6 Steps to a Snazzier Title Slide

I was watching a YouTube video recently on nutritional supplements (long story!) and saw the speaker had used this title slide. I immediately knew what was wrong with it and how to fix it. So as an educational opportunity, I wanted to share my step-by-step process.

These types of title slides are common among non-professional designers:

  • Lengthy title that is center-aligned
  • Lengthy speaker biography that is crowded and hard to read
  • Clip art photo slapped artlessly on the page
  • Gradient background (or some template background) for that extra pop!

It looks amateurish, doesn’t it? And yet, it could look very professional if you know what to look for and how to fix it. Let’s go step-by-step fixing this title slide.

1. Alignment
Always pay attention to alignment. That means everything on your slide should share an invisible border with at least one other thing on your slide. Center alignment is a killer because it destroys your alignment. On this slide, nothing really lines up and so everything seems to be slapped on messily.

I’m always going to align my text on the left. There are some times you can break this rule, but most of the time your slides will immediately look better with left alignment. I’m going to place the picture off to the side for now (we’ll deal with it later).

2. Text Variety
Right now the text looks overwhelming to read. That’s because it’s all the same size, so the eye doesn’t know where to land. Instead, we want to give the eye clear landing spots by using variety and contrast in text treatment.

In the title, for instance, we have four lines of text with no contrast. We can introduce contrast by 1) bolding some keywords and 2) italicizing the emotional words.

In the biography, we can bold the speaker’s name and make the font larger. The rest of the text we can make smaller, and white, so it whispers.

There are several calls-to-action in the biography, including two URL’s and a Facebook page. I 0nly want to highlight one of them. Otherwise, they are all competing for attention. I’m going to use a technique where the last line (call-to-action) has the same text treatment as the first line (speaker’s name) like a set of bookends. Finally, we don’t intuitively know what “FB” means, so I’m going to replace that with a Facebook icon.

Do you see how adding variety to the text treatment makes it easier to read and more visually interesting?

3. Integrate the Picture
The presenter is on the right track to add a picture to the title slide. Pictures engage audiences, and especially pictures of people. But its placement is awkward, just wherever there is some blank space on the slide. It looks “bolted on”. Instead, I want it to be integrated more naturally with the page.

The rule of thumb is I want people to see the picture before looking at the text. There’s a ton of brain research behind this but basically we want to engage people emotionally (picture) before engaging them logically (text). The eye naturally starts in the upper left, so I’m going to place the picture in the upper left. Then it will naturally read left to right to the title.

I’m also going to rework the title a bit more, adding even more contrast, by making the emotional words smaller and adding some color. See how things really start to pop when you have contrast and variety in your text? See why it’s such a mistake to have all the text the same size and color?

4. Gradient Box
There’s a bit of a hard border between the picture and the text. The picture has a white background that ends suddenly. It feels like a harsh transition. One handy tip I like to use is a semi-transparent box that goes from fully transparent on the left to fully dark on the right. I’ve created a video showing how you can make these.

The effect is to marry the text and picture better. You also have a darker background for the text to stand up against (I turned the larger title text white).

5. Color
The layout is better. But now I’m thinking about color. Right now we have a gray background. Gray can be used artfully but it also tends to be a somewhat depressing color. Maybe that’s the mood this speaker wants to set. But since she’s talking about anxiety, worry and food cravings, depressing doesn’t seem to capture it.

There is a ton of research showing that different colors subtly create different moods in the audience. I want to be more purposeful here. What mood do I want in my audience, and what color can help to set that? You can see how different colors convey different moods:

Any of these colors creates more of a mood than the gray, and makes the slide look more professional. Any of these colors makes the slide “prettier”. But the choice comes down to: what mood do you want to set?

  • Blue makes you feel calm and that’s not what we’re trying to say.
  • Purple conveys prestige or luxury, again not what we want.
  • Green is also a calming color, and suggests health and growth and vitality. It’s a reasonable choice for a talk about health.
  • Orange makes you feel a bit fidgety, and maybe even a little hungry. Bingo! Anxious and hungry is the topic of our talk, so let’s go with that!

6. Textured Background
Most slides have a solid color background, and that’s fine. Some use a gradient fill to add some more polish. Still others go for a template background, which can often be too much.

But I like to add textured backgrounds. Gradients seem a bit artificial, while textures feel more organic. Gradients seem like you’ve seen them before, while textures feel new and creative.

There are lots of places to find textures and I created this video showing how to make textured backgrounds. But just go to sites like Pixabay.com or Compfight.com and search for “texture”. Or use a search term like “cloud” or “paint” or “sand” or “water” to get some interesting photos with texture.

I found this texture at Pixabay.com and just recolored it using Picture Tools > Format > Color in PowerPoint. There’s a sense of chaos in the randomness that reinforces the idea of anxiety, panic and worry that complements this presentation’s topic.

By the way, Pixabay is my favorite new site for finding pictures because they have lots of high-quality pictures, you can use them free even for commercial purposes and — best of all — you don’t even have to add the author’s attribution. You do have the option to pay the author, but it’s voluntary.

Good luck with your presentations and check out my book Speaking PowerPoint if you found this useful! Or, if you want your staff to learn to use PowerPoint this well, consider having me in to conduct an onsite workshop.

About the author: Bruce Gabrielle is author of Speaking PowerPoint: the New Language of Business, showing a 12-step method for creating clearer and more persuasive PowerPoint slides for boardroom presentations. Subscribe to this blog or join my LinkedIn group to get new posts sent to your inbox.

How to Make Your Slides Not Look Like PowerPoint

I’ve heard a lot of advice on how to make your slides look more professional. But one of the best pieces of advice is this: try to make your PowerPoint slides not look like PowerPoint slides.

One of the easiest ways to do this is to choose a different font. By default, PowerPoint will offer you Calibri. And by default, your slides will look like every other PowerPoint slide. Yaawn.

 

But you can make a better impression on clients, colleagues and students if you’ll choose a different font. I like to use Rockwell for the titles and Segoe UI for the body. You can change the font in the slide master.

Oh, by the way. You may be wondering about that lovely slide background. What is that? It’s simply this photograph on Flickr, shared via a Creative Commons License from the photographer Brinzei. I had to adjust the transparency to mute the image a bit, then crop out the trees at the bottom. Changing your background to a textured background is another great tip for making your slides not look like PowerPoint. I’ve created this video showing you how to make textured backgrounds.

About the author: Bruce Gabrielle is author of Speaking PowerPoint: the New Language of Business, showing a 12-step method for creating clearer and more persuasive PowerPoint slides for boardroom presentations. Subscribe to this blog or join my LinkedIn group to get new posts sent to your inbox.

Do Your PowerPoint Slides Have A Clear Visual Path?

When someone looks at your slides, does their gaze sweep effortlessly through the slide? Or does it get bogged down on the largest objects, unsure where to travel next?

For instance, here’s a typical PowerPoint slide. How does your gaze move through this slide?

Notice how your gaze first gets locked on the bunch of blocks on the left, then heaves over to the blocks on the right. It feels heavy and lumbering. Maybe your gaze even gets locked in an endless loop, cycling back and forth between the two blobs of information.

But we want the eye to sweep effortlessly left to right, like wind flowing through a tunnel or water flowing down the river. You don’t get that sense now.

There are gray arrows in the background, directing the gaze left to right. But they are too muted, drowned out by the thick borders on the boxes. The borders have no direction. They are planted firmly and so draw your eye to a full stop when you land on them.

But look at what we can do to improve that.

By removing the vertical borders on the boxes, we’ve created a display of mostly horizontal lines, directing the eye to read left to right. The heavy vertical borders, which had formed an imposing barrier preventing the left to right eye sweep, are gone. It feels like the windows have been thrown open and air can rush through this slide!

Pay attention to the visual path and make it easy for the eye to sweep through your slide by 1) using arrows, numbers and other guides to direct the visual path and 2) removing obstructions that block the visual path.

About the author: Bruce Gabrielle is author of Speaking PowerPoint: the New Language of Business, showing a 12-step method for creating clearer and more persuasive PowerPoint slides for boardroom presentations. Subscribe to this blog or join my LinkedIn group to get new posts sent to your inbox.

 

 

Make Slides that Pop Using Color Contrast – PowerPoint Video Tip #18

The secret to making slides that pop is color contrast. Watch this video showing how to select and modify colors to improve a slide’s appearance.

 

About the author: Bruce Gabrielle is author of Speaking PowerPoint: the New Language of Business, showing a 12-step method for creating clearer and more persuasive PowerPoint slides for boardroom presentations. Subscribe to this blog or join my LinkedIn group to get new posts sent to your inbox.

Use Red to Sway an Audience to Your Side

It’s Valentine’s Day and what better time to review the research on the color red to move an audience. Red has a lot of power to sway people over to your way of thinking, if you use it correctly.

Just ask Olympic athletes who compete in taekwondo matches. It turns out, when the fighters are evenly matched, the judges give the win to the red fighter over 60% of the time, even though the colors are assigned to the fighters randomly!

German researchers tested a theory – does red affect the judges’ votes? They showed expert judges video of two fighters, let’s call them Ron and Brad. Ron wore red and Brad wore blue. As expected, Ron won most of the matches.

Then the German researchers did something clever. They digitally re-colored the video so the colors were reversed: now Ron was wearing blue and Brad was wearing red. Would the judges still give more points to Ron? Or would Brad’s red uniform sway the judges over to his side?

 

The result: the judges now awarded more points to Brad, the fighter wearing red, who was deemed to have lost more matches when he wore blue. This effect has also been seen in American football, Olympic boxing and wrestling, as well as soccer.

So when you want to convey social dominance, use red on your slide.

In another study, men were shown pictures of women and asked to rate how attractive they were, how much they would spend on a date with them, and so on. When the woman was wearing a red blouse, or even when her picture had a red border around it, men rated her as more attractive and worthy of more of their date money.

 

So if you want to excite an audience, use red on your slide. Red is a great sales color because it makes people feel excited and they mistake that excitement for interest in your product.

Learn more about how to use color to influence your audience in my book Speaking PowerPoint: the New Language of Business.

About the author: Bruce Gabrielle is author of Speaking PowerPoint: the New Language of Business, showing a 12-step method for creating clearer and more persuasive PowerPoint slides for boardroom presentations. Subscribe to this blog or join my LinkedIn group to get new posts sent to your inbox.