Bulleted PowerPoint slides (with images)

Class, Slide sets

The newest approach to slide presentations asks that the presenter create attractive slides that refrain from bullets or too much text. The burden shifts away from the slides and over to the presenter to tell the audience the story of the information. The slides serve mainly as visual reinforcement.

It’s a terrific idea, but sometimes an instructor or a boss is going to demand bulleted slides. The trick becomes honoring the request and the new approach, both. Here’s what a well-designed PowerPoint presentation needs:  great ideas and a slide design that does not get in the way.

Here’s what goes wrong: too much text on a slide, gratuitous animations, predictable clip art, and illegible fonts. In order to avoid accusations of “death by PowerPoint,” do your future audiences a favor and learn a few ways to set your slides apart from the bad, the worse, and the truly awful.

Good slide presentations begin on paper. Determine your overall message and sketch the possible ways you can break your information into reasonable sections. Brainstorm some possible images that could act as a metaphor for your topic. Start doodling these images into the blocks of text you have decided you need. Whatever image you choose, it needs to be simple enough to be seen from the back row of the room you will present in, strong enough to be noticed, and readily understood as part of your message.

You may have seen from my own slide sets here on the blog that I have a preference for slides with photographs (see my posts on Verbs, Quotations, and Conclusions, for example) and. Where possible, I try to avoid bullets. However, in order to provide examples, I have to have text. It’s a balancing act. But what if my preference for white and bright isn’t what you want?

Here is a slide I made for an environmental engineer presenting on the need for new Army regulations regarding greenhouse gases and climate change issues:

The slide is built from (1) a photograph, (2) a gray rectangle, and (3) the client’s text. These next several slides show how I did it:

So, what happens if you skip the image and color planning? This:

It’s crowded and dull, isn’t it? Imagine the effect that will have on your instructor or a boss!

One last thought:  It might seem more streamlined a process to compose your slides directly in PowerPoint, but working on paper first lets your mind wander and your plans change. Once you’ve put a few hours into tweaking an image, it can be too difficult to admit you’ve got the wrong one and start again.

What if you don’t find an image that suits your presentation or you are too pressed by a deadline? For an example of how to have good slide design without pictures, go here.