Jole Simmons is a Senior Presentation Designer and Specialist with 20+ years of experience in the field. He is also a fellow podcaster, as he is the host of the Presentation Junkies Podcast. Moreover, Jole is a LinkedIn Learning Instructor and has two courses on presentation design, and he runs the weekly presentation tips for LinkedIn Learning. Currently, he works for Workday as the Senior Presentation Designer on their team.

In this episode with him, we talk about slide design, Silicon Valley companies, storytelling, and what you can do to improve your daily presentation design.

How he ended up in the presentation industry

Jole shared that after graduating from graphic design school, he was not standing out enough. Afterward, while he did freelance work for an agency, he experimented with Keynote and PowerPoint in his spare time.

When they told him that they have some PowerPoint and Keynote jobs – he was the only person that would even say that he does presentations, and they sent him out. He learned on the job after getting all of those jobs. “Fake it till you make it,” Jole joked.

In the 1990s, he was known as the presentation guy, and it is, to this day, his social media username nearly everywhere. Jole stated that he likes how a presentation can tell a story. Being able to communicate important stories using visuals and presentations empowers you.

Being a Senior Presentation Designer at a Silicon Valley company

Jole said that his current workplace, Workday, is one of the coolest companies. The fact that they have a separate team for presentations says a lot about them – they get it. According to Jole, people out there believe in presentation design, and you are not a player if you do not have somebody to call for presentations. There are millions of dollars on the line, and you need exceptional presentations to attract investors, keep existing clients, and get new ones.

If you’re a CEO and design your own presentations, Jole says you’re probably not as skilled as you think. Because everything needs to be sleek – storytelling, design, everything – and you’re just not a presentation professional.

Silicon Valley companies invest in presentations because they recognize their importance and potential impact. According to Jole, we have to thank one company and one person for that – Apple and Steve Jobs – great presentations were not such a thing before them.

Presentation design is a particularly unique form of design, Jole explained. In other types of design, when your work is out there, there is no immediate feedback. However, with presentation design, you have a much closer relationship with it. You recognize who made it, and everyone knows who made it. And the reality that a single presentation has the potential to transform one’s life is amazing.

What can you improve in your daily slide design

Simplify. Everyone wants to put all of the information on the slide in easy-to-read bullet points, and people have done it that way for a long time, but now you must learn restraint. And that is the first thing that Jole said he teaches in his courses.

For example, take all your bullet points and put them down in your speaker notes. If you have 3 to 5 things – put them in boxes on the screen and mark them well, but not with entire sentences. You don’t want your audience to read ahead or read the same thing you’re saying to them.

Bullet points aren’t evil; they only make things easier to read. Just animate them to come one by one so that people don’t skip ahead and not listen to you. This way, you control your flow of information.

How to simplify your slides for real

When putting anything on your slides, keep in mind that you have limited space on them. Ask yourself one question: is this adding value to the conversation, and is it helping me communicate my message? If the answer is yes, then keep it. However, if the response is a no or a maybe, get rid of it.

As for content, in general, decide what is the important part of any sentence – the presentation should be just the accent of what you are talking about. It is there to help you. It is like adding a little bit of salt or sugar to go with your presentation. Think of it like that rather than as something to which everyone will pay attention.

An exception about simplifying the content is when your presentation should be a document as well. For example, when you have to send it over email. Maintain two different versions for this: one that is shelf-ready and the other that has the extra details. It’ll take twice as much time, but it is worth it when you need it.

You have to see right away if you are developing a presentation that will be presented only once or a presentation that will have a life of its own beyond this.

How important is rehearsing

When someone hasn’t acquainted themselves with their presentation, it’s obvious. As a speaker for Creative Pro for numerous years, Jole has stated that he actually loves to wing it. He prepares ahead of time but will improvise mostly on the spot. But that’s what he likes and works for him – a little bit rough, but genuine and honest.

However, Jole is not trying to sell, so it all depends on the type of material you are trying to present. If you’re selling anything or trying to persuade people, you can’t justify the possibilities you might have missed because you couldn’t express one specific point just a little bit better.

Why storytelling applies to anyone

It doesn’t matter if you’re a project manager, a business development professional, a salesperson, an account manager, or an IT expert; you should strive to simplify and extract your key messages ideas.

Storytelling is not limited to certain types of presentations; it can be applied to any deck. You always tell a story, whether you’re the CEO or the finance person presenting – why we’re here, what the problem or scenario is, how we can fix it, what needs to be done, what we need to keep doing, and then what we want people to remember after it.

How to come up with a simple slide design

Search for inspiration! You don’t need us to tell you who the biggest companies are with the best presentations. Subscribe and watch their PowerPoints or Keynotes and get inspired. There are also many books and courses on the topic.

Resources

You can find Jole Simmons’ courses on his LinkedIn Learning instructor profile. You can contact him on his LinkedIn personal profile, or follow his Twitter and Instagram. Check out his website here.

Listen to the full episode!