot of what I talk about here in the blog. So here’s the first entry.

When you want to change your presentation’s background from PowerPoint’s default white color, you can do it in two different ways. Well, I’m sure there’s also other ways, but these are the two I use the most.

The first one is right-clicking on your slide and at the bottom of the drop down menu you have the option Format Background. When you select it, you see a window that will let you select what type of fill you want to give your slides. You can select a different color from white for your background. The next option is to fill it with a gradient, which became very popular from Steve Job’s presentations, and something I usually use, if you play around with the options you can get some interesting looking backgrounds, like this:


The good thing about gradients is that they get rid of the boring flat background colors. There’s two more options, fill with a picture or texture and pattern fill; forget textures and patterns all together. When you want to use a picture as your background just navigate to the file (no clipart! I repeat, no clipart!). Finally chose if you want to use that picture or color as a background for one slide or the whole slideshow. You also have the option here to reset background and go back to the classic background.


When you use images as a background, be careful they have enough quality so they don’t look pixelated when blown up, and also try to use images that are not too busy and follow the rule of thirds.

The second method for changing your background is changing the Master Slide, but I’ll go over this in the next entry.




[Meme] The Presentation Alphabet

by kvanhorn

Started by Carles Caño at presentástico, we bring you our take on the Presentation Alphabet.


– Audience. The audience is probably the most important part of your presentation, you’re giving it to them and for them; you want to influence them somehow. Here’s how you make an Audience Needs Map .


– Bullet points. The most common element in presentations worldwide, sadly. Bullet Points are for listing things, not for all your content. Read F… Bullet Points .


– Clarity. Achieving it in your presentation might not be that easy. Your message has to be understood quickly and clearly. Read Concept Slides


– Design. Something many presenters fear, or worse. Design is a part of our lives, you live surrounded by it. Take inspiration from daily things around you and think as a designer when making your slides. Don’t type your slides, design them. Read Can Coco Chanel teach you how to make better slides?


– Emotion. It drives people, include emotion in your presentation to cause your audience to act on your material. Presentation lesson from the dark side .


– Feedback. After every presentation you should get feedback from your audience and peers to see how to improve the next time. Olivia Mitchell has great advice on using the backchannel to get feedback and other cool things –How to manage the Twitter backchannel.


– Graphs. They can be very powerful tools to prove your point or very confusing slides that will confuse and distract. Sowing data effectively .


– Handout. Slides are not the right type of document to present information, instead of putting all your information on them, put only the necessary to make your point; you can give detailed information on a suitable medium after the presentation as a handout. Read When not to make a presentation.


– Idea. 1 idea on each slide, no more. Nick Smith from Advance your slides made a great presentation Don’t be a powerpoint felon. Guess what tip number one is.


– Jokes. They have their place, and it isn’t in a presentation. Use humor, not jokes. How to use humor in your presentations .


– Knowledge. If they’ve asked you to give a presentation on a subject it’s because you have knowledge about it, so don’t feel intimidated by who might be in the audience and give a great presentation.


– Learn. Always learn from presentations you’ve given. We can all improve at everything we do. There’s a great post by John at Presentation Advisors with 100 tips to learn how to make better presentations!


– Multimedia. Images, audio, video… Multimedia can really empower your message and engage your audience. Here’s an article to learn to embed Youtube videos in powerpoint .


– Numbers. Many times we’re faced with having to present a lot of data. Raw numbers don’t mean much to people; people find meaning in relationships. When you have to show numbers concentrate on the relationship between the numbers and what it means. For a great example check out Hans Rosling’s presentation on world population trends.


– Order. The structure of your presentation is what makes it understandable. Information has to flow naturally from one point to the next. Read Nancy Duarte’s Music has a structure. Your presentation should too.


– Project Presentation, of course 😉 Find us on Twitter, Facebook or SlideShare.


– Questions. We all know we’ll get questions at the end of the presentation. But do you know what two questions to ask yourself before? Read this great article by Garr Reynolds.


– Rehearse. Rehearsal is the only way to perfection. Have you seen those presentations where the speaker seems so natural and to be improvising the whole thing? Those have the longest preparation! Read How to rehearse a presentation.


– Story. Use a story in your presentation to keep guide and keep your audience involved. Are your presentations memorable?


– Teasing. Tease before you tell. Create expectation from the audience; make them want to hear the rest. Look at how Dan Pink opens one of his presentations at TED


– Unlearn. We’ve all learned to use powerpoint in the way its basic template work (title on top and content on bullet points). One of the first lessons I learned from Garr Reynolds was to unlearn all of this and think of slides in a different way; curiously enough we’ve all heard this before from Yoda. Present like Yoda you can.


– Visuals. Slides are referred to as visual aids, not as presentation, not as speaker notes. If you’re using slides they should aid you in conveying your message, don’t type your whole presentation on them.


– Whitespace. Whitespace is the oxygen for the eye; it lets the eye “breathe” and focus on what’s important.


– Xperience (okay, I cheated). Including your personal experiences in your talk will give your presentation credibility and power. Read The magical ingredient by Phil Presents and watch the amazing talk by Scott Stratten in it.


– You. You are the presentation, not your slides. Put yourself out there and don’t hide behind your slides.


– Zen. Presentation Zen is a great website by my mentor, Garr Reynolds. He’s written plenty of material and books combining the elements of Zen and presentations, all very recommend if you want to learn how to create and give great presentations.

I hope you enjoyed the post, if you can come up with other words and links that have to do with presentations, leave it in the comments. Or create your own Presentation Alphabet and link to it!


First kinetic typography video

For those of you keeping track, you’ve probably noticed I haven’t posted or beenwo-logo around for a while. This is due to my latest project: I was approached by a group of students from the university I graduated from asking me to help them with a competition for an NGO. The group was to create a presentation that explained a solution to the world water crisis. Winning the competition meant getting the project funded by I liked the idea and got on board.

Much to my surprise the project needed much more than a presentation, a video had to be submitted explaining who the group was and the idea we came up with. So, not having much time I barricaded myself to get this video done. Now you can enjoy it, check out the solution we came up with and even vote for our solution! The solution is actually a really good approach to solving the world water crisis; you see, 1 out 4 people die of a water related desease a year; that is a quarter of the world’s population. A huge problem. has already helped 1,000,000; with this solution we want to reach more that 100,000,000 people in the next 5 years. Help us make a difference.

H2nOmics (Kinetic Typography)