Presentation Design 2.0 – It might be easy, but is it right?

by | Jul 20, 2021 | Featured News, Pitch Presentations

Mentions of Canva, the free and easy to use online design tool, are like buses. Nothing for ages and then suddenly you can’t move for them…

Last week, I was honoured to be talking to a large group from APMP India regarding the art of the pitch presentation. The topic of Canva and Haiku Deck (remember that?) came up, and I was asked my opinion of them as alternatives to PowerPoint.

And then, over the weekend, I seemed to be bombarded with TV ads pushing Canva as a presentation tool (for when you only have 20 minutes to create a presentation from scratch – no, really).

Canva is obviously doing a great job at shining a light on the hot topic of business presentations. This makes perfect sense – after all, most businesses struggle to efficiently create presentations (check out our Eyeful Insights Report on the (In)efficiency of Business Presentations to find out why and how to fix it).

So, is Canva the presentation design tool we’ve all been waiting for?

Um. Nope.

Absolutely not.

Actually, it might be unwittingly creating more presentation headaches.

Let me explain. When asked by one of the bid specialists in India about the use of Canva, my response was boringly familiar to regular readers of our blog –

‘Until you understand your audience, have a clearly defined message and carefully curated content that supports the aforementioned message, you can forget about presentation design’.

No matter how clever the technology, your presentation isn’t worth a jot until you have these basic building blocks in place. Then, and only then, should you consider presentation design and the software you’re going to employ. Remember: the purpose of presentation design is to act as visual punctuation to your story and content.

No story? No content? No point in presentation design.

So when I see frankly ludicrous TV ads like Canva’s recent campaign, I worry that despite considerable leaps in presentation technology, we’re no further down the road in addressing the real issues hampering great business presentations.

  • Presentation design is cheaper (to the point of being free!) than ever.
  • Collaboration with colleagues is easier than ever (check out Pitch as an example).
  • And professional(ish) graphics are more accessible than ever (PowerPoint employs AI to help you out, Canva makes it super easy from the get-go).

But, unfortunately, while they may be impressive technical solutions, they’re obsessively fixing the least pressing presentation problem; slide design. Unfortunately, in doing so, they are failing to make presentations any more valuable, engaging or audience-centric. In fact, their eye-catching templates, shortcuts and fancy GUIs may even be distracting presenters from focusing on the important stuff.

I realise I sound rather grumpy, so let’s attempt to conclude on a slightly optimistic tone. The speed of creating passable design in Canva (and PowerPoint, Prezi, Pitch, Keynote, Google Slides…) means that presenters are now blessed with more time to spend on their audience analysis, message development, story structures and calls to action.

The question now is, will they spend this extra time wisely? The jury is most definitely out…

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