Make your slides worth of showing them

Creative Commons: http://j.mp/1b4RcfA
Creative Commons: http://j.mp/1b4RcfA

Since two weeks, I’m back on the school bench: I’m taking a wine course from the SAQ, and a photography one from Collège Marsan (in French). One is helping me properly use my DSLR to make better picture, and the other one to take my wine love to the next level. Since I’m on the other side of the mic, I noticed some pattern in their visual help that made me cringe. I thought it could be a good opportunity to share my personal slides creation guidelines.

  • Slides are visual help for attendees: this one is not about the creation of your slide, but still related. Please don’t read your slides: why would I need you to present on this topic if I can just read your content? If you need some reminders, most software has a speaker notes section to help you remember specific points of your presentation.
  • Too much text is too much: this one is kind of related to the first one, but even if you don’t read your slides, please don’t go crazy with the text. There is nothing wrong to add some quotes, some bullet point lists, but when your presentation is mostly made of text, it’s not interesting for the audience. I don’t have a specific rule as I use the common sense, but let’s say one text slide every seven (ish) slides is a big maximum.
  • Leave some space of the four sides of the slide: you never know how the projector will react to your content, so I would say leave at least 10% of the space empty at the top, bottom, right, and left corner of your slides. If the projector is cutting the content, or the projection surface is not good enough, you’ll be safe.
  • Everything should be big enough: get into the skin of the attendee at the back of the room, will it see your content? Be sure that your content, all of it, is large enough for everyone in the room.
  • Make your content breathe: you have enough space in your slide to make your content breathe. If it isn’t the case, maybe it’s because you have too much content, and you should remove some, or split it in more slides. It may be easy for you to follow the slide as you created it, but think about the attendee who is new to the topic you are talking about.
  • Use quality images/photos: forget small, blurry or low quality images as pictures. If you can’t find something better, just don’t use it: those crappy images won’t help attendees get your point.
  • You don’t need an Internet connection: this tip is for all your presentations. Don’t trust any conference Internet connection. Even if the organizers tell you that you’ll have a good connection, prepare yourself for a second plan. If you want to show a small video, better download it to your hard disk. You want to show a website? Create a screenshot of it in case the web isn’t with you that day.
  • Slow down on animations: most presentation software has plenty of animations, and they can help you make your presentation feel a bit more alive. On the other side, too much will annoy people listening to you, and worst, may distract them from the valuable content you are sharing with them.
  • Contrast, and colors are important: I’m a bit colorblind (no, I don’t see everything in white, and black, but there are similar colors I’m mixing), and I’m not be the only one. Please use color that fit well together, and that will be easy to read once sit in the room.

So at the end, it’s not about the software you used, but how you created your presentation. Of course, there are tips about how to present that content, but do you have any other tricks about the creation of the slides you would like to share?

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