Building a slide in 4 steps

‘Your tips are very useful, but when building a presentation I do keep finding it difficult to produce appealing slides. Could you write a blog post on how to do that?’

This question came to us during the Summer school science communication of the Flemish universities.

Handy Manny vs Bob the Builder by JD HancockSo without further ado, let’s show you just how to create a powerful slide.

As an example I’ll be improving an existing slide, step by step. The author of this slide is Wouter Van Dooren, senior lecturer of Political Sciences at the University of Antwerp (Belgium).

This is our slide:

Slide 1

The original slide

Let’s first take a look at what we like about this slide:


1. Clear content overview

Presenters often forget to share the main idea of their presentation, letting their audience know just what to expect. This slide certainly provides a clear overview.

2. The power of three

Each slide is built around three key points, which is very straightforward and dynamic. A 10-bullet point table of contents would put anyone to sleep.

3. Stimulating content

The ‘problem-solution’ formula is a very powerful one. Also, the word ‘myths’ immediately stirs up my curiosity.

And I am especially thrilled to see no more than 20 words on each slide.

How can we improve this slide?

Let’s create a stronger slide in four steps.

And why not try transforming one of your own slides along with us?

1.   What do I want to achieve with my slide?

When designing or redesigning a slide, ask yourself: what would I like to achieve, and who from? What should my audience remember?

In our example the slide is aimed at providing a content overview. The audience is one of researchers already familiar with public administration, so no problems here.

2.   Structure

Let’s look at the slide structure: From myths over to problems and solutions.

Although this problem-solution build-up is excellent, I would instead have those myths appear after the problems and before the solutions.

Resulting in this:

  • There are three problems in public administration
  • In search of solutions we will break down various common myths
  • Then we will arrive at solutions
After adapting the structure

After adapting the structure


3.   Less is more: stick to the essentials

We’re often compelled to over-fill our slides with too much information. Let’s take a closer look at any unnecessary elements that we could drop.

In this slide we can do without the word ‘content’. When presenting the slide you will after all be mentioning that this is the content.

And what about the term ‘public administration’? It appears twice on this slide, each time as part of a long and complicated construction. I would leave it out for now.

The slide will be much clearer containing only the words ‘problems’, ‘myths’ and ‘solutions’. Public administration is the main topic, so why not use the term as your title.

We remove all unnecessary elements

We remove all unnecessary elements


4.   Design

There’s not much design to this slide, but we could still put in several small tweaks. Let’s start by dropping those unnecessary bullets.

And why not replace the ‘3’ before each point by a larger ‘3’. To do this, create a new text box containing a large ‘3’ and position this in the right place (easily remove the line automatically appearing around your text box by clicking Format shape and selecting ‘no line’.)

The end result

The end result


And that is how just a few small edits will bring your slide to life.

Now is it your turn.

4 extra tips & tricks for researchers

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