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Tag Archives: Slide Design

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Finding beauty all around you

 

In a previous post (PowerPoint Design Best Practice) I discussed my #1 tip for creating beautiful and compelling presentation slides:

PPT Essential Design Principle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just one problem – where to find fabulous backgrounds and images? Although there are lots of “free” image sites online, I have found that many of these tend to be over-used and/or not what I’m looking for. Stock images are a great option and alternative, but subscriptions can be costly.

Believe it or not, you don’t have to be a professional photographer to create your own gorgeous images. Composing and capturing the “perfect shot” is far from easy, but there is great beauty in the tiny details that surround us every day. Here are some examples of pictures I’ve taken that I can’t wait to use in future presentations. The extreme close-up strategy makes it easy even for rank amateurs like me to create my own image stock with a borrowed camera during a morning walk.

 

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3 + 3 ‘Dos and Don’ts’ for Slideware Best Practices (plus a bonus tip)

 

Text-heavy slides + presenter’s commentary = missed opportunity. That’s because audiences experience “channel interference” when they’re confronted with text on a screen in tandem with spoken commentary. It’s challenging to both read and listen at the same time. (Like, for example, Saturday morning when you’re immersed in the weekend paper and significant other wants to chat.)

Even worse is reading the text directly from your slides, because people can read silently faster than you can read out loud (plus that announces to the audience that you are actually redundant, assuming that they can read your slides for themselves). On the other hand, seeing an image plus listening to a person speak does not create this channel interference, and engages us both visually and aurally.

 

In a nutshell, here are my 3 + 3 key ‘Dos and Don’ts’ for Slideware Best Practices:

DO break up complex diagrams and visual illustrations into “chunks” offered over a series of slides, and/or provide a handout of the entire image.

DO use an image scaled to cover the whole slide, perhaps accompanied by minimal text (or just a single word or phrase).

DO proofread your slides. Then go back and proofread them again.

DON’T put the content of your talk on your slides. That’s what handouts are for.

DON’T use PowerPoint templates and clip art. These look retro – and not in a good way.

DON’T use text animations. Unless you are a creative director for an ad agency with a big budget, and even then think twice.

 

Bonus tip: If you ever hear yourself apologizing for any [easily preventable] part of your presentation (for example, slides unreadable from the back of the room, random typos, content on a slide that you don’t really understand), chalk it up to presentation karma…and gather these nuggets of feedback for your cache of hard-earned wisdom.

 

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Making the world a happier place, one slide at a time

 

The vast majority of slideware is used as speakers’ notes. Probably because:

  1. It’s comforting to have what I’m going to say right there on a big screen, just in case I forget
  2. I’m inspired by images, but I frame my thinking in words. It’s easier to type a list of bullet points than it is to locate the one perfect picture that tells a story
  3. I’m not trained in graphic design or visual arts, so putting together clean and compelling slideware compositions doesn’t come naturally
  4. It can be hard to access high quality art and photography.

The work of Garr Reynolds and his Presentation Zen has been instrumental in my own PowerPoint makeovers (“The Good, Bad and Ugly of PowerPoint”).

In addition, tools like Haiku Deck offer a polished and visually compelling alternative to traditional slideware applications.

 

What’s the take-home message? What does it all boil down to? Here is my one-sentence “best practice” for slide design:

 

PPT Essential Design Principle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Imagine if every slide in every presentation looked this way? The world would be a happier place.

 

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Slideware 101: Tips and Resources

 

We’ve all been there: the uncomfortable chairs, the slightly darkened room, and slide after slide after slide. Each one identically bullet-ed, punctuated by the occasional graph and the speaker stating, “I know that you can’t read this, but…”.

 

The almost ubiquitous use of slideware has rigidified knowledge communication, and the sad part is that somewhere buried in the bullet points and boredom is someone’s singular message, lost. Not only that, sometimes the consequences of information presented poorly can be devastating.

 

Edward Tufte, a Yale University Professor Emeritus and visionary in information design and data visualization, wrote an influential essay – posted online – pointing to the use of PowerPoint slide decks in NASA engineering briefings as a contributing factor in the 2003 Columbia space shuttle disaster. In their report, the Columbia Accident Investigation Board concluded that the distinct cognitive style of PowerPoint reinforced the hierarchical filtering and biases of the NASA bureaucracy during the crucial period when the Columbia was injured but still alive”. The take-away? Templates that structure information into bullet points can obscure nuance and interrelationships within and between knowledge domains.

 

The way I see it, it’s not slideware that’s the problem, it’s how it is used. Done well, visuals (whether video or static images) can add impact and interest to a presentation. But the design tools and templates of PowerPoint et al. are generally used by folks who have never learned design. Thus we end up with…

 

PC World Article: Worst PPT Presentations

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PC World: Worst PPT Presentations

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can check out the full article with more examples here.

 

I too have been guilty of multitudinous slideware sins, and found redemption in Garr ReynoldsPresentation Zen, and accompanying resources and slide decks. I especially like the PowerPoint “Before and After” demos to illustrate how good design can transform our visual communication.

 

In a nutshell: 

Simplicity is key to good design. Images trump words. Fewer words are better than a lot of words.

 

Here a couple of my own PowerPoint makeovers, inspired by Reynolds’ work.

 

This slide attempts to summarize (via text) the information and context that should be delivered in a narrative elaboration of the simplified (after) slide

Motivational Interviewing Processes: Before

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Motivational Interviewing Processes: After

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This was from a slide deck on presentation skills, and offers a good example of how slides and handouts should be two different things

Presentation Skills: Before

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Presentation Skills: After

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was quite proud of this next slide, which had lots of text animations (shudder). The second slide conveys the “ACE” acronym via the image

Motivational Interviewing "Spirit": Before

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Motivational Interviewing "Spirit": After

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Follow this link for more examples of PowerPoint Makeovers.

 

 

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