Last week, a workshop participant asked me who I hired to design my materials. At first, I thought she was joking. When she assured me that she wasn’t making fun of me, and that she loved my design, I taught the participants these simple techniques. Here’s how you use color-coding to make dense information feel less complicated:

  • Outline your presentation and organize the content into sections
  • Color-code the slides
  • Color-code the accompanying handout

I just finished prepping for a 3-hour webinar on dashboard design. It doesn’t start for a few hours so I feel ahead of the game, ha! Since that webinar is fresh on my mind, I’ll use the slides and handout as the example in today’s post. For this upcoming webinar, I want to transfer as much of my dashboard knowledge as possible to the audience. There’s a lot of content! This is where consistent color-coding comes to the rescue.

 

Outline Your Presentation and Organize the Content into Sections

I outline every presentation before sitting down to create any slides or handouts. Don’t skip this step!!! Your goal is to organize your jumbled thoughts into a few clear sections, or chapters. Then, choose a different color for each section. Can you spot the blue, orange, red, and green sections?

Ann K. Emery suggests outlining every presentation before sitting down to create any slides or handouts. Your goal is to organize your jumbled thoughts into a few clear sections, or chapters.

 

Color-Code Your Slides

I created 78 slides, added PowerPoint Sections, and color-coded each section in a different hue. Can you spot the blue, orange, red, and green sections? The chapter divider slides, the slide titles, and the slide footers have a solid filled background with white text.

Ann K. Emery recommends creating all of your slides, grouping them into sections, and color-coding each section in a different hue. Can you spot the blue, orange, red, and green sections of the presentation? The chapter divider slides, the slide titles, and the slide footers have a solid filled background with white text.

 

Color-Code Your Handout

Finally, I created a separate handout to accompany the presentation. My handout is not just a copy of my slides, PDF’d. It’s a standalone document that captures key points from the slidedeck.

The first page contains the outline, color-coded of course:

Ann K. Emery suggests making a separate handout to accompany your presentation. This is the first page of the handout. It's an outline with color-coding for each section.

Within each section, the Header 1 text, Header 2 text, and diagrams are all color-coded:

Ann K. Emery suggests making a separate handout to accompany your presentation. This is another page from that handout. The second section is orange in both the slides and in the handout.

 

Consistent color-coding across materials signals that a new section is beginning, which breaks up dense content and makes it feel less complicated. You can use this technique in presentations or in reports. (And hey, you might even fool someone into thinking that you paid a professional to design your presentation!)