“Design Matters” Side Trip through PowerPoint


Dan Meyer has a post in his ongoing jihad to improve slideshow design and delivery where he suggests jettisoning the words in your slideshow and just use pictures while you tell the story, and give your participants the backup materials in the handout. This has a lot of appeal over handing out your slides that are full of words, then you deliver the show reading the same words on the slides, and the participants’ handouts.

I’ve been trying to move away from text based slides. Look at what happened to my entry in the Four Slide Contest when I changed it to a preso for my fellow staff members:

Four Slide:
[slideshare id=87011&doc=pp-about-me1100&w=425]

Staff Preso:
[slideshare id=95560&doc=pp-for-staff-development4563&w=425]

The words disappear, but they didn’t really. I said them instead.

So I try to do a deconstruction of my PowerPoint technique. First step, put in the outline in words using the plain vanilla default.


Next, go into the master, change the fonts. I used Century Gothic for title (sans-serif) and Century Schoolbook (serif). I got in the habit of using serif fonts for body text when I used to create a newsletter because it’s easier to read. You may have another font favorite, basically, get it out of Arial which is deadening to look at since it’s ubiquitous. Copy the outline into notes for each slide. Change the font color on the body text to white. Yes, white. I’ll explain later.


Now, we start adding the visuals. Layer photos/images over the body text leaving the title. If there is a diagram, layer that over. Set up animations, to have everything appear in the correct order. Add [Clicks] in notes and links in outline. Adjust the text, etc. to fit visuals as needed.


Print out the outline as your handout. You may prefer handing it out with the slides and the notes, but really, I’m a cheap Norwegian and I’m not going to get color copies to hand out, so the visuals will lose something. In addition, I have some animation effects (subtle, no flying letters here), that get lost. You can printout the Notes to help you in delivering the preso. The notes I have are not comprehensive because I like to speak extemporaneously and feel comfortable with a rough outline of points. These may mean this ends up being a dog of a presentation. Say on slide 2 or 3 I start listing the credentials and studies of Vygotsky, and Bloom, instead of an anecdote about learning how to cook with your grandma, it would stink.

I put the slideshows up as PowerPoints to let folks see the back end. Normally, I’m a SlideShare gal. I apologize to the Mac/Keynote world out there in advance but I felt this was necessary for transparency. I’m not betting on a huge audience, but if a Mac (or Linux) user want to see these in a format they can read, I’ll set it up on SlideShare.

by posted under practice/pedagogy | 5 Comments »    
5 Comments to

““Design Matters” Side Trip through PowerPoint”

  1. November 11th, 2007 at 10:49 am      Reply dogtrax Says:

    Good points and helpful, too.
    It’s hard to resist the urge to put the words on the screen, and then repeat it out loud. I wonder if it is a fear of the presenter (I’m gonna forget what I wanna say) or fear of the audience (they won’t retain anything I say unless I spell it out and say it out).
    Take care

  2. November 11th, 2007 at 11:03 am      Reply alicemercer Says:

    Thanks Kevin!

    I STRUGGLE to stop myself from reading slides when I do a preso. I think removing the text will be helpful to that end. Then you have to worry about reading the handout (although since it’s bullet points, it wouldn’t make sense — not that this would stop me).

    I’m thinking that really, there are two types of slideshows I’m doing, those that get delivered, those that are read. I like having slide shares for the kids to have for review (like I do rules, and show it to new kids). Those have text on them. But when I deliver stuff to the students, live, it should be voice. It’s hard because in a lab with elementary, I can’t give handouts that will be read/used effectively. I don’t know, random thoughts?

  3. November 11th, 2007 at 5:29 pm      Reply dogtrax Says:

    Good point, Alice, when you talk about two very different reasons for sharing slides and then, how would you design it for that audience. For online presentations, without the person there as a guide, the visual without the writing would be empty, and the meaning might not be clear. With the presenter present, then the visual can be the complement.

  4. November 11th, 2007 at 8:45 pm      Reply rashmi Says:

    Thats an interesting dilemma about words /pictures on slides. Here are a few ways that you can make your slides on SlideShare richer without adding too many words.

    -If you have a podcast, then add the audio to make it a slidecast
    -If you have the video, then embed into the comments for that slideshow (SlideShare now supports YouTube video embeds)

    We are considering grabbing the notes from the PowerPOint as well and showing that along with the transcript. Would that help?

    One trick I use for my own presentations which had a lot of pictures and just a few words, is to paste any notes behind the picture (so that it cannot be seen in the slideshow), but it shows up in the text transcript at the bottom of the SlideShare page.

    SlideShare cofounder

  5. November 11th, 2007 at 9:48 pm      Reply alicemercer Says:

    Thank you Kevin for coming back!

    Rashmi, I’m honored that you have taken the time to comment. I know this post was probably too long, if this method works, I obviously need to condense it down. On your idea about hiding the text, I did the same thing with hiding the words on the slide behind pics, and also by making the font white (on a white background). I was doing it to make it my handout in this case. I think you’ve done a really great thing by allowing the addition of MP3 files to SlideShares. The biggest issue is the storage of MP3s (I need to find a home for my MP3 files that can be accessed by SlideShare), and syncing the sound (which was pretty easy in my opinion). I think adding the notes would be an idea. Whatever you are doing may end up being stopgap, since you have to work within the constraints of PowerPoint (and whatever constraints Keynote has), so I admire your inventiveness. Totally cool about the YouTube embed.

    As far as making a rules SlideShow NO text, I can’t see doing that because too many students have auditory processing issues. If they just HEAR the rule, it’s could be in one ear and out the other. I think the trick will be getting the text down to a bare minimum, and adding as many quality and relevant pics as I can.

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