A few weeks before my talk at the Innovator’s Summit in Chicago, I stumbled upon a book called “slide:ology” by Nancy Duarte. I like to give presentations, and I think I do a decent job of avoiding text-heavy slides that put the audience to sleep (though there’s always one in every audience who just can’t keep their eyes open…) But slide:ology showed me that I have a lot to learn!
Duarte’s book confirmed what we all know – guns don’t kill people, slideuments kill people. A slideument is that bullet-ridden, text-heavy, should’ve-been-a-whitepaper, gnaw-my-arm-off-just-to-escape type of presentation that bores the audience and eviscerates the subject matter. But the book goes well beyond a “limit your bullets” approach; Duarte teaches the basic tenets of graphic design that all of us must learn if we want to give meaningful presentations.
I learned about using grids to align the content on every slide to an eye-pleasing form. It’s subtle, but your subconscious mind notices when the content moves between frames, and it can give the audience the impression that you’re scattered or unprepared. By keeping things in order, you can also break the rules to make certain elements stand out.
Another section I really loved showed how to create “scenes” in your slides, almost like framing and stringing together a series shots in a movie. By choosing careful transitions, and employing your handy-dandy grid, you can move through your presentation in an organic way, rather than jarring the audience with a barrage of seemingly unconnected images.
Bottom line: there’s a lot to absorb in this book, but it’s relatively short and very easy to read. And by employing just a few of Duarte’s ideas, I received several compliments on my slide design after the talk! It was far from perfect, but the time I did invest was well spent, as the audience clearly noticed.
All of this is to say, you should certainly check out Duarte’s webcast next week, which also offers free online access to the book for attendees. If she practices what she preaches, it’s not to be missed. If you can’t make the show, check out her design firm’s blog.