Xero is a New Zealand based cloud-based accounting software platform focused on making accounting simpler, faster, and more fun. Their design-led approach to software development carries through to all of their communications collateral and they are one of our favorite places to go for presentation design inspiration.

Every investor deck, road show presentation, and keynote is an excellent case-study in information visualization, layout, and design detailing. We took a deep-dive into their decks and compiled our top 9 takeaways. For all the videos below, hit play to go straight to slide we’re referencing.

1. Integrate text, illustrations, and icons

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with a beautiful font, perfectly typeset, all by itself on a slide. But, if you’re looking to further enhance a tone, mood, energy, or concept try integrating short statements or single word slides with icons and/or illustrations. Xero does this on a transition slide in Kevin Fitzgerald’s keynote at Xerocon Brisbane while he switches over to a live demo—giving the copy enough visual interest to last the length of the login. Some of our favorite trending illustration assets are from Craftwork, LS Graphics, and UI8

2. Use the logo to make geometric decisions

Circles are the dominant geometry throughout Xero’s presentations. They strategically use them at all sizes and in a range of colors for elements like community member headshots (above), data references, maps, and image and icon backgrounds. Consistency with the use of the circle strengthens their identity and serves as a thread that ties visual elements together. This allows for diverse and dynamic layouts that still feel perfectly on brand even if they aren’t in a standard template layout.

3. Strip everything out of your charts and graphs except the main takeaway

When you hit play above, you’ll go straight to a slide series where the first three contain a heading, a single line, section title, and one data point. There’s no x or y-axis information, there’s no additional data points, there’s no legend. None of the peripheral information is necessary because it’s irrelevant to the main takeaway.

The slide is a modified screenshot of the platform in-use and highlights key insights that will help users grow their business. The audience knows this. They trust that their audience can make this leap and know that the line, all by itself, provides enough context to communicate key concepts of related to consistency and growth. There are a lot of great examples of this throughout Xero’s presentations.

4. Layer UI with illustrations and photo realistic images

How often are you spinning your wheels tyring to come up with innovative ways to show product processes and features? The secret is to focus on the nature of the feature. This three column layout instantly communicates a multi-step process and the layered look further details the expense management workflow starting at the center with snapping an image of the receipt with your phone.

From here, they lose the phone (we already know we’re talking about mobile capabilities so there’s no need to repeat it in each column) and focus on communicating additional capabilities and features on either side emphasize their nature with a simple but clear illustration underneath.

5. Style the details

Here, we’re focused on the map in the background. This could be styled in any number of ways: solid, outline, patterned, detailed, etc. but they’ve made the decision to use circles that are large enough to discern from a distance. This references key concepts like data and users while also speaking to the circular nature of the brand mark. These types of details are an easy thing to skip over. But, when a slide design isn’t coming together or feels like it’s missing something, it might not have anything to do with the overall layout—but rather it’s just that the details of the individual parts haven’t been considered enough to make the design meaningful.

6. Don’t be afraid of video

The subtlety of the rotating earth is perfect for the content. It doesn’t distract from either the presenter or the message—and adds a captivating layer of depth to the presentation while reinforcing the concept of a global economy.

7. Make it big and pull it off the screen

Xero uses this technique a lot—you’ll notice it in #5 above.

8. Spend the time and money to source or shoot high-impact imagery

When the right copy, font choice, text placement, and image come together there’s nothing else that needs to be done to a slide.

9. Keep peripheral information conceptual

Yes, we mean the television show! Hit play below and Episode 1 will automatically jump to the end where they show us how much revenue the new layout will generate for the hotel. They use plates of sushi to represent “4 guests” alongside a nicely typeset formula, emphasizing total revenue in a cool accent color complementary to the warm hues of the sushi plates.

Do you have a favorite place for finding inspiration for your PowerPoint and Keynote presentations? If you do, we want to hear it! Share your resources in the comments below!