Simple tips to help your slides shine

Woman giving a presentation to a large audience
Woman giving a presentation to a large audience
Photo by Product School on Unsplash

As a seasoned presentation designer with over 20 years experience, I’ve seen it all — the good, the bad, and the ugly. Plenty of ugly. Here are the top five things to avoid when creating presentations, along with some pro tips:

#1: Don’t cram too much stuff onto your slides.

More is not better. The most common mistake is a slide jam-packed with content. There’s so much text on the slide it would take your audience five minutes just to read it. You have to squint, even from the front row, because the font size is too small. There are bullets and more bullets and even sub-bullets. There are…

I left my corporate job to become a freelancer, but wasn’t sure how much to charge.

When I left my stable, well-paying job at a technology company to start my own design consulting business in 2016, I didn’t know where to start in terms of pricing. Initially, I scribbled some basic napkin math to work out my potential hourly rate — my current salary divided by typical full-time hours minus a couple weeks for vacation. I expanded on that with a second, more complex equation that took into account my average annual health insurance costs, business operating costs, tax payments, potential sick days, retirement savings and much more. As the total increased and my hourly number…

Take your presentations from “zero to hero” with this step-by-step tutorial to applying color in presentation design

1. Don’t start from scratch.

Examples of various presentation design templates (available for free in Microsoft PowerPoint)

Get a head start and make it easier on yourself in the long run by starting from a high-quality template. Your presentation template is the structure that defines how color can be used. By using a well-designed template, you can be confident that your colors will look professional, too. Whether your brand or desired aesthetic is minimalist, colorful, or anything in between, check to make sure the template you’re using includes a functional and pleasing color palette. …

How I landed it anyway.

Illustration by Alicia Thornber

It was a Tuesday morning. I stared at my computer screen in disbelief, immediately confused and disappointed. I blinked again.

Yup. Still there. A job description I could have written myself. Yet somehow there it was for all the world to see. How was this even possible?

It was my dream job.

In fact, it was the job I had conjured up. For months I had been taking wire cutters to the fence lines of my current role, creating new openings, exploring new areas, inviting others in. I worked hard to plant the seeds of new ideas outside our organization, nurturing them along with regular…

At least, not in the traditional sense.

In 2016, I left my job in high-tech and hung out my shingle as a freelance marketing + design consultant. Within weeks, I was juggling multiple clients and a larger workload than I’d ever had. I was making good money and working A LOT. On my lunch breaks, and after work, I’d schedule networking meetups with colleagues and potential clients. I worked into the wee hours to meet deadlines and keep my clients happy.

This is what you are supposed to do as a small business owner, right? Hustle, hustle, hustle. Grind, grind, grind. …

Getting promoted to management is more akin to a fork in the road than a rung on a ladder.

My phone buzzed urgently. It was my manager, calling to tell me the news.

“Are you ready for this? Things are happening fast.” She was excited, talking quickly, and I could hear the smile in her voice. The leadership team had been in a group offsite all day and I was hearing about all the changes practically in real-time. I’d just discovered my manager, Gina*, was being promoted to a new bigger role within the group and I was going to become team manager, starting tomorrow.

It was fast. We had discussed my potential interest in management as part of…

Why pumping and breastfeeding while working full-time was one of the most challenging periods in my career.

I once worked 52 hours straight on-site at a work event without sleep, where we were fed a stream of greasy pizza, lukewarm hot dogs, and endless cups of bitter coffee. My team and I conquered that event, despite the nasty combination of no sleep and poor sustenance, bragging about how hard we had worked. Compared to my year of pumping at work, though, the level of emotional and physical toll doesn’t even come close. I’m still scarred from the experience, even after nearly nine years.

A breast pump machine sits on a desk in front of a laptop.
A breast pump machine sits on a desk in front of a laptop.
Pumping at work. Image credit: Alicia Thornber

Driving to work on my first day back from maternity leave, I eagerly anticipated…

Having a child gave me new capabilities, both at home and at work.

I’ll never forget his words. I stood up to thank my employee for his time as we wrapped up our conversation on his annual performance review. As he turned to exit the room, he paused, and turned towards me.

“You know, you’re a better manager now that you’re a parent.”

My eyes widened. It was August of 2012 and I had recently returned from maternity leave after giving birth to my son. I thought of myself as a good manager, but I felt deep down that I wasn’t great. Imposter syndrome? Maybe. I felt innately there was a difference between…

This is the story of my firstborn son’s birth that led me searching for a different option when I was pregnant with my second child. One journey led to the other.

I awoke early on Christmas morning in December 2011 with mild contractions and some spotting. Full of anticipation, I wondered would today be the day we’d get to finally meet our baby boy? I was five days overdue and ready to pop. My contractions faded, however, as I went about my preparations for Christmas dinner later that day. We had relatives in town visiting for the holiday, eagerly and…

New parenthood is often isolating during normal times. In quarantine, it’s exponentially harder.

My daughter entered the world in the last weeks pre-coronavirus.

I went into labor in early February, right before everything went haywire. We had no idea what was about to transpire. If my daughter had been born just a few weeks later when the coronavirus pandemic swelled, my labor & delivery might have been more challenging on a number of levels. I’ve heard stories of women required to wear face masks during 30+ hour labors, laboring alone without their partners. My heart goes out to them.

We felt especially prepared for this baby, our second child. We had fertility struggles for several years and finally managed to conceive. We knew…

Alicia Monique Thornber

I’m a mom of two and a freelance design consultant specializing in presentation design, illustration, and brand strategy.

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