Slide Design in 2009: Changes

Created: Friday, January 9, 2009, posted by Geetesh Bajaj at 4:58 am



Life changes every day, and the world goes around. And even if we did nothing, said nothing, or put ourselves in the deep depths of contentment, change will still happen. Change is akin to growth — and that growth might be a sapling sprouting from its seed or a conglomerate increasing its reach in world markets.

Both the sapling and the conglomerate can use PowerPoint slides in different ways — and that’s the ironical twist in the tale that brings me to the subject of this blog post. Before I tell you where PowerPoint slides come in the picture, let me share some info about the inspiration for this post.

Olivia Mitchell of the Speaking about Presenting blog sent me a note about this new group blog initiative that she was spearheading to collect opinions about PowerPoint design changes in 2009. I had just got back from vacation, was writing my next book, and had a full inbox! But Olivia was persistent — and she even responded to my request to view posts by others.

Ellen Finkelstein, a dear friend says “design” rhymes with “2009”. And half a dozen posts later, I knew I had different (but not opposing) opinions than the rest — so I got started with this post.

So now about PowerPoint slide design, and what I am hoping will change in 2009. I kept my list very simple with ideas you can use straightaway — if this helps, do come back and read this post again because most of my thoughts seem to indicate that “repeat” is a great word! Of course, feel free to comment on that as well.

Something, Nothing, and Everything: First of all, as I mentioned earlier change happens if you do something — or if you do nothing. However, that statement is not an incentive to do nothing, but it certainly does indicate that don’t do too much. I think at some time or the other, we all fall in the trap of doing too much, getting loads of info on our slides, and drowning the actual message of the presentation with gobbledygook. Not doing too much is probably the easiest thing we can do to make better slides, and it might also be the most effective part. By all means though, keep all that extra info, and try to make this supporting info available as handouts or downloads. Since you end up with less content, you can spend more time on the design of your slides.

Think Ahead of Time: If you don’t spend enough time creating the message and flow of your presentation, it shows in the design as well. I know there may be occasions when you are hard-pressed for time — in that case, make concept slides you have to use often even before you know you have to design or deliver a presentation.

Start with Paper: Always start your presentation on paper — draw your ideas, link relationships between concepts, and create a storyboard. Take another sheet of paper, redo the entire thing — this time, remove all unwanted info, and fine-tune further. Repeat as often as required — show this to a trusted colleague or friend, and use their opinions where relevant. Think of the entire presentation from the audience point of view, and make more changes. This process will create an effective slide design in your mind — subconsciously. It just works!

Next, the Computer: Now move the concept to the computer — and don’t start with PowerPoint yet. Use a mind mapping application if you are comfortable with it, or just use Notepad or Microsoft Word — create a sequence and flow between successive concepts. Rethink, reorder, and reorient as required — repeat as often as you want. This keeps your design clean.

Read more books in 2009: Get to read more books in 2009, but don’t think they are the end-all. Consider them as inspiration to learn more, think about presenting concepts, and experiment with your design. I’ll recommend these books:

Categories: design, opinion, powerpoint

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1 Comment

  • Geetesh… Your comments are right on the mark. I’m a public speaking coach. I coach my clients that the construction and verbal message are the essences of the substantive part of a presentation. The visuals, such as PowerPoint, support the presenter’s image goals and verbals, and must be in sync with the verbal message to avoid confusion.

    I agree with you that a presenter first should construct the presentation, outline it, then storyboard it.

    Because working memory can only process 3 to 5 bits of information, slides should have limited information: a compelling, meaningful graphic; a short headline representing the core idea of the slide; and a non-distracting, background.

    More of this information will be in my program “Compelling PowerPoint Presentations–Three Dirty Little Secrets the PowerPoint Pros Won’t Tell You” coming out this year.

    I appreciate your talent and insights. Keep up the good work.

    Allan Misch
    http://www.nosweatspeaking.com
    “Your next presentation doesn’t have to make you sweat!”

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