The S.L.I.D.E. System: Your 5-Step Guide to an Effective Pitch Deck

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February 16, 2023

Have you heard of the “knowing-doing gap”? It’s the disconnect between knowing something and putting it into practice.

I was reminded of this recently when delivering in-house training to a team. I asked the group what they thought made for an effective presentation.

Nearly everyone mentioned something about slides.

  • Not having too much information on them

  • Trying to avoid reading from the slide deck

  • Keeping the number of slides to a minimum

But when it came to our first exercise, to deliver a short presentation they’d prepared in advance, almost everyone:

  • Had too much detail on their slides

  • Were reading straight from their slides

  • Had too many slides in their presentation

In theory, we know what makes a good presentation. But there’s a gap when it comes to taking action and applying those principles ourselves.

Why are we so afraid to “step away from the slides”?

We often end up treating our pitch deck as a crutch. It’s the fear that if you reduce the amount of information on your slides, you’ll flounder, get stuck and won’t be able to deliver the presentation at all. But that’s not the case!

The slides should always be the accompaniment to your presentation rather than the main feature.

It’s easy to say you should cut down on your content. But how do you know what information should go in your slide deck? How many slides should you use? What’s essential, and what can you leave out?

To help you with this, I’ve created the S.L.I.D.E. system, a handy 5-point guide to figuring out exactly what to put in your slides for a more effective, engaging and quality PowerPoint presentation.

Here’s how it works:

S - (Keep it) SIMPLE

If your slides are too busy and information-packed, your audience will end up overwhelmed and confused. They’ll be so focused on trying to decipher the detail on your slides there’s a good chance they’ll completely miss the message you’re trying to share.

So pull back on that content, both text and visuals, and make your slides as simple and clutter-free as possible.


Whether virtually or in-person, your audience should be able to read your slides easily, even if they’re at the back of the room or viewing on a small phone screen.

Check these three things to make sure your pitch deck is legible:

1. Font type - choose a font type that’s easy to read. No quirky scripts or elaborate swirls. And keep to a maximum of two different font types - one for headings and one for the main body of text.

2. Font colour - Use a plain, clear colour for your body text, with good contrast. E.g. black/dark grey on a light background or white text on navy.

3. Font size - make sure it’s large enough to see, even from a distance. For the main body of your text, 24 or 28 points is a good size to aim for. This also has the positive side effect of reducing the amount of information you can fit on the slide!


Stick to one idea per slide. All those ideas should then connect to create the overarching message of your presentation.

Breaking it down like this helps to avoid information overload and makes it much easier for your audience to process your key insights.


Most presentation tools have a vast range of features to jazz up your pitch deck. The trick is to use them sparingly. For example, if you include transitions or animations in your slides, keep them subtle. You don’t want pieces of text or images jumping all over the place and detracting from your message.

Go easy on the effects, add plenty of white space and room to breathe for your content, and you’ll have a design that’s easy on the eye, making it simple for the audience to absorb the information you’re delivering.


Consistency with font type, size and colours will give your presentation a polished and professional look. But that doesn’t mean every slide has to look the same, e.g. picture on the left, text on the right, centred heading. That gets stale very quickly.

Change it up a bit and introduce some variety into your pitch deck while maintaining that basic framework to keep your audience engaged throughout.

Your slides are not the main event

Always prepare your slides last.

1. First, determine exactly what you’ll be covering in your presentation, the main points and how you’ll structure them.

2. Then create the slides to add value to your content.

Slides help your audience better understand your points and make it easier to remember the information you’re sharing. They are designed to support and facilitate your message. But they aren’t the main event. You are!

More resources to help you structure an effective presentation

For more tips and advice on putting together a powerful and polished presentation, check out these three blog posts.

Your 5-Step Guide to Planning Powerful Presentations

The 3 R's of Storytelling: Use Them Wisely for a Powerful Presentation

Humour Is a Powerful Public Speaking Tool: Here’s How to Use It Effectively



I'm Maureen McCowen and I work with individuals and teams to help them unlock their speaking confidence.

To explore how this can support you or your team, email me or call 087 2808734


Maureen McCowen, Presentation Skills Specialist, (087) 280-8734