Slide makeover: Take your introductory slide from everyday to excellent [Part 1]

Do you use a slide that introduces you as a speaker? (That is, with your name, contact details such as your company logo or Twitter handle, and often your photo on it.)

There are certainly good reasons to use that sort of slide:

  • When you’re presenting online, if people can’t see you, having a slide with your photo on it helps people engage with you and your message.
  • Even in a big in-person venue (with no video feed showing your face), putting your photo on a slide not only helps people engage, it also helps them approach you after you’ve left the stage.

I’m betting that if you do use that sort of slide, it looks a bit like the typical example below. (If it looks quite different, I’d love to hear from you in the comment box below or via @RemotePoss on Twitter.)

weekly visitors6If your speaker slide does look like that, this post and a later one will help you make it look far better:

  • In this post, you’ll see the changes that could make your slide look much more professionally designed, so you leave the best impression on your audience.
  • In a later post, you’ll find video tips that step you through making those improvements in PowerPoint.

You might be thinking:

“What’s so awful about that slide?”

And if you are, you’re right – it’s not so bad. Yet it could be a lot better.

Let me show you what I mean, and then you be the judge. (Or, try out some of the tips in this post, and then let your audiences’ feedback be the judge!)

You’ll find the following topics covered in this post:

First, integrate the slide’s elementsScroll up to Contents ↑

There’s no visual sense of the slide’s contents belonging together

The 1st thing I noticed about the slide above is that the photo seems to “float in space”, because it doesn’t touch any of the slide’s sides. In fact, there’s no visual sense of the slide’s contents belonging together, so the text and photo seem like they’ve been placed a bit arbitrarily.

(Note: Usually, I recommend you use very big photos so they touch at least 3 sides of the slide. But with a photo of yourself, doing that might put undue focus on you as the presenter, rather than on your message and on causing your audience to act.)

To fix those issues then, I like to use a tip inspired by Ellen Finkelstein (PowerPoint MVP), who uses so-called “belly bands”. So to make your photo look integrated into your slide design, as a 1st stage of the makeover, I suggest you:

  1. Place your photo so it touches the right edge of your slide.
  2. Fill the space on its left with a rectangle of the same height.
  3. Colour the rectangle so it contrasts sharply with your slide background.
  4. Change the font colour so it stays readable.

After you make those changes, your slide looks something like this:

weekly visitors9That’s getting better, because it looks like the photo’s been placed and sized deliberately, and the slide content’s strongly bound together. But you could certainly do more.

For instance, what do you think of the photo itself?

Before you read on, why not make a list of the photo’s strengths, and a list of its weak points? Then, compare your lists to mine below

What’s good about the sample photo?Scroll up to Contents ↑

Compared with many photos that you see on slides, these are the strengths I noticed in the sample shot:

  • The photo is at a high enough resolution, so it doesn’t look grainy.
  • The photo’s in proportion – rather than having been stretched

  • It’s in proportion – rather than having been stretched to fit in the desired space, as photos often are!
  • It’s quite well lit, so the colours are vivid rather than being greyish or washed out.
  • The main subject’s in sharp focus, and fills the frame fairly well.
  • The photo’s size is about right. (As a guide, I suggest you make your portrait around ½ to ⅔ of the slide’s height – though that depends on how big the whole slide will be when you project it.)
  • In the shot, I’m looking at a slight angle, which is a technique many professional photographers use (rather than having the person in the shot facing straight ahead).

What’s not so good about the sample photo?Scroll up to Contents ↑

weekly visitors9Below are the photo’s weak points, as I see them – listed (roughly) from most to least crucial. (I’ve shown the same slide again here, so hopefully you can see it and the list at the same time, without scrolling.)

  • You can’t see my eyes (because I’m squinting in bright sunlight). So the presentation audience is much less likely to trust me!
  • The photo’s background is distracting (because it’s big, and nearly in focus).
  • One side of my face is too dark to see clearly. (Having slight shadow on one side makes a natural-looking shot, but dark shadows are a bad idea!)
  • Usually, a square isn’t a good shape for a photo of a person. (A rectangle would let you crop your photo more closely to your face.)
  • Tightly crop your photo so there’s less space above your head than below your chin

  • I’m facing away from the slide’s centre, thereby seeming to make poorer eye contact with the viewer. (Ideally, just flip the photo. Or, as a 2nd-best option, use a shot where you’re looking straight at the camera.)
  • The composition is boring! That’s because I’m almost perfectly centred in the shot. (If you tightly crop your photo so there’s less space above your head than below your chin, you’d add far more visual interest.)

What about the text?Scroll up to Contents ↑

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What do you think of the slide’s text? To me, the main issue with it is that it’s “monotone”. In other words, because it’s all formatted the same way, it’s like hearing words spoken in a monotone voice.

What’s the 1st word that springs to mind when you hear the word “monotone”? I’m guessing you instantly think:

“Boring!”

That’s not exactly an adjective you’d like people to think of when they look at your own slides, and – above all – not when your name and photo’s on the slide!

It’s not just dull – it’s also harder to understand

Just like hearing a monotone voice is boring, seeing monotone text is boring. And it’s not just dull – it’s also harder to understand. That’s because, with no emphasis on certain words on the slide, your audience must process it sequentially, trying to work out what to focus on. They might wonder:

“Is your name the main focus, because that comes first? And so is your job title next most important, and the Twitter handle the least crucial? Or, is the order arbitrary?”

They might just do that subconsciously, but even so, why make them work at all to interpret your slide? Instead, why not do as Rhonda Abrams suggests? In her great book, Winning Presentation in a Day, she says:

“Decide what’s important so your
audience doesn’t have to!” Tweet this

In my case, I decided my name’s the key piece of text on the slide, with my Twitter handle as the secondary bit of text. So during the makeover, I formatted my name in the biggest font size, and the handle as next biggest. I also formatted both of them as bold text.

There’s a striking contrast in size between each level

Lastly, I made sure there’s a striking contrast in size between each level of the resulting hierarchy in the text. That way, viewers will be clear on what each item’s ranking is.

The makeoverScroll up to Contents ↑

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So what do all the suggestions above look like on the slide? Well, here’s the original slide, so you can easily compare how it’s changed. And below, I’ve fixed those weak points I listed, as well as formatting the text to make the most important details stand out.

The text formatting does 2 things:

(P.S. In my reply to this comment below, I published 2 more versions of the slide, with the text centred. So see what you think of those too.)

There you have it then. Now, tell me:

  • What do you think of the slide makeover?
  • What would you do differently?

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment box below or via @RemotePoss on Twitter.

Check out these related postsScroll up to Contents ↑

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16 thoughts on “Slide makeover: Take your introductory slide from everyday to excellent [Part 1]

  1. Pingback: Presentation Slide Design - The Belly Band

  2. Love the discussion points here. I would want to know this: when is this slide shown? If it is at the beginning of the presentation, I would agree with the sentiment to use the more formal AFTER photo. But if it is an ending slide, where you have hopefully developed rapport with your audience, I would argue for the less formal photo, deficiencies and all.

  3. Nice improvement! One trick I like to recommend for a nice little lift to a simple slide: try using a serif font on the secondary text. For example, I’d pair Georgia Italic with the Calibri. Try making the “Instructional Designer” line bold, italic Georgia. Adjust text size so that that line is about as wide as your name.

    • Thanks Bethany. I never would have thought of using a serif font, so thanks for the suggestion. Maybe that would provide the contrast I was looking for, despite the bigger font size.

      After publishing this post, I saw an introductory slide with a solid colour background (not white). The speaker’s photo had a white border and realistic shadow, and that slide looked great without a “belly band”.

      If you’re looking for ideas for a future post, this topic has been popular with readers, so I’m sure lots of people would be interested – me included! And I’d be very happy for you to post a link to it from here.

      Thanks again for joining the conversation.

  4. Great post on something many forget to think about – and I especially liked seeing all the before, during and after versions! Thanks for the reminder that good design should be used throughout your project, not just the presentation itself.

  5. I’m certainly in favour of the more professional photograph with the white background. Often the casual photos don’t really strike the right note in a professional context. Making a line of text bold and changing font size is a great way to break up text. I’d be interested to see the words ‘Instructional Designer’ brought up a few font sizes so that it’s the same width as your name.

    • That’s a very good point about the (in)formality of the shots, which I hadn’t even thought of! So thanks for raising that.

      Below are a couple of new versions of the “After” slide. When I first did the makeover, I tried a version with bigger text in the middle line (like “v2” below), but rejected it because I wanted stronger contrast with the Twitter handle at the bottom.

      The “v3” example below is perhaps a compromise – the only difference from the “After” slide in the post is that the text’s all centred. I think that does look better, so thanks for suggesting some changes.

      What do you think of the 2 versions below?

          

      • Hi Craig, I’ve only just noticed your reply – clicked on this link from you latest post. I prefer the top option of these two (V2). I think it’s a neater and stronger look. Though it’s all a matter of personal preference. Charmaine

  6. Good makeover! I like the way you anchored the picture to the wide colored bar, and then changed the text (name larger font, space before twitter handle). I do like your updated picture. While the mountains are beautiful (where is that?) the second picture has you looking directly at the audience and your face does look friendly and warm.

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