It’s all in the colors you choose (and use)

I'm going to guess that most of us have watched someone give a PowerPoint presentation and had to squint our eyes or lean forward in our chairs because we were having trouble READING what was being projected. If this hasn't happened to you, well, you're lucky to be an exception!

Often times we can give credit for these struggles to poor color choices in the presentation. (Now, this doesn't include any of the delivery blunders we see, but that's a different section in this newsletter! Here, we stick to visuals.) Anyway, my point is...color makes a huge impact on the effectiveness of our slides.

A couple of things I'll share with you here, and then some great links so you can do some further exploring on your own:

Let's talk about CONTRAST
If you don't have enough, you're gonna be in trouble. If you want the audience to be able to read what's on the slide, you need to make sure you have enough contrast between the text or object on the slide and the slide's background. A common mistake that's made is that we assume what our presentation looks like on the monitor is how it's going to look when it's projected. But frankly, that just ain't the case. Try two things, project your presentation in the setting it will be used in (a dark room if you're lucky, but more often these days, it will be shown in a conference room with windows and all the lights on.) So take the presentation and the projector, set it up and test it. Is there enough contrast between your text and the background? On every slide? If you don't have access to the projector, try dimming the settings on your monitor. This is another test we use on our presentations to be sure there is enough contrast.

Color and the EMOTION it can evoke
Here's a table I've seen a number of times on color. I generally agree with this, but have added a column of comments to make this even more helpful:

Color Association Comments
Red Excitement, warmth, energy, passion, indebtedness, danger Using the right shade of red can make a really interesting and powerful background
Orange Warmth, earthiness Orange can be tricky, be sure you test it before using it as a background. It is probably a better accent color.
Yellow Warmth, comfort, cheerfulness, youth, richness This is a color that can be difficult to project. If you choose yellow for a background, be sure you preview it first with a projector before using it in a live presentation
Green Growth, fertility, nature, life, security, calmness, quiet, money Greens that have more blue in them are safer for projecting than greens with more yellow -- they tend to look muddy when projected.
Blue Serenity, restfulness, rationality, detachment, coolness, corporate There is a reason this is the most popular color for presentation backgrounds, it’s safe and projects really well.
Purple Royalty, luxury, power What can I say, purple is my favorite color! It makes a great background color too.
Brown Earthy, organic, quality This is probably the color most affected by projectors. It can be very difficult to find a shade of brown that projects well.
Black Nobility, luxury, power If you choose black as a background, be absolutely sure the other colors you use have enough contrast to project well.
White Purity, truth White works well when you want a clean and simple design. It’s also a safe choice when you’re projecting in a room with the lights on.
Gray Formality, neutrality, coldness, drabness If you go with gray, be sure the other colors you choose in your palette have some energy or your presentation may be pretty drab.


Here is another table that I find just fascinating. It can help you decide which colors to choose depending on your audience.

How Different Audiences Interpret Colors

Financial Managers Health Care Professionals Control Engineers
Blue Corporate, reliable Dead Cold, water
Cyan Cool, subdued Cyanotic, deprived of oxygen Steam
Green Profitable Infected, bilious Safe
Yellow Highlighted item, important Jaundiced Caution
Red Unprofitable Healthy Danger

Source: Harry Mills, author of Artful Persuasion: How to Command Attention, Change Minds and Influence People


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