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Practical tips for creating great slides

Great slides can enhance your arguments, provide a compelling counter-point to your talk, and help create dynamic tension.

Awful slides can take away all of the focus from what you’re saying, bore your audience into a stupor, or provide reading light while the audience checks their emails.

Make it readable

That means big, big fonts, excellent contrast, and using the top half of the screen in preference to the bottom half, since part of the audience might be sitting behind other parts of the audience.

Avoid bullets

No, really. If you need notes, put them on paper cards, or in the presenter view in your presenter software. The audience will read ahead of you, and then will go straight to their email.

Instead, reduce the text on the slide to just the theme of what you are speaking about. If you can get away with it, just use one word. Or even better, an image.

Use code carefully

Code is tricky. It requires context.

A few things to note:

If you take screenshots, make sure you can make the image large enough without getting fuzzy. If you don’t take screenshots, you’re going to want to look into something that creates syntax highlighted .rtf versions of your code.

The python library pygments is a good choice. You’ll need a decent color schema. That one is based off of github’s syntax highlighting, and was used to create these sample slides.

If you’re emulating terminal output/commands a black background will work, but make sure that the font color is extremely bright.


Further Reading