Cropping an image accurately can be tricky, especially when PowerPoint is trying really hard to suggest possible cuts alongside snap lines it thinks are useful. My solution, drag the image to a huge size (without distorting its aspect ratio), crop, and shrink it down again.
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With a bit of Photoshop editing you can create an effect of a PowerPoint shape flying through some loop. I uploaded a new slide to the template store that uses this effect. Over the arrow, I positioned a second layer of the image, but just with a piece of rope with its background isolated. The arrow expanding outside the frame of the image (yes, I look those), adds to the motion feel in the slide.
Want to use a cartoon in your presentation? Here are some things to consider:
- Humor in a presentation can work, but be careful what sort of jokes you pick. A cartoon that was very funny late last night when you prepared the slides, could not fit the meeting context the next morning after that earlier remark that did not go down well. If you hardwired the wrong cartoon in your slide deck, make sure to click-skip really quickly.
- Do you have the copyright for the cartoon you just found on Google Image search?
- Does the cartoon actually add something to the presentation, or is it a business cartoon cliche?
- Can the audience actually read what is written on the cartoon from the back row?
- And finally, do you give the audience enough time to read it? As soon as you put a cartoon on the screen, everyone will start squinting to read what Dilbert has to say, and no one is listening anymore what you say at the same time. It might be best to pause your presentation until the first giggles start emerging from the audience. And remember the audience reads the cartoon for the first time, and needs more time than you to understand it. If you have to, you might have to read out the cartoon to the audience.
PowerPoint can do Photoshop-like tricks. One of them: cutting shapes out of images. Here is how to do it:
- Drag your image on the slide
- Draw a shape on top of it (the freehand shape allows you to create a very precise shape)
- First select the image, then select the shape (shift click)
- Now select the Shape Format menu
- Click Merge Shapes
- Click Subtract
That's it. Below is a slide from the template store that uses this technique (you can download the ready-made slide if you want)
Popping out of the box. Unlike many designers, I actually like framing my slides, leaving white space around the edges. Stretching your picture all the way to the slide boundary looks nice on one page, but creates inconsistencies with more traditional data slides, and reduces the readability of slide titles.
App demo slides. Doing a live app demo in a 20 minute pitch meeting is risky, the technology might go wrong, and probably more than half the time you spent in a 2 minute app demo could be things that are not really interesting: logging in etc. Instead, I usually prepare a series of screen shots with big explanation bubbles in my presentations.
Super high resolution images of small slide elements can inflate the size of your PowerPoint or Keynote file without you noticing. A common culprit is an innocent looking page with 30 customer logos. Compress your images often to keep file sizes in check.
Another common file size mistake is to include high resolution images in the slide master to make it easer for people to understand template slides that are meant for photos. As a result, even a simple text slide will create a huge file as the slide master gets saved as an integral part of the document. This can add up in a company with 10,000 employees.
Image compression in PowerPoint can sometimes produce unpredictable results, especially when you tick "apply to all" and you have a presentation with a lot of photographs. I often see cropped images going haywire, the only rescue is to compress images one by one. Always save a copy of your file before attempting to compress the file.
Handy link: how to reduce file sizes in Office
Image via WikiPedia
Stock image sites were a great discovery when I started getting into the presentation design business in the early 2000s. In fact, they might have pushed me over the edge in becoming a designer. All of a sudden, I discovered that combining McKinsey-style professional slides with carefully chosen stock images you could make some powerful sales and investor decks.
All of this happened at the same time when very fundamental books by the likes of Garr Reynolds and Nancy Duarte were published, TED talks were taking of, presentations were changing!
Looking back, and looking forward, I see that my presentation style has changed. The biggest change: far, far fewer (premium) stock images. How come? Post-rationalizing:
- I got much better and assessing the setting in which the presentation would be delivered. And very rarely do I design presentations for a massive keynote or TED Talk. Most of the time, these are decks that will be presented in a small conference room, to a small audience. And more importantly, the first "punch" that these decks need to deliver is in the email inbox, when an investor or potential customer decides to keep on clicking (or not). More and more, I am starting to design these presentations for the impatient attachment clicker, and less for the live audience. This means: fewer images, and yes denser content. It is cumbersome to maintain 2 versions of a document (one for sending, one for presenting), so in practice the live audience is suffering a little bit at the expensive of the email attachment reader.
- Investor and sales audiences have evolved. Pitches have a high degree of similarity, they all follow a similar pattern, companies are addressing similar types of problems, pitching similar types of technologies (investors are increasingly specializing), so I see less need to "wow" the audience with dramatic new concepts (self-driving cars) but rather focus more on the nuts and bolts of an innovation. Investors are clued up, and look for the substance, quickly clicking through the pretty pictures.
- The premium stock image sites are collapsing under their own success. Image banks are diluted with designs that are somewhere between an actual clean photo and a finished design concept. Quality is technically good, but artistically "cheesy" and staged. Opening these sites as a designer makes you instantly feel that you are "in the wrong part of the Internet" And I am sure that even the layman designers gets totally confused when browsing these image sites.
- Free alternatives to paid stock image sites are popping up everywhere. If you need an image of the tip of an iceberg, you can find pretty decent ones on Google Image search (use the labeled for re-use option), WikiPedia or one of the many free stock image sites (that try to lure you into buying premium images that are often not better).
- And finally, I think it is a matter confidence and experience, where I somehow found a personal design style that involves fewer images.
It is surprising to see that most of my clients have very few images of their staff, their products, their client installations. The result: very poor product image shots, and a set of inconsistent headshots of the management team in the presentation.
Make it a habit to build your image library constantly using your smartphone. Snap a picture of the management team meeting (when everyone is in the same room together), the product demonstration, the big shipment of product that goes out of the door, maybe the strategic partner visiting.
In that way, you always have a rich library of images to chose from.
I was always wondering why it is that whenever I look for images of the exact same person, in the same outfit in different positions, I always end up with a search screen full of Asian models. Via Petapixel.
Making a grid of images in PowerPoint is tricky. Images never have a consistent aspect ratio, and when you place a lot of them on a page, the guide suggestions always snap in the wrong place somehow. Here is a survival guide.
- Copy all your images inside the page and select them all
- Right click and go in "format picture"
- Tick the "size" icon, and click "size"
- Hit "reset" to kill any aspect ratio distortion
- Hit "lock aspect ratio"
- Now select each image one by one, hit "crop", hit "aspect ratio" and pick one
- After this, select all the images again, and give them the same width with a numerical value
- Position the images on your grid
- Take each image in turn, select "crop" and move/zoom the image mask for the right composition
The above was a major consideration when designing the image grid system in my presentation app SlideMagic.
...never look good. At least, I have never seen ones that do. Soft edges are right up there with standard PowerPoint colors, low res images, clip art, and distorted aspect ratios: all tell tale signs that it is going to be "that kind of" presentation.
If I sit down with a client, in almost all cases, the pitch of a company comes out fine verbally. People know how to tell their story. The order might not be perfect, there are some repetitions, here and there one of my questions needs to be clarified, but all in all, in 30 minutes we got a pretty good understanding of what is happening.
My work is to translate that story into visuals. And given the above, there are different types of slides.
Some slides are absolutely crucial to understanding the pitch. These are the ones that people are opening their laptops for, and pull up page 37:
- Screen shots and images of applications/products, in many cases it is actually unclear what the product does. This is specifically the case in internet applications, or medical devices where a picture of the actual product explains a lot.
- Data visualization that emphasizes how big something really is compared to something else, how fast things are growing or declining. Visuals do a much better job here than spoken word
- Complicated relationships, competitive positionings, IT architectures. These cases require a map on which both brains can sync to disentangle these complex structures.
Other slides are mere backup for the spoken word. They help to make the story more powerful, but are not essential: large photographs of metaphors (endless road, squeezed orange, confused customer) or simple text charts that support the flow of the story.
The purpose of the last group of charts is 1) to give your company a professional look & feel, and 2) make it possible for people to read/digest the story without you being present.
When searching for an image, there are 2 steps:
- What sort of image works best?
- What actual image is the best (and can I use without copyright issues)?
Recently, I needed a panorama overview of a retail store. Most stores do not have 20 meter high ceilings (a waste of space, a waste of energy), and stock image sites only provide images of actual stores under an editorial license (news papers can use them, marketing presentations not).
A broad Google search brought me to the Galeries Lafayette in Paris (step 1), after which it was easy to find a nice, high-res, creative commons image (step 2).
Most of the corporate promotion videos I see are enhanced presentations: text movements with animations, still images with slow zoom added, piano background music and maybe some custom made illustrations. They look good, but have 2 problems when it comes to pitches to busy people:
- They make files very heavy (email attachment bounce and/or consuming 500MB of mobile download data)
- They take too much time: like a bullet point chart, you will have read that one sentence 10x by the time the pianist is finished with the 8 bar melody and ready to move on to the next shot.
That is the reason why I often "flatten" these videos, take the 5 best screen shots and paste them as images in a regular presentation deck. Looks great, quick to read, easy to download.
Anticipating this issue, when you brief a video production company ask them for 2 versions of the video, one with all the graphical elements, and one with less text, so you can use it as source material for still images over which you can place your own text in a presentation. Also handy when your messages change over time.
There are many other situations where you might actually need to keep the video in its full size: demonstrations of products, interviews of people, etc. If it is just about adding drama to a still visual, why not go with a well designed still visual though.
Often, my clients want a cover image on the presentation that says it all: the entire message of the presentation in just one smart visual. There are 2 problems with this approach:
- A technical one. The ideal image will probably not exist in some stock photo site, so there is significant photoshopping and editing required to get that elephant to balance on a skateboard while enjoying the benefits of flexible ROI. This image is unlikely to look good from a technical point of view.
- Even if you were to make this happen, it is highly unlikely that the audience who walks into the auditorium while sipping a coffee will actually understand what it means.
Lower the ambitions, and pick a professional looking cover image that is somewhat connected to what you are going to talk about and use your presentation to get the full message out.
I have noticed that my purchase of stock images has gone down dramatically:
- I stopped forcing myself to find an image for every slide (what I tended to do 10 years ago)
- Stock image sites are now overloaded with cheesy compositions
- There are many excellent free image sites around
I stumbled across yet another stock photo site that tries to offer "real" rather than cheesy, stages stock photos: Twenty Twenty (www.twenty20.com)
What I like: good images, big library, useful "collections". Pricing is relatively steep for the casual user (starting at $20 per image, or a $225 monthly subscription for 25 images compared to some of the free stock image sites that are popping up everywhere. Still, only marginally more than the big brand stock photo sites.
My prediction: iStock and shutterstock will add a "non-cheesy" filter option to their image sites soon.
Selecting profile pictures for a presentation or web site is always tricky. My advise is to take a huge amount of photos to have as many options as possible to select the best one.
The first and most obvious selection layer are obvious mistakes. Closed eyes, the tie not sitting straight, basic face expressions.
The second layer is more tricky. If you look carefully at a portrait image, it is usually possible to guess the sort of mood the subject was in. The face can be smiling, the eyes not. The person can look embarrassed, amused, shy, uncomfortable, curious.. Pick the one that suits best.
Think about this when your picture is being taken. Look at the lens of the camera, the way you would want to look at a potential investor or client standing in front of you. Professional actors can do this for every possible mood they want to project. For you, it is enough to do what comes naturally to you.
In order to make a nice profile slide about a company, you need to find good images of their products, ads, head office building (no, not the reception desk). One good trick to mine one specific web site for images is to go to the main Google Image search page: https://images.google.com/, and enter a query that says "site:domain.com". Here are the images that are stored on slidemagic.com.