Makeover (part 1) of a slide makeover – fewer photos please

Woman's face covered in paint of various primary colours(Short of time? Skip ahead to the Contents)

Do you find slide makeovers helpful? I love them!

That’s because they show – in concrete terms – how you could improve specific slide layouts and formatting. And they even give you insight into the thought process of the designer who did the makeover. So they’re a form of “working out loud” that I find really useful.

Last month, presentation coach Diane Windingland published a slide makeover by a company called PunchSlide Design. The makeover included 7 slides from a presentation of
Diane’s, and she posted a before-and-after comparison of each one.

Of the 7 slides, 6 of them had photos added during the makeover. To me, that seemed a very high proportion, which led me to leave a comment on Diane’s blog:

“…using too many photos (or too many of any type of
slide) can be about as boring as over-using bullet points”

I felt strongly that I could do a better makeover!

Still, I found the makeover inspiring – partly because Diane’s slides were a great foundation to build on. And partly because, frankly, I felt strongly that I could do a better makeover!

So in today’s post, you’ll find my own makeover of 5 of Diane’s slides. Then, in this post and my next, I’ll share with you my thinking behind each slide’s redesign.

If you want to jump to a specific topic in this post, you can click any of these links:


Overview – see the 5 slidesScroll to Contents ↑

Here are Diane’s original slides, with each one followed by my makeover of it:

Slide swapping from showing title to showing speaker’s name and logo
























Note: I question the claim in the quote




























1: Title slide – Make it strikingScroll to Contents ↑

Now, let’s look at the thinking behind the makeover of the first 2 slides. (In my next post, we’ll look in detail at the other 3 slides.)

Here again is Diane’s 1st slide – the presentation title slide – and my redesign of it:











Let’s work through each difference between the original and new slide


Slide size – Go modernScroll to Contents ↑

Diane’s slides used an aspect ratio of 4:3, which nowadays can look a bit dated.

Sometimes, you might need to use that to stay compatible with older projectors (as PowerPoint MVP Dave Paradi explains). But if you can, using a ratio of 16:9 looks more modern, so that’s what I used for the new slides.

There’s also a 3rd option that’s much more intriguing

There’s also a 3rd option that’s much more intriguing, and could give you the best of both worlds. That is, keep the 4:3 aspect ratio, but put a horizontal black bar along the master slide’s top edge, leaving an area with a 16:9 ratio below it. Only use the area below the bar for content.

Then, you can add your Twitter handle in light text on the black bar. That way, when the slide’s projected, it looks like those details are outside the slide! (You can find screenshots of something a bit similar here.)


Background – Use photos (selectively)Scroll to Contents ↑

As I said above, audiences get bored by seeing too many pictures. But selective use of pictures is very powerful. It not only lets your slides strongly support what you’re saying, it can also look extremely professional. (See for yourself.)

A title slide’s
a great place
for a photo

And a title slide’s a great place for a photo. That’s because (right from the start), you want to:

For those 4 reasons, I added this photo to the title slide (shown above). But – unlike most photos that speakers add to their slides – notice that it’s an extremely uncluttered shot, in 2 ways:

  • The photo’s tightly zoomed in on a single object – in this case, a mic.
  • The background’s not at all distracting.

Uncluttered – a mind in that state’s far more receptive

Just like with text (or any slide content really), being uncluttered leaves your listeners’ minds uncluttered, too. And a mind in that state’s far more receptive to your message.

Want to see similar photos? I’ve used a set of 5 photos like that here.


Text – Highlight key wordsScroll to Contents ↑

Having used a largely black photo to replace the title slide’s blue/green background, I wanted to tie the slide into the deck’s colour scheme. So I changed the title’s text colour to the same blue/green.

The text lacked contrast between its different parts

But with the whole title in 1 colour, the text lacked contrast between its different parts. Upping the contrast from that initial state has 2 benefits:

  • It makes the slide more interesting to look at.
  • It guides people’s eyes to the key words.

That’s why I formatted the less emotive words (“Speak with”) in smaller white text, and the key words (“Confidence & Credibility”) in a larger point size, in bold, and in the attention-grabbing blue/green – as you can see on the title slide (above).


Animation – Avoid overwhelmScroll to Contents ↑

When I first added the photo, at that stage the title slide had 4 elements:

  1. Talk’s title
  2. Background photo
  3. Speaker’s name
  4. Speaker’s logo

I felt that was a bit busy, so I split the content using animation, like this:

Slide swapping from showing title to showing speaker’s name and logo






So now, when the audience 1st sees the slide, they see just 2 elements:

  1. Talk’s title
  2. Background photo

And when the presenter clicks their mouse (to trigger the animation), the audience sees 3 elements, with one of those staying constant from when the slide first appeared:

  1. Speaker’s name
  2. Speaker’s logo
  3. Background photo – constant


Refinements – Add polishScroll to Contents ↑

Add a subtle feature to make it look more “finished”

Ironically, because the amended title slide now just contains some text and a photo, it looks a bit sparse. So I wanted to add a subtle feature to make it look more “finished”.

That’s why I added a pair of faint dotted lines – one above the text and one below. (Because they’re so faint, they could easily get completely washed out if the slide’s projected. So if the slide was going to be projected in a brightly-lit room, I’d make the lines thicker.)


Font – Choose and move onScroll to Contents ↑

When you’re choosing a font, I recommend you meet these 3 criteria:

  • It should be easy to read.
  • It should be widely available.
  • You shouldn’t spend much time choosing it.

Let’s look at each of those in turn

On her original slides, Diane used the Century Gothic font. That has quite large spacing between letters, which makes it best for headings or short labels, but harder to read as a font for body text. So I used Tahoma instead.

Avoid “font fails” if you run your slideshow on another PC

Along with readability, another key aspect is how readily-available the font is (so you avoid “font fails” if you run your slideshow on another PC). Happily, both Century Gothic and Tahoma are among the 44 fonts installed on most PowerPoint systems.

Although I don’t think Century Gothic was the best choice, it wasn’t an awful one either. And PowerPoint makes changing fonts easy, so you needn’t spend long doing so. Plus, limiting yourself to the 44 fonts mentioned above means you won’t spend hours choosing from thousands of fonts!


2: Agenda slide – Be different

Next, let’s look at the changes to the agenda slide

List format – Use iconsScroll to Contents ↑

Diane’s agenda slide (below) used a 6-item numbered list, all in 1 column. But lists are dull (especially when they have that many items, and when each item’s more than just a word or two).

So I formatted the list in a less conventional way – replacing the numbers with icons, and using 2 columns:











Icons have at least 3 benefits

Compared to numbers (or bullets), icons have at least 3 benefits, in that they’re:

  • More modern
  • More meaningful
  • More memorable

I also:

  • Reduced the height of the title bar (in blue/green), which had taken up over 25% of the old slide.
  • Removed the blue/green “notch” from the bottom of the title bar. (It’d often pointed at something on the slide – but just by chance – which was distracting.)


Colours – Use black, white, plus 1-3 coloursScroll to Contents ↑

I like the strong colour scheme Diane chose, so I used very similar colours. I did change them in 2 key ways though:

  • Because the blue/green’s quite light, in some use cases there mightn’t always be enough contrast with white text. For instance, that might happen if the slides were projected in a well-lit room. So on the blue/green background, I used black text rather than white.
  • What I thought was a black background on Diane’s slides turned out to be very dark grey. So I replaced it with true black (again to increase contrast).


Agenda items – Save syllables, make mnemonicScroll to Contents ↑

My main focus in this makeover was the visuals, rather than the wording. But I did also shorten most of the original agenda items. That makes them easier to absorb (for the audience) and easier to say (for the presenter).

Here’s a rundown of how I changed the agenda items, and why:

Old text [Syllable count]
► New text [Syllable count]
Structure with P.R.E.P. [7?]
Structure with PREP [4]
I’m not sure whether Diane pronounces P.R.E.P. as 4 separate letters, or as 1 word. But I think it’s safe to drop all the dots, to simplify the text. (US English might be pickier about punctuation than UK English, which is what I tend to use.)
Create Catchy Openings & Closings [10]
Craft catchy “bookends” [5]
Although the old text wasn’t wordy, its 10 syllables were still worth trimming.

I was glad to keep the alluring alliteration of “Craft catchy” (while also dropping a syllable from the old form of that phrase).

And although “Openings & Closings” is clear and specific, the “bookends” metaphor is strongly evocative (and several syllables shorter).

One small point is that the new list uses sentence case, which is more “conversational” (that is, less formal and more readable) than the old list’s use of title case.

Engage & Motivate with Stories [9]
Grab them with stories [5]
In any list, if you can it’s best to avoid “&” or “and” (as well as “or”). That’s because they add items to the list, and people already have plenty to absorb.

Although “Engage & Motivate” is quite specific (like “Openings & Closings” above), at 6 syllables it’s fairly long too. “Grab” is much punchier and speaks to your gut, not to your higher mental faculties – which are also slower and weaker!

Make Data Meaningful [6]
Give data meaning [5]
Here again, I think trimming even just 1 more syllable’s worthwhile (as shown at the bottom of this table).

I italicised the key word, too, to add emphasis and contrast. Doing that’s also a great prompt for you to use vocal variety when speaking, so your voice is easier to listen to.

Power Up Your PowerPoint [7]
Sharpen your slides [4]
As I mentioned above about “Craft catchy”, alliteration’s memorable and appealing. So here again, I was very glad to keep it, while also trimming another 3 syllables.
Deliver with Confidence! [7]
Show poise! [2]
This change saves 5 more syllables. So – measured in syllables – the whole new list’s over 40% shorter than the old one!


Over to youScroll to Contents ↑

There you have it then. I hope you’ve found this makeover helpful or thought-provoking, and I welcome your thoughts, suggestions or questions in the comments.


Which parts of the old and new slides do you think are most effective?

If you’d like to do your own makeover, please share the results. I’d love to see and learn from your ideas!

Look out for next month’s post, where I’ll step through the changes to slides 3-5, namely the:

  • quote slide
  • list-and-photo slide
  • section title slide


See alsoScroll to Contents ↑


2 thoughts on “Makeover (part 1) of a slide makeover – fewer photos please

  1. Fantastic content as always Craig – one of my favorite edits is your shortening of each of the items in the agenda. Presenters don’t often think about how many syllables each line of text takes, but it makes a big difference. It’s like music – you want it to be snappy, easy to say, easy to listen to – memorability comes naturally as a result. Your revision makes that distinction very clear.


    • Thanks for taking the time to comment, Chris, and for your kind words.

      I call myself a “word nerd”, so I love to spend time shortening a message. Sometimes, saving just 1 or 2 syllables at a time mightn’t seem worth it, but when the whole slide ends up being 40% shorter than the original, I’d say it’s time well spent!


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