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Scan yourself a library of images

I love to scanPictures form the basis of storytelling and as presentation designers visual content drives our presentations. I can spend hours trawling through photographs, textures and backgrounds in stock libraries searching for the perfect image to enhance or illustrate my slides. There are occasions where I will take my own photographs, but I often get frustrated by my lack of technical expertise and equipment. You may not realise that you have a valuable tool at your fingertips in the form of a simple home office scanner. Scanners are relatively inexpensive machines that allow you to create your own unique images with items that are readily available to you. You can set your scanner to scan at high resolution, allowing you to zoom in and create interesting effects. You can fill PowerPoint auto shapes with scanned fabrics or textures and use crumpled paper and cardboard boxes for unique templates and backgrounds. Here is an autumn leaf I scanned alongside an autumn leaf from a stock library that costs close to $10. Autumn Leaf ComparisonMy motto is, if it’s flat, it can be scanned.

For more scanning inspiration, including a list of my top 20 items to scan, please check out my latest offering to Slideshare below:

The anatomy of a slide

Make Great Tip for PowerPoint DesignToday I want to share a PowerPoint design tip with you. There are only three components to a great slide: shapes, images and text. It’s what you do with these components that can either make or break your slide.


Autoshapes appear a standard default blue when you insert them onto a slide, but they can be changed to suit your needs. You can adjust the shape’s size, line, fill, placement or transparency. Shapes are useful for ‘anchoring’ text to a slide or making text more visible if it is becoming lost on an image. Shapes are also useful for creating charts, diagrams or other interesting visual effects.


Images are the key ingredient for bringing your slides to life. They might be photographs, illustration/vectors or diagrams. Choose relevant, high resolution images that accentuate your message and fill the entire slide. There are many free images available to you under a creative commons licence, which means you can use the image if you abide by the terms of the licence and properly acknowledge the creator. I tend to take a lot of my own photographs and source others through commercial photo stock libraries, which allows me to get exactly what I am looking for.


Text should be used in moderation, it should be visible and the selected font should work well with the overall look of the slides. Most importantly your text should encapsulate the key message and sum up what you’re saying in as few words as possible. You can create interesting effects by varying the size and colour of the text, adding drop shadows or manipulating the text in PowerPoint’s Word Art feature. Although you can insert text directly into a shape, my preference is to place text into a separate text box as this give you much greater control over its placement and look.

The more you practice using these three elements, the more proficient you will become. I’ve included some examples below depicting the anatomy of these three elements at work.

And remember, it’s as simple as S.I.T.

May the font be with you

Have you ever designed a Powerpoint presentation on a Mac and then delivered it on a PC (or vice versa) only to find your text has been reformatted and your slides look like gobbledygook? Reformatting like this happens when you use a font that is not common to both Windows and Mac or if you’ve used a unique font downloaded to your personal computer (which doesn’t exist on other computers). When you display your PowerPoint presentation on another computer, it doesn’t recognise the font and substitutes it with a different font. This can change the size and spacing of your text and create havoc with your formatting. It gives me chills just thinking of it!

There are a few options to avoid this scenario:

  1. The first option is to choose a font that is compatible with reasonably recent Mac and Windows versions of Powerpoint eg Arial, Calibri (for versions of PowerPoint 2007 onwards), Comic Sans, Courier New, Georgia, Impact, Palatino, Tahoma, Times New Roman and Verdana. My default font, when I create PowerPoint presentations for other people to deliver, is Calibri. I also like to use Impact to display numbers in large format on the screen.
  2. The second option is to save individual slides as jpegs and reinsert them back as images into the PowerPoint presentation. The downside of this is that you do not have the flexibility to modify or change your content on the go. It’s also an issue if you design presentations for other people and they want to make their own changes.
  3. The third option is to bring along your own notebook computer and plug this into the projector. A great option but not always practical.

Hopefully between these three options you should be able to go forth and deliver your PowerPoint presentations with confidence. May the font be with you.

Communicating with Colour

This year I hinted for a Pantone Colour guide for my birthday and I was thrilled to receive this set of colour swatches. The Pantone Matching System (PMS) was invented in the 1960s to assign a number to every colour. It’s not an essential tool for a presentation designer, but it’s wonderful for replicating a colour, getting inspiration for a project and getting the expected result when you have something printed.

In terms of PowerPoint presentations, if you want to replicate a colour that you’ve seen on a poster or magazine, the colour can be identified by holding the fanned out colour swatches next to it and identifying the closest match. The set of colour swatches I have contains the corresponding RGB (Red/Green/Blue) code printed beneath each colour. The RGB code can then be entered into the PowerPoint text or autoshape settings to achieve a match.

Colour choice is an important component of any presentation. It’s full of symbolism, can generate emotions and provides another useful way to reinforce your message.

Here I’ve assembled a few of my tips on colour selection:

  • Consider the audience. The colours selected for an audience of young people would almost certainly differ from that of an audience of older people. It’s a fact that age affects how a viewer reacts to colour (think Wiggles). There might also be cultural considerations to take into account if designing a presentation for a CALD (Culturally and Linguistically Diverse) community.
  • Choose colours that mesh well with your content and help to enhance the meaning of your presentation. For example hot pink might not be the best choice when designing a presentation with an environmental theme.
  • Experiment with the saturation of colours to achieve different effects.  Bold saturated colours are used when it’s important to attract attention. The best example of this is road signs. Bold colours also look great when used minimally or on top of a black & white image. Desaturated colours have a more calming and professional look.
  • Consider competitors’ colour schemes and the colours associated with the industry. Do you want to look the same or different?
  • Function comes before form. No matter how gorgeous the colour combination is…if you can’t read the text or understand the message than it’s got to go.
  • Learn to love the eyedropper tool in Powerpoint. It helps to create colour schemes from images within the presentation.
  • Once you’ve decided on a colour scheme, be consistent with it throughout the presentation. It will create a cohesive and professional look.

Do you have any of your own colour tips to add?

How Many Slides?

How Many Slides

Every day I assist people with their presentations and I’m often asked how many slides they should have. The answer to this question is simple….as many as it takes.  It might be necessary to linger on a slide for a while or rapidly progress your slides to keep up with your verbal content. Given that there should only be one key message per slide, you should use as many slides as necessary to visually support your speech.

Slides should be illustrating or reinforcing the point that you are making, and should therefore be relevant to what you are saying. Imagine a newsreader telling an audience about bush fires. The newsreader would be supported by an image on the screen behind their shoulder relating to the fires. If the next story relates to stock market prices, it would be confusing for the audience to be viewing an image of bush fires while they’re talking about shares. The same principle applies to your presentations. 

It comes back to the very first principle of presentation design…content comes before slides. Once you have your key messages identified and incorporated into a well-crafted speech, you are then in a position to think about what slides should reinforce your message.

Wild Slides

I’m pleased to launch this blog by sharing my ideas on great slide design on Slideshare. This is the first time I’ve displayed my work publicly and I’d love you to check it out.

In addition to tips on slide design, my blog will feature posts on making great speeches, training materials, icebreakers, handouts and lots more. If you subscribe, you won’t miss a post.

Thanks for visiting and happy viewing.