Bad Slide Deck Design Examples

(with better alternative designs)

No one wants the reputation of having bad slide deck designs. This video looks at three common slide design mistakes using real life examples and shows better design alternatives.


No one wants the reputation of having bad slide designs. "What is bad slide design?" is one of the most common questions I get. Let's take a look at 3 common mistakes using real life examples and see how to design better alternatives. At the end of the post, I will reveal the most common mistake you absolutely need to avoid.

Three Examples

Bad Design Example #1

Out Dated Design Elements

This slide is using a banner style header that was common many years ago.

With an outdated design, the audience subconsciously questions your expertise and authority. Coupled with the side by side text and image, this slide lacks visual appeal.

While outdated design isn't a deal breaker, other design mistakes on the slide moves it from an okay design to a bad design. The All Caps text makes it hard to read.The image text competes with actual text on the slide.

As a presenter, you want to create an emotional connection with the audience. The right image is a great way to do that.

Here's two examples that convey emotion and more clearly communicates the message.

The first example is a high quality image conveying the emotion of anxiety and provides just the definition of anxiety. The audience can then focus on the more in-depth information you want to provide.

Example #2 uses animation, color, and an image to communicate the concept of anxiety. The animation allows you to focus on specific information as you are speaking. The colored text boxes together with the image invokes the feeling of being weighed down with worry.

Bad Design Example #2

Ineffective Text Overlay on an Image

While this slide is using a more contemporary use of slide design, the text is too difficult to read on the image.

Where the slide designer went wrong was not adjusting the image transparency enough. Another issue with this slide is that the image is a mismatch with the message. What does archery have to do with client support?

Here are two better design examples.

It important to remember, that you don't always need an image to effectively convey your message. With this slide, icons and colored shapes segment the content in an easy to digest visual.

If you really want to use an image, adding a background fill to the text box is more effective than trying to make the image transparent. This image is also in alignment with the message.

Bad Design Example #3

Misalignment of Content and Design

This example is a common design suggestion from PowerPoint Designer.

While I use Designer regularly, I also know when not to use it. For tips watch my video for using PowerPoint Designer effectively.

The content on this slide clearly indicates a process or timeline. Whenever you can, always opt for a graphic representation when presenting this type of content.

Here are two examples that better convey the content of the slide.

This first example uses a numerical visual to identify the next steps of the process. The animation allows you to talk about each step individually.

The second example uses a timeline and clearly identifies each milestone date. Again the animation allows you talk about each date individually.

For both examples, the use of color from red to green also subtly conveys forward movement. And now for the most common slide design mistake.

Bonus Example

bad Design Example #4


This is by far the most common mistake presenters make. And this irritates me more than anything. It is completely unnecessary!

HOLD ON What about someone who is deaf or hard of hearing? Yes, those individuals may not hear what you are saying but that still doesn't mean you should have text heavy slides.

Here's why...

  • One, if you are using good slide design anyone should be able to quickly identify the basic message of the content.
  • Two, always provide a handout with more in-depth information, which can include your actual script.
  • Three, use closed captions on your virtual presentations and videos.
  • Four, if you know an audience member is deaf make arrangements for an interpreter if they ask for one.

Okay, back to the example

This presenter is clearly going in-depth on this point. That is okay to go in-depth during a presentation. You just don't need to put it all on one slide at the same time. For in-depth content, break it up over several slides (and provide a handout)

In this first redesigned slide, it is more impactful to focus on just the two core concepts. The second slide focuses on the sub-ponts of one core concept The third slide highlights the other core concept's sub-points.

The use of animation again allows you to each point individually. By the way, this last example template is from Slidesgo and all of these elements were part of the template. So again there was no need to put all of the text on one slide.

About the Author

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Jennifer Sharkey is known as the Virtual Presentation Specialist. Being passionate about seeing people shine and be heard, she leans into her 20+ years of public speaking experience and uses what she has learned from presenting, both in-person and virtually, to small groups all the way up to 5000 people. Jennifer draws from her experience as an associate professor, academic librarian, and coach to help holistic coaches master virtual presentations to grow their business. Her unique immersive program provides practical strategies and methods to build confidence, engage audiences, and generate authenticity and authority.

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