Design a Powerpoint Upgrade

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The parents association at my school asked if I could do a presentation on using Seesaw.  Seesaw is the online journal application that we’re using for student’s digital portfolios as well as way to communicate with parents. The association invited parents to come for a coffee morning where I could present in a smaller setting.  I knew that introducing and showing how Seesaw would not last for the whole hour so I included some information regarding technology use and children.  After the last few weeks of reading and reflecting on my feedback, I knew I could upgrade my slides to something more. 

My original presentation for parents.

Feedback received:

  1. Lots of words; sentences on one slide
  2. Hard to read; words were small
  3. Lots of information


In the video How to Avoid Death by PowerPoint, David JB Philips lists 5 design principles:

  1. One Message
  2. Contrast
  3. Size
  4. Sentences (avoiding them esp. while speaking)
  5. Dark background
  6. Six objects on a slide

Using these design principles I changed how I approached each slide.  Something that really resonated with me in that video was the idea that I was the presentation and the PowerPoint was my visual aid.  I had been making the presentation the main subject (mostly because I don’t like being the center of attention) but it made a lot of sense.  If I’m the presenter, then people want to hear me speak.  Thinking back at the ted talks I’ve watched, none of them gave that up to their slides.  The slides were always there as a supplement, but the main attraction has always been the presenter. 

I was able to find a new template on Slidego, which is a great resource that has so many free templates for slides and PowerPoints.  I was so impressed with the collection and found a template with kids in school.  The slides had a colored background and even though a darker background was recommended, I couldn’t resist this theme.  I felt that it was appropriate because even though my audience is technically the parents, the children are the actual subject.

I began to shift away from having the slides becoming the focal point and started to do so by including only one message on each slide.  Unless they were a quote or a fact, many of these messages were short phrases.  I knew that it was my job during the presentation to expand on these phrases. I also changed my titles into questions so that I have an opportunity to answer the question for my audience or guide them to the answers that I want (How to present to keep your audience’s attention).  Turning normal sentences into questions allows for more engagement from the audience and in a way it’s like using a provocation at the beginning of a unit. It allows us to gauge what they already know as well as piquing their interest in a topic. 

My updated presentation for parents!

In order to turn my slides into visual aids meant changing my words into visual representations.  Instead of writing out what parents will see on Seesaw – I turned it into an infographic.  Using some of the design elements from our infographic week, I kept the colors minimal throughout the whole presentation.  I used size to draw attention to certain aspects of each slide. Even though it felt very contrary to everything I’ve done my whole life, I even omitted titles in many of my slides. The video How to Avoid Death by PowerPoint makes a very valid argument against why large titles don’t work in presentations. If they’re not the main idea, then it shouldn’t be the biggest thing on the slide.  So if I did include titles, I made them much smaller than the actual content that I wanted to be the focus for parents.  I did include topic headers that were stand-alone slides.  This helped signal that we were moving onto a different area of the presentation.  I kept the number of items on a slide to a minimum as well.  In the end, this might mean that I had more slides, but visually, this was more appealing. 

Overall, I was very happy with my end product.  I thought the messages were clear and the additional charts and facts that I included were supportive of the messages.  I cleaned it up a bit by taking out slides that I didn’t think was necessary. Instead of using the sway that I created for parents, I started airplaying and showing them in real-time how to use the Seesaw app. If I were to update these slides even further (which I will for a future parent workshop), I would take out all of the seesaw information and focus on kids and technology.  I have a clear conflict and that should be the focus of the presentation.  Parents always want to keep their children ahead of the game but with the skills needed for the 21st century, how can they make sure they are giving their children a head start that isn’t detrimental to their development? Focusing only on one topic for the presentation would make it much easier to manage and concise.  Having these design skills under my belt actually makes me more confident in creating my slides and presenting in front of others.  I’m excited to see how my parent workshop will turn out next month!

One thought on “Design a Powerpoint Upgrade

  1. Wow! You have definitely created a presentation that looks far more interesting. I am sure that it will do a great job of keeping parents interested and engaged during your presentation. I’d be interested in hearing if you notice a difference in the conversations that occur in response to your new slides. I really like that you focus on one discussion point per slide, and I agree that even if this means you have more slides overall, they are far more interesting to look at.

    In the past, I have always defaulted to the existing Google Slides templates. But in the past few years, I have been branching out and have found Slides Carnival to be another great source for free Slides/Powerpoint templates.

    Our school has encouraged us that when creating presentations for sharing with the school community or greater community, that we use the school branding – logo, colour schemes, fonts, etc. I understand this from the perspective of having a unified appearance, but I wonder if this leads to the creation of less engaging presentations?

    I look forward to hearing how your presentation with these updated slides goes! Thanks for sharing.

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