Make your slides worth of showing them

Creative Commons:

Creative Commons:

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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  1. Yes, yes, and absolutely. Great content, I couldn’t agree more.

    01/28/2014 02:03PM
  2. Additionally to the slides, clarity of how you present is key. People attending an event want to hear you, that means that you need to speak up. Be enthusiastic, energetic, and confident in your mannerisms. You may fumble on a word, you may absolutely miss an idea you originally wanted to say. Don’t worry, nobody knows! Simply continue on talking, if you take a break, go back, acknowledge the error, you just confirmed it.

    If given a microphone for the talk, use it. It’s not a drum stick, marker, pointer, or magic stick… well, not magic in THAT sense. Rest the mic on your chin. This will ensure two things; first that it will always be in front of your mouth even when you turn from side to side addressing the audience (you’re doing that, right?) and second, it will be VERY clear audio to the speakers. An organizer and their A/V team would MUCH rather turn the volume of you down than up. Turning up means that the microphone has more of a chance to feedback but turning down gives more control over gain requirements and pitch levels.

    After your talk, ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS repeat the question. Be it in shorter format, summary or in full. Again, this is for several purposes; if the presentation is being recorded than it means that the question will be in the video / audio, other people in the audience will know what the question was, but most of all it is acknowledgement to the person asking the question that you have understood it and will do your best to answer it. Can you think of a time where you were at an event and the presenter answered a completely different question than that which was asked? This allows for the questioner to nod or re-ask in a different manner if it was miss-understood.

    01/28/2014 02:14PM
    • I agree; those are great tips for the speakers when it’s the time to use those slides, and deliver their stories, thanks.

      01/28/2014 03:54PM


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