As we’ve all been working more from home in this period, all of us had to adapt our business activities under these exceptional conditions as well.
In the frontline of those activities are the double-edge swords that meetings can be: either real, purposeful meetings that foster collaboration or dreaded, soul-sucking time wasters (we’ve probably all been in one such meeting). On the bright side, we’ve finally found out which meetings could have been an email after all; on the downside, we still can’t cut them out completely, so we’re moving the important ones online.
Source: Emily Flake, The NewYorker
Along with those changes, the role of the presentation within the meeting changes as well and it has to be adapted accordingly.
1. For the meetings that become emails, you’ll probably be sending the presentation you prepared along with the mail, serving more as a slideument*
* slideument is a cross between a slide deck and a document
2. While for meetings that are still kept, you’ll be giving your presentation online, in which case you have to think of it more as a webinar presentation
In this article, we’ll focus on the first situation and the things you should be careful about when you’re transforming your presentation into a #slideument.
Source: Randy Glasbergen
1. Make sure your presentation stands on its own
While you can give some context to the presentation in the email, it’s still not the same as if you would present it live. First of all, it can be difficult to follow, switching between email and presentation, and secondly you can’t even write all the info you’d have for each slide (unless you’re going for a novel length email).
That’s why you have to make sure the presentation itself is self-explanatory and it has all the content that a person needs to piece together the narrative that you would have verbally presented.
Make sure there’s a logical and progressive flow to your slides.
Tip: We usually advise our clients to use slide headlines in a smart and purposeful way: descriptive phrases rather than keywords and that tie together and carry on from one slide to the other (so if you’d read only your headlines, they’d make sense, like a story).
2. It’s ok to have more text
Now we all know one of the golden rules of presentation design – avoid using too much text – however when sent as a #slideument, we can make an exception so we can better get our point across.
So one way in which you can make the presentation more self-explanatory is to have a part of the notes that you’d have presented live as supporting text within it, so it gives context where needed.
This doesn’t give you a license to write novels here either, so don’t get the wrong idea. You’d still have to keep it engaging and above all visual.
For example, instead of having just a keyword or two to point out an idea, have a short paragraph about it
Or you can add supporting text and a subtitle to a list of items to know what it is, and use full sentences for bullet points.
3. It’s ok to have more slides, but don’t overdo it
Given that you’ll have to include a bit more text to make the presentation self explanatory, some slides might become quite text heavy and in that case, a good practice would be to split a slide in two or three related slides.
That will give the content more room “to breathe” (remember that whitespace is important in design) and help it be more readable and easier to understand.
In the end, you’re going to cover the same amount of information anyway, whether it will be 15 slides or 25 slides
It’s better to space out the content so the reader is not overwhelmed by the amount of info.
Besides splitting up content slides, you can also add a slide here or there to act as visual breaks.
These are especially important in slideuments because people lose attention pretty quickly when going through a stuffy file.
A well placed completely visual slide can make a huge difference, and these can be in the form of section dividers (extremely useful for slideuments), or statement & conclusion slide, or a quote slide.
However, like with adding extra content, be careful not to overdo it here with the number of slides either. Ideally your presentation should still be a maximum of 15-20 slides, otherwise you’ll risk people getting reading fatigue.
4. Use different type of slide layouts: think magazine pages instead of billboards
One of the most important tips when designing a live presentation is to think of your slides as billboards, that can be understood in 10 seconds or less. It’s something we also constantly preach and advise our clients.
However, in a slideument, except for the visual break slides (section dividers, quotes, statements), this advice isn’t that valid because as we already explained you’ll probably be having more text in your slides than in a live presentation. But you still have to design all that content in a visually appealing way.
So in this case, you’d have to think of your slides more as magazine pages and get inspired from these type of layouts rather than billboards.
Source Creative Touchs
Magazines are meant to be read, but they’re also a visual experience, and your slideument should follow the same principle.
Tip: when designing such a layout, think first of how you can break up the content into smaller fragments, and how you can rearrange those fragments (think of it as working with building blocks or visual legos).
Let’s take an example slide where the content would be:
- introduction paragraph
- 6 bullet points/items
- conclusion paragraph
And it would look something like this when you write it:
So you basically have 8 content block that you can then rearrange into something like this: breaking up the blocks visually, highlighting the end and adding a small visual twist.
5. Send as a PDF and remove all animations and transitions
This one might seem pretty common sense, but never ever email a presentation as an editable file (Powerpoint, Keynote), unless the recipient asks for this.
Instead, save the presentation as a PDF file and send that. This has two main advantages:
- first, the formatting and layout won’t break. If you send it as a PPT, the recipient might not have the typefaces you used, or some graphics (icons/pictures) won’t appear (like in the below screenshot). Sending as a PDF helps prevent all these issues
- second advantage is that sending it as a PDF drastically reduces the file size and it’s always best to send a smaller file through an email
Finally, this should also be common sense, but we’re mentioning it just in case: when you save a presentation file as a PDF, it won’t keep any animations or transitions you’ve used (we recommend you use these to a minimum anyway), so don’t bother with any fancy animations or transitions from the beginning.
6. Check the file size and compress images if needed
As a general rule of thumb, attachments sent in emails should be less than 2-3 mb in size.
Like we said above, one of the advantages of sending your presentation as a PDF is the reduced file size. However, for large presentations, even when saved as a PDF, it can still be larger than that size, especially when the presentation has a lot of images.
So after you first save it as a PDF, double check the size, and if it’s larger than 2-3mb, go back to the raw presentation file and see how you can reduce that file size first. Most common way to do this is to compress your images.
You can check this article for more details on compressing your presentation:
Following these guidelines can make all the difference between a compelling and persuasive document and a document that gets skimmed over and mostly ignored. We hope these will serve you well the next time you’ll have to email a presentation.
In the meantime, we wish you all to stay safe & stay indoors, as we’ll eventually get through these tough times. 🙂