Visual Storytelling - T. Benjamin Larsen's Blog

The making of a presentation (part 5)

This is part 5 of «the making of 'Cultivating Creativity'», a presentation I entered in’s «World’s Best Presentation Contest».

Challenging words

One of the challenges of making a slide-presentation that has to work on its own, is to find the right balance between text and imagery.

The complete slide-deck in all its «glory»

As I've mentioned on several occasions, I believe slide-presentations should be predominantly visual and compliment the information given orally. When making this presentation however, speech was not an option. Needless to say, text would have to do some of the job. This was probably the hardest part for me. If I were to give the presentation live I would have lots to say. I would talk about how inspiration might elude you when you desperately need it. How that great idea might appear just as you were about to fall asleep. I would also augment the key-slides with additional information e.g. Read: Novels, newspapers, magazines, blogs, cereal packages - anything.

Now, I could just have delivered all this information in text-form, but it would dull down the presentation. I figured the best way to solve it was to make the viewers fill in most of the blanks themselves. I'd only use a few key-sentences highlighting the message of how it is impossible to force creativity. I repeated the key sentence 'you cannot force creativity' to make sure it registered with the viewer. I am still not 100% sure I pulled off the balance between simplicity and information but hopefully I wasn't too far off.

Finishing touches

And that was it. I read through the whole thing a couple of times, made some small changes to the font-sizes etc. but as there was no way to make advanced transitions and the timing was up to the viewer, there was little else I could do. As presentations go I think it works out reasonably well. It does not overload the viewer with information and [hopefully] the key-message should be easily grasped. I am also quite pleased with the fact that I manage to keep it as short as I did. As this is the final part of this informal 'making of' I would just like to say that I hope you found some part of it interesting. If nothing else it should serve as a glimpse into one person’s creative process.


The making of a presentation (part 4)

This is part 4 of «the making of 'Cultivating Creativity'», a presentation I entered in’s «World’s Best Presentation Contest».

Graphical refinements

As I had already went through several version of the presentation in my mind things were starting to click. A short doodling session gave birth to a whimsical looking character I decided to use instead of the generic 'loose appendixes' one.

Some of the different stages on the way to a finished slide

Quick drafts of the different slides came about within minutes and could begin to consider the finer points. One of these finer points was to refine the earlier idea of somehow separating the two main-segments. I decided to make the 'feed'-slides with a strong line and strong colours as they referred to the more active side of my inspiration-recipe. In contrast, the 'rest'-slides should have a calmer, softer more organic look. Water colours seemed to fit the bill and even the fonts were either painted or traced by hand to make them more humane in appearance.

Know your audience is another mantra that it is wise to adhere to. Unfortunately I had no way of finding the key-demographics among slideshare-users. I did however know a little about the judges of the competition. I even recalled reading Guy Kawasaki praising the 'art of sucking up'. I decided to give it a shot. As all the judges are also authors, I decided to include imagery of these in the 'Read'-slide. The judges should recognize their own work, but it should not distract from the presentation as a whole. Certainly too good an opportunity to be missed. As I finished my illustrations I scanned them into my Mac and combined them with the text in Photoshop where I also performed some additional touch-up. The hard (but fun) part was over...


The making of a presentation (part 2)

This is part 2 of «the making of 'Cultivating Creativity'», a presentation I entered in’s «World’s Best Presentation Contest».

Finding a form

OK, so now I had a plan for my presentation. Not only that, but I already had a fairly clear idea about the look of the piece. As this would be designed exclusively for the Slideshare-contest it had to work without sound an the text would have to be legible even in a small embedded flash-player. The idea was to use huge type in a one-word-per-slide layout emphasizing the do's and do's. I planned to display each word followed by a similar slide where an illustration was composited on top of the former slide.

As the two big-word parts of the presentation were to deal with different tasks I figured I'd better find some clever means to separate them visually as well. For the "feed your brain"-part I decided to go for an 'active' colour like green, while I reserved a nice pale blue for the more passive "rest your brain"-segment. I immediately fired up Photoshop and after experimenting I decided on the font Hattenschweiler.

To make the text a little less boring I gave them a slight gradient. I still wasn't 100% satisfied with the look, but finished the first iteration of these slides to see how it played. Oh, what a snooze-fest. While there was nothing wrong per se with the slides I found it impossible to concentrate while watching through them. If I couldn't entertain myself, how could I expect to keep the anyone else's attention!? Back to the drawing board then...



Good Things Come In Threes

Despite the fact that part 2 of my JFK vs. PowerPoint project was something of a flop compared to the original I've decided to finish the trilogy. (New readers should probably look through part 1 and part 2 before the read on). This time I have not limited myself to the use of Slide Ware (PowerPoint/Keynote). I've made a dynamic presentation based on the same audio-clip as I've used in the previous examples.

Seductive Visuals

Hopefully you'll find that this version commands attention and is actually quite interesting to watch. And I really hope it serves to demonstrate a point. That point being that despite this latest iteration probably being the most visually pleasing, it is no more effective in presenting the message than the original 'boring PowerPoint'.

While the two version differs a lot in quality and dynamics they have at least one problem in common: When you force the audience to read they cannot give their full attention to the spoken word. This means that no matter how beautiful the text is displayed on your PowerPoint-slides they will harm your presentation if delivered at the same time as you speak. If you look at the second example however you'll find that the imagery is designed to augment the speech. The images should work either to make the message clearer or to strengthen your audience's emotional connection to the material.

The first rule towards better PowerPoint presentations is in my mind so simple it's almost ridiculous. Text = Bad. Imagery = Good.

As always there is also a higher quality QT version available.