The goal of a good document is to communicate a message effectively. I recommend creating all documents in a Deck format. (A deck is a document laid out in a slide based presentation format.)
I have developed a set of rules to follow so you can convey your message in a compelling and insightful way – “7 Deck Rules”. Follows these rules and get your message heard.
Why create documents in a Deck format? It is easier to read slides (instead of lengthy documents) and as a result slides can communicate ideas in a more informative and persuasive manner.
Details around the rules below.
Also, check out the 7 Deck Presentation for more details.
Understanding the setting of the slide is fundamental to building a deck. Over the years building thousands of decks for various organizations, I have fine tuned the slide setting, or as I call it the “slide canvas”. The canvas is structured into 6 distinct components:
- Headline: is a short title describing the slide
- Lead: is a brief, sharp statement summarizing the slide
- Body: is the core part of the slide (also known as the Storybox)
- Logo: is the company logo displayed for branding purposes
- Page number: is a number in the middle of the slide reflecting the slide number
- Designation: The Department or Project Name is displayed to further brand the deck
There is a purpose behind the placement of each one of these components. Also, note that the white space is not just blank space, its an important design element. White-space neatly separates the components of the slide and provides balance. Psychology research confirms that white space improves the comprehension of information.
Content should be restricted into the following 3 components: Headline, Lead and Body.
Simplicity is necessary to properly convey an idea. The goal of simplicity is to emphasize the insightful and remove the distractful.
There is a Natural tension between simple and powerful, finding the right balance is the goal.
Reducing complexity is in of itself complex and takes a focused approach. So continuously Organize, Collect and Reduce content as the deck is being built.
In a future post, I will talk about a simple deck structure.
So whats the story behind storyboarding?
- Storyboarding is the method for the creation of a storyline of a deck
- A great storyline has a captivating beginning, insightful content & clear conclusion
- Its easier for the reader to understand complex concepts when explained in a storyline
- In combination, the Slide Title and the Slide Lead will summarize the entire deck
- The storyboard process converts brilliant, abstract ideas into a coherent storyline
The picture above shows how these 5 bullets would be storyboarded.
Bottom-line: storyboarding is a simple method to keep the Deck focused and coherent.
A Deck should solve a problem. The easiest and most effective way to solve a problem is use a methodical approach.
Management consultants typically use 4 basic principles to go about solving a problem:
Principle 1: Process - A methodical process should be used to find the right viable solution, not just any solution.
Principle 2: Organization - Divide the problem into smaller discreet parts such that there is no overlap, no gaps.
Principle 3: Frameworks – Use frameworks to structure your analysis and help support the conclusions reached.
Principle 4: Focus - Problems can be complex – typically with little effort a major part of the problem can be solved. So focus on what is important.
Focusing on composition will help convey a complex message in a way that is easily understandable. It will provide context and allow readers to skim content quickly.
By following these rules, your writing will be informative and direct.
Principle 1 Rules: a) Use correct grammar punctuation & spelling b) Follow conventional rules
Principle 2 Language: a) Use clear, concise and precise language b) Utilize ethical and inoffensive language
Principle 3 Substance: a) Focus writing on the subject matter b) Align writing with the deliverable objective
Principle 4 Structure: a) Group thoughts into clusters b) Sequence thoughts logically
Principle 5 Leveling & Labeling: a) Distill your message into varying levels of details b) Using headings to label content
Principle 6 Voice & Tone: a) Use active voice vs. passive voice b) Express ideas in positive terms
In the fast-paced world we live we do not have the time to keep re-inventing the wheel. There is no need to. So when it comes to building deck, always leverage a library.
Over the years, building thousands of deck, I have plucked my best slides and put them into a deck I call the “Timesaver”. It has been a true labor of love. Its invaluable to me now.
It especially comes in handy when I am having a brain camp. Perusing it helps get the creative juices going. I pick the slide that closely matched what I am trying to create and use it as a starting point.
The slides in my Timesaver can be broken up into 4 sets:
Set 1: One Pager - consider this the work bench. It has basic objects that are frequently used.
Set 3: Executive Summary - standard one page executive summary templates that helps convey a concise synopsis.
Set 2: Objects and Models - set of objects and models that can be used for visuals.
Set 4: Frameworks and Methodologies - established problem solving frameworks and methodologies.
Make it sing is easier said then done. But, it’s the glue that holds everything together. So don’t shirk on this rule.
Lets take two axioms: "Information is power" and "Human’s are visual creatures" - Conclusion: Design your information so it can be conveyed in an understandable way.
Function and form go hand in hand (look no further than the various Apple products over the last decade). The parallel when it comes to Decks is: information is the equivalent of function and design is form. Its no coincidence that when you put the two together, you get: “Information Design”.
Follow these 3 principles to design your information:
Direct the Eyes: The slide flow should be understood in a flash. To achieve this, structure the slide in a way so as to guide the viewer eyes.
Choose your Colors: Colors have deep meaning. Choose your colors as would choose your words – carefully.
Accentuate with Visuals: Use creative diagrams to illustrate – as simply as possible – concepts, models and processes.
All the rules in one place ...