If we are what we repeatedly do, then consultants are report presentations. In the words of veteran consultant John Kim, “If you cannot put together a well-structured, persuasive, and visual presentation… you won’t be a management consultant for long.”
Unfortunately, over 90% of consultant report presentations fail to make an impact, either because they don’t have enough content, are crammed too full with content, are unstructured, lack persuasiveness, or are in all honesty, plain boring.
You can know your data inside and out, and you couldn’t have a firmer grasp on the industry, but no matter how prepared or well-researched you are – bad slides can ruin great content. Not to mention, a poorly designed presentation can literally cost your department and your organisation over $100,000 a year (conversely, a well-design presentation earns you significant advantages).
The good news is that you don’t need a swanky suite of tools or a big design team to overhaul your reports – there are tons of free and online resources to help you create powerful, compelling, and seriously persuasive presentations.
So while the pyramid principle remains one of the best ways for structuring your presentation content, here are some other top tips you can use to create powerful slides, as illustrated by 25 examples we’ve found.
Make Your Data Digestible
This deck ticks a lot of boxes when it comes to powerful presentations. Absolutely brilliant use of data visualization, a subtle “progress bar” at the top that reminds the audience which part of the presentation they’re at, and concise summaries accompanying each infographic. One of the best presentations we’ve swooned over in a while.
There is an overwhelming amount of data here, but McKinsey does a commendable job of keeping it engaging with clear summaries and good-looking infographics (slides 30 & 42). Some slides might feel a bit more crammed than others (slide 41–49), but you should try to save these huge chunks of data for whitepapers or reports that the client can download and peruse at their own leisure. Your presentation should only contain the highlights.
You’ll appreciate the brilliance of this presentation even more when you see the original. Instead of plonking in the data in its raw form as graphs or tables, Stinson transforms it into something more graphic and appealing. The rest of the presentation also takes on a less-is-more principle, distilling only the most important points that would matter to the client – not the presenter.
Leanplum only presents one point per slide, making their presentation supremely easy to follow along with (despite having 105 slides!). While they do use traditional line graphs and bar charts, they also find unconventional ways to illustrate their data (slides 71–77) or slip in nuggets of data that don’t detract from the main point (slides 52–53) – they use data to back their insights, rather than make the data the focus of the slide.
Clean Up Your Slides
Make use of white space and clean graphics to get your point across more effectively. This consulting deck does what most report presentations neglect, which is to highlight key takeaways (and bolding the important points) and avoid cluttering the audience with too much information.
Clean and simple, each slide in this presentation has a clear focus, enhanced by the use of one question per slide and accompanying minimalist-style icons. It’s one of the easiest styles to replicate, and can be used strategically at certain portions of your presentation where you want to remove distraction and place emphasis on certain messages.
Choose The Right Fonts
Crisp and clear, the choice of sans serif fonts keep the presentation looking sleek, modern, and supremely legible. While your choice of font may be constricted by brand guidelines or house style, regardless, a good rule of thumb in your report presentation is to use clear, minimally-styled fonts so your message doesn’t get lost in a web of visual distraction.
Make Use Of Visuals
This presentation has been viewed over 87,500 times, making it a great example of what works in an educational deck. The use of screengrabs gives both current and potential clients better recognition of your services or products. It’s also been proven that visuals attract clients better.
A smart use of custom illustration helps audiences instantly identify with each of these pain points. Good, relevant visuals amplify your message because they elicit emotional responses, helping your audience retain key points.
The first half of the presentation has a strong storytelling quality bolstered by great illustrations to help set up the second half – where the important data is being presented. Our brains process images faster than words, so this is a good hack to getting your message across more effectively.
Having a table of contents on the side of the slide helps prevent audience fatigue – often when a presentation is too long, the audience’s retention rate starts to slip. A “tracking” tool like this can serve as a visual cue so that your audience knows where they are, and what they can expect next.
There is a clear flow to this presentation – it starts with introducing some key statistics, which eventually leads up to why these statistics matter, and ends with what the proposed solution is. It’s all very organized. Another great thing about this presentation is that it uses graphics to reinforce, not distract from, its key points (slides 22–29).
Speak To Your Audience, Not At Your Audience
13. Moving digital transformation forward: Findings from the 2016 digital business global executive study and research report by MITSloan + Deloitte Digital
This is an all-round stellar presentation, which makes use of an active voice (“we did this…”, “we found this…”, “my digital strategy is…”) to better connect with the audience. The use of conversational copy, straightforward messages, and a consistent aesthetic theme make this one of our favourite report presentations to date.
At strategic points in this pretty long presentation, polls are taken to keep the audience engaged. By asking them to reflect on their current status and thoughts, they are “primed” into receiving what the presenter next has to say.
15. Business Pulse – Dual perspectives on the top 10 risks and opportunities 2013 and beyond by Ernst & Young
This is another example of keeping your audience engaged through the use of questions (slides 2, 3 & 7). The questions’ tone and voice were also creatively and intelligently crafted because it uses FOMO (fear of missing out) to ensure customers want to listen.
Break It Down
16. A step-by-step overview of a typical cybersecurity attack—and how companies can protect themselves by McKinsey
It says it already in the title – breaking down your solution step-by-step is one of the best ways to increase the effectiveness of your presentation. The smart use of “hit or myth?” in each of its slides also gets the audience to reflect on their own experiences and (potentially false) impressions of the industry.
There’s lots to say in this presentation about the findings and impact of IoT on various industries, but Deloitte presents it in a way that keeps it relevant – by using a question-and-answer format that works to connect rather than alienate the audience.
This is the perfect example of how you can capitalize on the “listicle” style of writing to present your main points with supreme clarity and persuasiveness. Notice that each of the 10 steps is supplemented by key statistics? That’s how you add weight to what you’re saying without overloading the audience with too many graphs and data charts.
Give Actionable Insight
What makes a great consultant is his or her ability to go beyond surface data to give clients real, actionable insight. Not only does this presentation by PwC provide step-by-step recommendations (slides 15–18), but it uses real case studies and testimonials to boost credibility and illustrate value.
20. Shutting down fraud, waste, and abuse: Moving from rhetoric to real solutions in government benefit programs by Deloitte
Identified an issue? Great. Worked out a solution? Even better. This presentation breaks down its proposed solution into one point per slide, punctuated by a relevant graphic that reinforces its message. It’s clean, clear, and effective.
Personalization works in every industry. The next time you prepare a presentation, think about how you can give tailored advice to the unique stakeholders involved (slides 30–33). Put it at the end as a neat summary to earn bonus points and increase your memorability!
Keep It Short And Sweet
There’s a reason why TED talks are only 18 minutes or less – any longer and you lose your audience’s attention. Keep your presentations short whenever possible. This example by Deloitte is a smart way keep things bite-sized yet meaty, and also publicizes all your white papers and articles in one place.
This compact presentation is a great example of how to summarize all your key findings in less than 10 slides. When you force yourself to reduce clutter, you start being more discerning about what you put in. Remember, what you find interesting may not be the same as what the audience finds relevant. Don’t get too attached, and be prepared to edit down.
Try using presentations as a “preview” for your full suite of services. This way, you summarise your best points to potential clients, and if what you’ve said interests them enough, they will be more invested in a follow-up meeting.
The key to doing this successfully, however, is that whatever few points you choose to present need to be accompanied by some form of tailored solution or insight into their specific needs. Choose quality over quantity, otherwise, it just looks lazy.
Don’t Forget To Take Credit
It seems obvious, but you would be surprised how many times consultants neglect to put their profile image and professional contact information at the end of each presentation.
There are many reasons to do so, but most importantly, it helps your potential client remember you better. The truth is, we remember faces better than names and adding this information allows them to reach out if they’re interested in a follow up.
Clarity of thought translates directly into how succinct your presentation comes off. Your slides should always be the last thing you tackle – structure and story come first. It may not be that surprising of a reveal if we were to tell you: The elements that make a consultant’s report presentation great are almost the same that make any presentation great.
At the end of the day, keep your audience at the centre, be creative and thoughtful of their needs; use design and visuals to your advantage and integrate them early on, not as an afterthought. And remember: Sometimes, less is more.