How to make sense with your slides?

Slide design is a fascinating subject where one’s creativity can be expressed almost limitlessly. But don’t forget that the majority of us who design slides have not studied fine arts, or graphic design at school. And if the majority of slides we see are totally ineffective, it is not just a matter of design and creativity issues. In addition to a previous tip, where we addressed the question: “what are slides for?” it is essential to change the way presentations are conceived. Though everyone seems to agree with this assessment it is curious to see so much resistance when it comes to concretely changing the manner in which to proceed. The excuses are generally always the same: “Yes but in my case it’s not the same”, “I don’t have the right computer,” “I wasn’t given enough time …”

This resistance can be explained by the fact that slides are heavily misused. Initially, they were a support for speakers, to help the public understand and assimilate the message. Little by little, to reassure or due to lack of time, slides have become a sort of memo vaguely formatted to allow the speaker to have everything he wants to say in front of him. By positioning himself as a commentator of his slides, the speaker gains in comfort what his loses in leadership. But unfortunately it is very easy to get caught up in this method, which is as detrimental to the transmission of ideas as it is to the development of people.

Would you like to know if this advice concerns you? Imagine yourself giving your next presentation. Two minutes before starting, you learn that you cannot project your slides… Who is more bothered? You or your audience?

To make your slides meaningful, they must serve your remarks. Don’t create your presentation directly on PowerPoint. Either with post-its or your word processor, you must first build your speech. Do this as if there were no slides. You’ll see that you’ll avoid the first fault of “PowerPoint thinking”: sequencing your remarks too much into compartments with parts and subparts… By going through the step of building your speech you will make more transitions allowing you to change more easily from an analytical structure to a narrative structure.

Then, since you know that everything you say won’t be remembered, highlight the key messages. This way you build the plan of your slides: everything that needs to be retained is to be displayed on the screen and the rest will be inserted into the speaker’s comment box.

Once the speech is put into your favorite presentation software, the design phase can begin. The objective is to lend credibility to your remarks and to strengthen memorization. It is therefore essential to put as little as possible onto the slides. Thus you avoid having text, graphics and images all stuffed together on one slide. To test whether adding an element will be meaningful, ask yourself why you want to add it. If the answer is: “to change things a bit,” or “because I like it,” or “because it’s funny,” then don’t add it.