I’ve often been surprised at how many people create PowerPoint slides to print. Here are a couple of examples:
- Venture capitalist pitch: Sometimes these are projected, but they are often printed and handed out to the venture capitalists around the table
- Retail store sales presentation: These are often printed and handed to the store buyer.
In both situations, the audience has the power to specify exactly the information you provide — and how. One of my clients hired a venture capital pitch coach! As a result, she had very specific requirements about the size of the text, the number of slides, and what needed to be on each slide.
The problem is that you’re required to provide a lot of information in a small amount of space, so the slides become densely-packed text and graphs. This makes it hard to stand out from your many competitors. Of course, you hope that you stand out based on the information you provide, but any edge that you can get from clear points and striking graphics is worth the effort.
With printed slides, you don’t need to stick to the typical 18 point minimum text size. After all, the audience is reading the text from a sheet of paper that he or she is holding. It’s close up.
So why do people use PowerPoint at all? Why not Word — or an equivalent word processing program?
The main reason is that these proposals include a combination of text, graphs (charts) and images and PowerPoint makes layout easier than Word . You can insert charts and images in Word, of course, but many people have difficulty placing them where they want. PowerPoint, as a graphics program, makes placement easy.
One solution — use the Notes pane
In the past, I’ve recommended using a combination of the slide and the Notes pane. You create clear, visual slides and put the details in the Notes pane. Then you print the Notes pages and hand those out. I describe this process in my post, “The flipped presentation.”
This solution works in many situations where you both project the presentation and give out printed (or electronic) handouts. It’s a great solution for sending around your presentation to people who missed a meeting.
A new idea
But I recently had a new idea for people who ONLY print slides. In other words, the presentation will never be projected on a screen. And that is to make your slide the size of your paper — 8-1/2 x 11 or A4.
I wrote a couple of posts on creating posters in PowerPoint and explain how to resize a slide there:
- How to create a poster in PowerPoint 2013
- How to create a poster in PowerPoint 2007 & PowerPoint 2010
Think what a waste of paper it is to print out one typical slide per sheet of paper. Think how silly it is to squeeze everything on a small slide when you have a big sheet of paper. Yes, you can print the slide sideways, so that it takes up most of the paper, but what’s the point? When people are reading close up, you don’t need large text.
Here are a few ideas for making the switch from a typical landscape slide size to a portrait (vertical) larger slide size:
- Go into Slide Master view (View tab, Slide Master), click the top (larger) thumbnail on the left and adjust the placement of the placeholders to fully use the space. The title placeholder can probably be smaller, leaving you more room for the rest of the content. If you don’t need the footers, remove them to give you even more room for content. (This can lead to problems if you import slides that contain footers, but if you won’t do that, you should be OK.) You may want slide numbers, because you’ll be handing someone a printed document with a number of sheets of paper; if you created them in Word, you would number them. It helps your reader keep track of all the pages.
- Create a custom layout that includes a title, a text placeholder and another placeholder that can contain an image or a graph. Start with the Two Content placeholder, duplicate it, and then make adjustments. You can see my custom layout on the right. The text looks small doesn’t it? But the smallest text is 14 points, quite large for a printed document. I explain how to create a custom layout here.
- Decide on a standard format for your slides. For example, you might use the middle placeholder for charts, images and diagrams and the bottom one for text (including SmartArt). This format helps your audience know what type of information to expect on each area of the page.
Clear presentations with lots of content
With a custom slide layout like this, you can put a lot of content on a slide while keeping a clear, uncluttered look. You can stand out. Your can make your point without overwhelming your audience.
Here’s a sample slide. You aren’t seeing it full size, but remember that when printed, the smallest text size is 14 pt.
Could you use this concept for some of your printed presentations? Leave a comment and share your ideas and experiences with printed slides!