Replace words with images in your slide decks

slide decks Mar 10, 2021
Great slides make great slide shows

Now, at last, finally… you get to create your slides. I’m sure some of you have been itching to get creative but, believe me, it’s worth delaying the slide building process until you’ve really focussed your ideas.

And don’t fixate on words. Think more about images. See how far you can go in finding images that will replace words. The folks behind the stunningly popular TED Talks believe that when your slides rock, your whole presentation comes to life.

They even suggest that none of their speakers should include a slide containing more than six words. How would your last slide deck stand up to the six word test?

In the picture (top) David Epstein created a clean, simple slide deck to illustrate his TED Talk on the changing bodies of athletes.

Here are some tips for what great slides should look like.

Have a simple, clean design. Avoid clutter, especially masses of text.

Use pictures as much as possible. One big picture per slide is very effective. Simplicity is key in our busy world.

Vary your visuals. In addition to pictures, use videos, or audio over a picture. Be creative.

Make sure you have lots of white space around text on slides, so the words stand out clearly.

Avoid lists of text or slides with multiple bullet points.

If you need bullet points, aim for no more than five words per bullet (fewer if possible) and use the reveal button to animate each point on to the screen.

Use the reveal button to manage the flow of visual information to the audience. You don’t want them reading ahead of you. Reveal one point. Then talk about that point. Then reveal the next point. Talk about it. Keep revealing then speaking until you’ve gone through all your points. That way people will focus on listening to you, the slides will reinforce your words, and the audience will not be tempted to skip ahead.

Keep your animations simple. No spins, bursts, bounces or spirals. Stick with the ‘appear’ animation.

Avoid too much information on a single slide. Have only 1 key point or idea per slide.

Beware of ‘Slideuments’ or ‘Docuslides’.  These are slides pretending to be a documents. And they really should be documents. If a new policy, or safety regulation, or legal opinion requires careful reading and re-reading, then it needs to be a document. A slide could give a headline about the new policy, but a slide is not the medium to lay out all the details. If you need to give your audience a document, give to to them as a handout or email afterwards.

So far we’ve looked at the particular problems with bullet points, we’ve looked at a planning process that builds the slides last, and we’ve looked at ideas for making slides communicate more effectively.

In the next blog, I’ll share a few key tips for ensuring your presentation skills do justice to your powerful new slides.