In some industry sectors, especially financial services, people still insist on printing the presentation slides and handing out booklets at the start of the meeting. You can have groups of 10-20 people sitting around a conference table flicking through pages.

It is great for taking notes, analysing detailed financials, but it is not that great for a close connection between speaker and audience, and that last minute typo in the name of the CEO cannot be corrected once on paper.

Sometimes you have to pick your battles and if print is the way to go, think about these issues when starting the design of your slides. The bottom line, get a slide to look good on paper on day 1 of the design project, not at 3AM the night before the meeting.

  • Colours appear different on screen than on paper, especially on cheaper, older, or almost-out-of-toner printers. Bright blue can turn into faded grey, lively orange can become girly pink, subtle grey shadings turn into bright white, just to name a few potential problems.
  • Hole punchers for binding machines require extra space at the top of your page, test it.
  • Dark back grounds empty toner cartridges and make make the fingers of your audience black.
  • You can get away with low res images on a 15 year old VGA overhead projector, on paper though, you will get caught. Use high resolution images.
  • A monitor frame, or the light rectangle on a projection screen provide an implicit frame for your slide. Paper should do the same in theory, but A4/letter/4:3 and other issues makes it highly unpredictable how your slides are scaled on paper. In the worst case you might have draw a tiny grey line around your slides to anchor things (yes really).

Professional print designers will laugh at all this, this is design 101, and these issues have long been solved with Adobe InDesign, and printer driver software. A whole industry has been built around this, you are unlikely to see page scaling issues in your print newspaper. The problem is, these designs are hard to maintain/change in a corporate environment.

The one good thing about print though is that it shows that your slides are as fresh as the croissants in the bakery down stairs if the pages are still warm from the printer. A compliment I got many times in my previous life as a management consultant.

Art: Vincent van Gogh, The Bakery in Noordstraat

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