I recently made over some webinar slides for a client and I can honestly say that the slides were the most messed up of any I’d ever seen.
It wasn’t the content; it was the way the slides were created. Now, my client was a PowerPoint newbie, so it wasn’t really her fault.
In fact, she bought a template for a sales webinar and part of the problem was due to that template. I’m not sure where the rest of the mess came from but here are some principles that will help make your slide creation easier and faster. Your presentation will look more professional, too.
1. Set the slide size correctly before you start
I have no idea why and I’ve never seen this before, but the slide size was set to 26.667×15, which is exactly double the size of the default widescreen size. This meant that all of the fonts were huge (88pt instead of 44pt, for example). This might make sense if you’re projecting a slide onto a large screen at a live event, but my client was doing a webinar.
I didn’t pick this up right away because when I checked the Slide Size drop-down, widescreen was chosen. But when I went back and clicked Custom Slide Size, there it was, as you can see in the screenshot.
These days most projectors, screens, and TVs are widescreen and a standard-sized (4:3) presentation will make you look a little out of date. If that’s what everyone in your company uses, then you’re OK, but if you’re presenting outside, consider using a widescreen (16:9) slide. It’s been the default in PowerPoint for a while now.
My problem was that I was going to insert a lot of images and they were too small in relation to the slide. So I had to resize the slide to the default 13.333×7.5 and do a lot of fiddling with the Slide Master and individual slides.
2. Please, please use the standard layouts!
The template my client bought did away with all of the standard layouts and included only custom layouts. The problem was that my client needed some standard layouts. There was no way for her to simply add a slide title and some text or an image!
Of course, her solution was to delete the custom layout placeholders and add text boxes. You can see an example (with text changed) on the right–I’ve selected all of the objects so you can see all of the text boxes. In her case, she didn’t have much of a choice, but I see unnecessary text boxes a LOT on my clients’ slides. Unless you’re a designer, it’s best to use the layouts that come with PowerPoint. If you know how to create custom layouts, that’s a good thing, but don’t delete the default layouts. They are really pretty useful. (And if you import slides from other presentations that use those layouts, you’ll often get a mess.)
When you add text boxes on slide after slide, not only do you waste a lot of time, but your slides will look chaotic. This adds “cognitive load” for the audience and they have to figure out each slide. The information doesn’t get digested easily.
In my blog post, Create a Custom Layout, I explain the process of creating custom layouts.
I had to recreate the standard layouts and transfer a lot of the text from textboxes to placeholders–on all 98 slides. (Placeholders are the boxes that the layouts put on the slide where you can insert text, images, etc.) This process is always very time-consuming. And annoying.
3. Keep your backgrounds simple
Branding your presentation to match your website is a good idea, especially in a sales webinar where you hope people will buy the product you’re selling and end up on that website.
But be careful.
My client took an image from that website that was vertical and huge and put it on every slide to create a background. I had to zoom out to 10% to see the entire image! This meant she really didn’t know where her slide was because the image covered the slide and so much more. So she sometimes put text off the slide (but it was on the background image, so it looked like it was on the slide).
My solution was to crop the image and then insert it on the slide master. This meant deleting it from all 98 slides.
But that wasn’t all. The template came with a background and sometimes my client left that on a slide and placed her background on top. So sometimes I had to delete 2 images!
My client’s coach told her to put her logo and link on every slide. Ugh!
It really distracts from the content, especially in a sales presentation. And the link she used was her home page, not the sales page — major confusion. So, use your logo on the first and last slides. For a sales webinar, don’t use a URL until you’re at the point of making your offer and then — of course — use only the URL of the sales page.
4. Use images consistently
Try to find images that have a similar look or choose 2-3 looks. Some “looks” are:
- People with a full background, such as a nature scene behind them
- People with no background (often called “isolated”) — you can make that background transparent
- Light photos vs. dark photos
- Stock photos vs. photos you take yourself
In the same way, you want to choose 2-3 treatments. For example:
- A slight shadow
- A white border and rotation (snapshot look)
Try for some consistency in where you put images on a slide, as well.
You want some variety, but without getting that chaotic look. It’s a balancing act.
Also, make sure images aren’t fuzzy when you look at them in Slide Show view. Fuzzy images are a sure way to project an unprofessional impression!
5. Be consistent with fonts and text
The slide master used Helvetica fonts. (This is a Mac font and my client was working on Keynote on a Mac. That created other issues, but they aren’t part of a typical situation.)
But her slides used Garamond for slide titles and some slide text and Helvetica for the rest. It was quite a mishmash. I’ve seen professionally designed slides that combined a serif font (like Garamond) and a sans-serif font, but I think it looks odd.
Of course, she manually changed the font on many slides — again a time waster.
Another common problem I see is inconsistent capitalization. Again, it looks unprofessional.
I prefer “Sentence case” for slide titles and definitely for text on the body of the slide.” This means that the first letter is capitalized and the rest is not (like this sentence). The reason I like Sentence case is that it makes the text easier to read and comprehend. When you use Title Case (each word capitalized), Each Capital Letter Is Like a Little STOP Sign for the Audience, notifying them that each word is important. This makes it harder to quickly read through the entire phrase or sentence. I’ve read that there’s some evidence that people read Title Case more slowly.
I think Title Case has its place. On the first slide, for the name of your presentation, Title Case makes the presentation topic seem more important. And the first slide is usually on the screen for a while. For certain types of calls to action, Title Case commands a little more attention. (This is true on websites, too.) Title Case looks more formal while Sentence case looks more casual and friendly.
A little forethought and planning will save you loads of time and give you better results. If you’re making changes on every slide, you’re doing something wrong!
What do you think about Title Case vs. Sentence case for slide titles? Have you had to redo a messy presentation? What challenges do you face in keeping the presentation building process simple? Leave a comment and please use the Share buttons to help others!
And if you are an active presenter, you may consider a remote control for PowerPoint. Something like Fonprompt.