Slide Tips: Every Makeover is Different (Geetesh Bajaj)

March 25, 2008

This post by Geetesh Bajaj is the third in our newly launched Slide Tips series.
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Geetesh Bajaj

Geetesh Bajaj is based out of Hyderabad, India – and he has been designing presentations for more than a decade now. He’s been a Microsoft PowerPoint MVP (Most Valuable Professional) for 8 years now, and has authored four best-selling books on PowerPoint.

Visit Geetesh’s site at to learn more.

Doing makeovers of slides is such a satisfying task – maybe that is because removing the ugly and replacing it with near perfection is a reward in itself. Over the years, I have understood that the approach required to do any actual makeover is never the same – in the same way as the fingerprints of two humans don’t match, the approaches required to do various makeovers are dissimilar.

Suggesting makeover approaches is a large part of my work – that’s why I find it amusing to hear new schools of thought in the presentation sphere that promise to be a solution to all slide problems. These beliefs range from the no-bullet approach for slides to the total denouncement of slideware. Then there are opinions about keeping things simple and clean – and of providing more visual content. And there's another school of thought that looks at creating diagrams, charts, and other info-graphic content in a way that's more effective as is the debate between linear and linked presentations. Each of these approaches is unique and very useful in their own way – and properly applied, each of them may make a difference. But in the same way that a physician will not prescribe a drug for common cold to a patient suffering from body pain, the makeover artist will first examine the slides and then suggest an approach that may use, discard, or combine these approaches.

This brings me to the title of this post: “Every makeover is different”. If there ever was a middle ground that can balance the acceptance levels between purists and procrastinators, and for everyone from geeks to Gods, this is it! In the real world, targets have to be attained, deadlines have to be met, and slides need to be delivered to folks who need to make decisions. It's such a fascinating world -- and even if I did not mention this until now, rest assured that balancing between these approaches is so much fun!

Now that I have made you aware of the approaches, let us look at the amazing diversity in the slide world. Like every person in the world, every slide and every presentation is different. Just look at the content being uploaded to a site like SlideShare, and you'll know what I am saying. Many of these slide presentations are intended for different audiences – but even if they were created for the same audiences, those audiences would expect slides to look distinctly different based on the content, the venue, the presenter, and the time. And what about where you are presenting – is it something being presented in front of a live audience, or is it a webcast, or are the slides just being emailed? That would make a difference too!

Combine those approaches and the sheer diversity of slides being created, and you can put them together like a warp and weft to create your own makeover strategy. Make a habit of combining the approaches and the differences – and then weave them together in pure harmony to weave the fabric of your makeover – this is so much like evolving dissimilarity to evenness. The result is that you end up with a different, harmonious makeover each time – something so different and individual that even you may not be able to replicate it again.

OK – I agree that I may have input a lot of poetic accord in the disarray – and you are just looking for a set of no-brainer guidelines. So what’s here for you? Try working with these concepts:

  1. See your slides, and try to find similarity: See the slides you need to makeover with a completely open mind several times. Always see the slides in sequence, and then go back and forth often. Look for similarities between the slides in an attempt to find a common thread. This is not as difficult as it sounds, even the most dissimilar set of slides often have similarities that you may have not noticed earlier; viewing them multiple times will bring them forth.

  2. Make note of these similarities – if you get some ideas when you make the note, jot them as well.

  3. If you are creating this makeover for someone, do ask them if they have some fixed visual styles – maybe color, branding elements, layout, fonts, etc. This might first seem like a limitation but combine the similarities explored earlier with these fixed concepts and you have a fair idea of where you are headed. In addition, this will avoid you having to do costly mistakes that need to be corrected later. The left part of the human mind is great at getting adjusted to concepts that cannot be changed – thus leaving the right side with so much more creative freedom.

  4. Go ahead and make changes. First start with changes that will affect all or most slides.

  5. Thereafter go with the changes that affect only one or few slides.

  6. View the entire presentation. Make a note of any interruption in the flow of one slide to the other as far as the design, content, or navigation is concerned. Try and improve those aspects.

  7. And then start all over again. Repeat the process until you feel good about the presentation.

PowerPoint 2007 Complete Makeover KitEven beyond these guidelines, the best way to get more comfortable with creating better makeover strategies is by doing more makeovers. I wrote an entire book on PowerPoint makeovers with Echo Swinford - PowerPoint 2007 Complete Makeover Kit. Get a copy of the book and try out all the makeovers. All sample files are included on the CD attached with the book. Once you have done a few makeovers, you’ll find a method in the madness!

And remember that every makeover is different.