PowerPoint certainly gets a lot of flack when it comes to godawful slideshows and presentations, but we can’t solely blame them. I’ve seem equally godawful Keynote presentations and Google Docs presentations, so it has to be us, not them, right?
Well, I think presentation software has to play the enabler in this dysfunctional relationship. It gives anxious presenters too many options and in panicky moments of failed judgment we use them all– spinning titles and busy-looking templates, animated icons and (oh, no, please no) clip art.
SlideShare, the social presentation sharing site, has (or maybe had?) a blog feature called Slide Tips, “exclusive articles by the world’s leading presentation and communication experts.” In the first post to this series, presentation guru Garr Reynolds writes on the subject of “Empty space and slide design,” using the strange split-personality of Japanese graphic design as his jumping-off point. Text and image-cluttered advertising compete with sleek simple design, often in one all-too-small space.
That certainly sounds like a lot of PowerPoint presentations I’ve seen.
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Reynolds’ before and after slides make creating crisp, clean presentations seem like a simple task. I’ve tried to ignore Google Docs’ and PowerPoint’s templates and rely on simple full-screen images I find via Creative Commons’ Flickr search. Flickr’s partnership with Picnik makes editing great images even easier.
Relying on images, of course, means that there’s more pressure on you as the presenter– the slides become a place for eyes to rest, not a source of content. It’s a scary thing when you’re a presenter, but yourself in the audience’s shoes and think of how many times you’ve had to make the decision between listening to the speaker or reading the half-dozen bulletpoints on the screen before you. Makes saying good-bye to generic templates a lot easier.