Guide to Making a Pecha Kucha Presentation: Slide Design

General Design Tips

I am not a designer. So take everything I say here with a grain of salt. I have a particular style/preference when it comes to slides… and this will likely differ from yours. The suggestions below are not meant to be any kind of authoritative set of “rules,” but rather the thoughts I had when I went about designing my slides for my talk. Use what you like and discard the rest…

I used Photoshop to edit my images and slides. If you don’t have Photoshop, consider looking into a program called GIMP (which is free) or an online editor called Phoenix.

Large images work best. I’m a fan of filling the entire workable space with an image. Assuming that there will be a large crowd in attendance, imagine being someone way in the back. It’s better that everyone sees the image on your slide, versus someone not being able to see it. For my money, an image can’t be too large… but it can most definitely be too small.

Use as little text as possible. The more words on your slide, the more time the audience will spend reading (and not paying attention to you). A failing in 90% of all slides is the curse of too much text. Remember that the main focus here is you talking, and the purpose of the slide is that it supports your words… not the other way around.

The slide should be an addition to, not a summary of, your ideas and concepts. I know it’s a hard thing to do, but fight the impulse to put all the points you want to cover onto the screen. Otherwise, you run the risk of turning your presentation into a speed-reading exercise for your audience.

No more than four images per slide. In my talk, I used a variety of images. Some slides were one large graphic, other slides were split into two tall, vertical images. And I had a few slides that were sectioned off into four images.

When I tried to address every image in the slide that was split into four… I found myself rushing a bit (and was barely able to hit each one). In the span of about 20 seconds, I’d say that four images is about as much as you can touch on, if you want to say something specific about each image.

Make things consistent. However you choose to display images, try to make them consistent, slide to slide. If you plan on adding in small “titles” to each slide, try to make the placement of these titles consistent. Use the same font for each title.

In designing your graphics, it’s oftentimes easy to get lost within each individual slide. Remember that these slides will be shown together, as a group. The more consistency there is, the easier you make it for your audience to see connections between the slides.

And on top of that (and perhaps most importantly), if you apply a consistent look and layout aross all your slides… your slides will automatically look that much more professional. I can’t stress this consistency thing enough.

A site that may be of some interest is Garr Reynolds’ Presentation Zen blog. In particular, I found two of his posts (What is good PowerPoint design? and Gates, Jobs, & the Zen Aesthetic) to be pretty helpful/interesting reads.

(credit: v.max1978)

Finding Images

If you’ve got screenshots or photographs to use, great. But if you find yourself wanting to fill in a gap or wanting a separate image to help highlight a point… there are numerous resources online where you can find quality images for your personal use.

A note: when looking for royalty-free or Creative Commons licensed images, make sure to read up on each site’s terms of use. If you’re ever in doubt regarding copyright or use, ask.

Flickr: You can perform an “advanced” search on Flickr and specify only images that have a Creative Commons license (image attribution is often one of the requirements).

Image*After: A large, free collection of photos. Images can be downloaded and used for both personal and commercial purposes.

Stockvault: A photo sharing site with images from designers, photographers and students. Commercial use is NOT allowed, but personal use or internal presentations is acceptable.

morgueFile: The site name refers to old files/notes kept by criminal investigators and newspaper reporters, for use as quick references. High-res images are available for personal and commercial use, so long as the image is altered in some way.

Pow!: A large collection/list of stock photography resources.

iStockphoto: Royalty-free images, available for purchase based on a “credit” system. Great quality, but you need to pay for the images (worth it though).

Gimmestock: High quality images for $1 each.

If you’re preparing early enough and you encounter an image you want to use – it never hurts to email and ask permission. Oftentimes though, getting a response back is a difficult and/or protracted affair, so make sure you send out those inquiries early.

I ended up sending out a lot of permission requests, and found it beneficial to have a standard explanation of both Pecha Kucha and my talk saved in a .txt file. That way, I could easily add in a summary of why I was asking for permission, along with my request.

I would recommend you not set your heart on one particular image that don’t have the rights to. Tracking down the appropriate person or department is a really slow affair, and even if you get the right email address… it’s out of your hands whether your inquiry gets a response. If there’s an image you absolutely must have, I’d recommend buying it from a stock photo site instead.

As a side note, I *think* that using images for a Pecha Kucha talk would fall under Fair Use. But despite all the Law and Order episodes I’ve watched, I’m really not a lawyer. Maybe someone else who knows this better can comment on it? At the end of the day, if you’re unsure whether you can use an image or not – ask.

Next: Practicing

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