Presentation21 Makeover

Nowadays, public speakers, consultant or conference workshop leaders are not the only ones “presenting” to an audience. Kindergarten students are becoming presenters, as they are showing their work to a global audience on platforms such as their classroom blog or even their own blogfolios. In the age of youTube, Flickr and Slideshare, anyone can be a presenter with a click of an upload button.

Since “PowerPoint” made its debut in 1990, many assignments in schools have shifted to include a “presentation”. From the dreaded group project that needed to be presented in a college class…to first graders who are presenting an insect project to an audience of proud parents…to professors and teachers who will lecture endlessly by reading text from the slides that are being projected on the big screen.

Needless to say templates, text bullets, clipart and clashing colors are abundant in these “presentations”. My visual soul is in pure agony. 🙂

I am here to DEMAND a Presentation Makeover for the 21st Century! (It looks like that I am NOT the only one either. Just search for Presentation Makeover on Slideshare...)

Transparency projectors are a thing of the past. Students are accustomed to visuals beyond text.

All educators should be familiar with the basics of good presentation design.

In turn, as teachers, we are responsible to teach basic design concept to our students as they are creating and sharing more and more of their work.

Let’s teach students (and model for them in our own presentations) the following three basic points:

Less Text… More Visuals… More Storytelling

Presentation Makeover

I was fortunate to have Joy Kirr in the audience at my recent workshop of Presentation21 Makeover at BLC12 in Boston. She reflected on her “take-aways” in a post titled “Pictures ARE Worth a Thousand Words“. (Thank you Joy!  Your feedback is incredibly valuable.)

The biggest lesson I learned – Forget bullet points. The photograph is the most important part. The photograph is what the audience will remember. You have to figure out – what is your message?

Silvia had some stunning photographs – some she’d taken from other sites (and given credit, of course!), and others she had taken herself.  One question everyone was thinking was raised – where do you get your photographs? Sylvia had a slide with sites to search, but what my brain heard, from all she was describing… “I’ve been taking my own.”

The more visuals I create for presentations, workshops or my blog, the more I gain satisfaction in taking my own photographs to create these images and slides. It is not only the money I save in paying for stock images, but it is also the different way I think about my message and what I want to convey to my audience. I believe that is a valuable process to go through as a presenter and communicator of ideas and worthwhile to explore with students. (Note to self: Think of offering and teaching a “Photography for Presentation Slides & Design” class)

Take a look a the few example of slides with images that I have taken. Consider the following:

  • the “feeling” of the image”
  • bleeding image off the page (Ex. Students as Presenters slide)
  • using a metaphor- A footprint as your activities on the Internet (the “Digital Footprint” image was photoshopped)
  • the depth of field (take a look at the “Big Lens” app for the iPad to add depth of field to your images, ex. the “iPads in Education” slide)
  • the intentional white space or lighter color on the photograph to accommodate text  (Ex. “Will Cursive Writing Look Like Hieroglyphics…”)
  • the text boxes added for contrast (Ex. “Building a Positive Digital Footprint”)
  • the typography (font/color/angle of text)
  • cropping of images to bring focus to a particular area (Ex. “How do we Read?”)


I also created a checklist below with the following points in mind to “upgrade” presentation slides:

  • quality images
  • storytelling, quotes and metaphor
  • typography
  • design

You can also download the  Presentation21-Makeover Checklist as a pdf file.