Follow these 7 tips to make an ideal impression and land the sale with a well thought out, carefully created keynote deck.


So, you’ve weighed your options and made the decision to use Keynote for your proposals, presentations, and other materials as you see fit. You’ve started to load in some content and format all of your information, and you’re almost finished with that big proposal or pitch.

But you have one problem – your Keynote sucks.

It’s nothing personal – I’m sure you have tons of great content in there! Unfortunately, poor design, bad layout, and flawed presentation structure can overshadow even the best takeaways. Even though we were all told not to as children, pretty much everyone judges a book by its cover – especially when it comes to presentations.

That’s not to say that great design can make up for bad content. If you have nothing to offer, a cool gradient won’t bring you any closer to making that sale. But layering good design on top of solid content shows your audience that you not only know your stuff, but also that you are detail-oriented and have taken the time to present your material in an easily digestible way.

Steve Jobs went as far as to say “design is the fundamental soul of a man-made creation.”

6 Common Keynote Mistakes

With the importance of good design in mind, let’s take a look at why your Keynote sucks. Here are some common problems seen in presentations:

1. Your slide design is a snooze-fest. White slides with black text may be the default format in both Keynote and PowerPoint, but going with the default can translate to doing the bare minimum in the eyes of your audience.

2. The amount of text on each slide is overwhelming. You have a lot to say, but if you cram it all onto one slide, you’re going to have a hard time effectively communicating your message.

3. The formatting is sloppy. Details matter – especially if there’s someone in your audience who gets caught up on minor details like font inconsistencies or images being slightly off-center.

4. You don’t separate your sections. One section after the other with no sense of transition can disorient your audience and leave them confused.

5. Too many fonts, colors, etc. – especially if they’re all being used on the same slide(s). This will only serve to distract your audience, and irritate those to whom details matter.

6. Animated transitions. Just don’t do them. In high school presentations about John Steinbeck, maybe they served to liven things up, but a professional presentation has no place for swooshing slides and shimmering text dissolves.

7 Steps to Better Keynote Presentations

If you’ve made these mistakes, don’t worry; we’ve all been there. A lack of ample preparation time or misunderstanding about your audience can result in a presentation that doesn’t quite meet up to standards, but when making that next Keynote presentation, keep these 7 tips in mind:

1. Ditch the premade Keynote templates and create a custom one for your brand. While pre-installed Keynote templates may not yet be as recognizable as those on PowerPoint, it will be fairly obvious to anyone who has ever dabbled in Keynote that your presentation is built on a default template if you use one. Not only that, but these premade templates have limitations; they aren’t built for your presentation and brand needs, which means their layouts and structure may clash with your needs as a presenter. 

If you have a graphic designer in-house, have them put together a brand-spankin’-new template for your organization. Otherwise, hiring a freelancer with expertise in Keynote design will prove to be well worth the one-time (or more, depending on your needs) investment. Give them one of your existing proposals or presentations to work off of so they know what kind of slide formats you need. The resulting template should align with your brand in terms of font, colors, image treatments, etc. This will help both to define a presentation style for your brand that is without a doubt yours while also limiting the opportunity for inconsistencies in those minor details mentioned earlier.

2. Differentiate slide layouts. If every slide’s title, subtitle, body text, and image(s) are in the same place, the repetitiveness may bore your audience and cause them to mix up certain subjects. Changing up the slide layout can help prevent this. Take your title text and move it to the left instead of center, and format the rest of the slide accordingly so that it looks good. Perhaps split your slide up to have one side colored in with a brand color and text on top of it, then add an image to the other half of the slide. For ideas on how to creatively format your slides, take a look at other companies' decks on SlideShare.

3. Less (on the slide) is more. This is generally truer for presentations than for formal proposals – especially if the latter is in response to a highly-structured RFP. Regardless, if you have a major point you need to communicate, sometimes it’s best to position it on its own slide rather than stick it on top of a whole bunch of other content. If your overall selling point is that your product will save customers 50% when compared with competitors, putting that on its own slide will make it much likelier that your audience receives that specific message, as compared with making it one of several bullets about your products’ benefits.

If you’re going to present this Keynote in person, leave less on the slide than what you plan to actually say. Presentation software like Keynote and PowerPoint is meant to complement in-person presentations, not overshadow or distract from them.

4. Buffer slides. Help distinguish between topics within your presentation. If you’re giving a report on company performance, moving straight from goals into actual performance without any transition may, as previously mentioned, confuse your audience. A simple buffer slide before each topic with title text like “2016 Goals” or “Performance Updates” makes clear to viewers or readers what the upcoming section contains.

5. The Align and Distribute tools are your best friends. Even with the smart guides that appear when you manually align images or shapes, these elements on a slide can easily find their way off-center or in an unaligned position after you’ve updated the slide with additional information or moved things around in a haste. Even clicking on an object a little too forcefully can nudge it out of place. When combing through your presentation to make any last tweaks and updates, make sure to use the Align and Distribute tools on all objects to ensure that they are placed properly.

6. Make it visual. While bulleted slides should still make an appearance in your Keynote deck, changing up the formatting by adding visual elements like icons or charts will serve to retain your audience’s interest and help them understand key points easier. In many cases, you can use basic Keynote shapes, tables, and charts to create a beautiful visual, but if you want something more intricate, you may consider purchasing Toolbox for Keynote. The app is free to download, but $49.99 will get you the full suite of resources, providing you with access to more than 5,000 elements for Keynote, including layouts, infographics, and icons. Using these designer-made resources can significantly improve the visual appeal of your presentation or proposal. Just make sure to tweak any resources you use so that they match your brand.

7. Consistency, consistency, consistency. We cannot overstate the importance of making sure that everything – from font size, to position of your page numbers, to bullet color – is consistent from slide to slide. While, as mentioned previously, you do want to change up slide layout and reorganize the placement of elements like images and body text, you need to make sure that those elements are consistent across every slide that matches your individual slide layout.

Better Keynote Decks = Better Impressions

At the end of the day, your Keynote deck should give viewers the best possible impression of your business, and keeping in mind these tips is a way to make sure that it leaves your audience wowed.

Are there any tips I’ve missed? Let me know in the comments!