Slide Makeover: Utah's Changing Demographics

I was involved in the preparation for the first annual English Language Learners Symposium at Brigham Young University, which was held three weeks ago. My job was to redesign the PowerPoint presentations of the keynote speakers for Friday's session. I couldn't have been more willing, especially because the man in charge of the symposium told me he wanted the presentations to be beautifully designed, with a lot of visuals, a lot like the TED Conference. As you probably know, I am a huge fan of the TED Talks and have read Slide:ology, which is the presentation design bible written by Duarte Design, the master design firm behind many of this year's talks.

I redesigned three presentations for the ELL Symposium, and will post some of the slides here. I was unable to see the presentations – or even speak with the presenters – beforehand. In some cases I was able to communicate with the presenters during the redesign, but to varying degrees.

[All of the content (ideas, data, etc.) in these presentations is the property of the respective speakers and is not to be copied in any form. The images are from or otherwise licensed to be used in these presentations.]

The first is a presentation by Dr. Pam Perlich of the University of Utah, who spoke about the changing demographics in Utah. She is an excellent speaker with a great deal of experience. I am pleased to say that she embraced my design ideas and changes.



The How

I imported the original PowerPoint file into Apple Keynote. For most of the slides, I simply applied the theme I chose, and made some additional tweaks. However, for many of the charts, I had to either re-enter the data into a new chart in Keynote, or copy the graph itself from PowerPoint, paste it into Keynote, and then apply the theme.

The Why

1. In general, I removed any unnecessary text from the screen and relocated it into the notes which would show on the presenter's display, like this:

Picture 1.png

This would allow the audience to focus on Dr. Perlich as a speaker, rather than let them be distracted by all of the text that just begs to be read.

2. I also used stock images that exemplified the point she was trying to make.

3. Lastly, I redesigned the graphs and charts to have a similar feel and to be less distracting to the eye.

Stroke of Genius

The one slide that still gets me excited is title slide. I searched and searched for an image that represented the demographics of Utah – maps, county maps, even forest trees sprouting up from a map of Utah – but couldn't find anything satisfactory. I decided to just start over, and this idea came: I opened Google Earth, exported an image of a view of Utah, then asked one of my co-workers to highlight the border using PhotoShop. While the image doesn't represent demographics per se, I think it is a subtle yet attention-grabbing visual.

Lessons Learned

The importance of working with the speaker was made very clear to me. Dr. Perlich had some specific reasons for designing her original slides the way she did, and actually taught me a few things about working with charts and data.

Since I wasn't able to see Pam present before designing the slides, I wasn't familiar with her pace and timing. After seeing her present using my slides, there were a handful of changes that I would have made. First, I would have used different transitions. Her pace was such that the Dissolve transition that I chose really slowed her down. It is probably the least distracting transition, but when the pace is picked up it can be severely handicapping.

Second, some of the most important points she made (which could not have been represented by data) were not in her slides at all, but were poignant stories she told. If I had been aware of this, I would have inserted a blank slide to draw the audience's focus to her, or perhaps put up another powerful image that illustrated her anecdotes.

More to come soon.