How Do You Style A Slide Number Across All Slides A New Way to Avoid "Death by PowerPoint"

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A New Way to Avoid "Death by PowerPoint"

Anybody who has endured a barrage of bullet points in a boring presentation is likely to welcome the more creative style of slide design recommended by business communication and presentation specialists such as Nancy Duarte and Garr Reynolds.

Structured versus Free-Form

Although some commentators would like to banish structured slides to permanent oblivion in favor of free-form designs, both design strategies have advantages and disadvantages that need to be considered for each presentation opportunity.

Structured slides have the significant advantage of being easy to create; you simply choose an overall design scheme for the presentation, select a template for a new slide, and start typing. If you’re in a schedule crunch, going the structured route might save the day because at least you’ll have something ready to show.

Given the speed and ease of creating them, structured slides can be a more practical choice for routine presentations such as project status updates. Also, carefully designed structured slides can be more effective at conveying complex ideas or sets of interrelated data.

The primary disadvantage of structured designs is visual tedium, forcing the audience to stare at one bullet list after another after another after another. Bullet lists can also fracture and fragment information if the presenter is not adept at weaving these text snippets into a cohesive narrative.

Structured slides are also easy to misuse. Unprepared or unskilled presenters can succumb to the temptation to (a) pack their slides with too much text, (b) use their slides as note cards or, (c) worst of all, simply read their slides to the audience.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Free-Form Slides

The goal of free-form slide design is to overcome the drawbacks of text-heavy structured design by fulfilling three criteria that researchers have identified as important for successful presentations:

* Providing complementary information through both textual and visual means

* Limiting the amount of information delivered at any one time to prevent cognitive overload

* Helping viewers process information by identifying priorities and connections

With appropriate imagery and effective presentation, free-form designs can create a more dynamic and engaging experience for the audience. Accordingly, free-form designs can be particularly good for motivational, educational, and persuasive presentations. Business communication experts highly recommend this approach.

Perhaps the two biggest disadvantages of free-form designs are the time and the skill that can be required to create them. In addition, free-form slides place a greater burden on the presenter to convey the whole story orally because only the highlight points are displayed on the slides. Of course, many presentation experts would argue that this is how it should be. However, in a world where slides are often reused by other presenters (who may not have the original creator’s ability to tell the full story) or forced into service as pseudo-documents with no presentation at all, the relative lack of textual information can present challenges.

As with every communication tool, making the right choice comes down to knowing the audience and understanding the situation at hand.

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