It’s really easy to get in a rut with PowerPoint, especially if you have to make presentations often. And if you don’t work with PowerPoint very much, it may be equally challenging to find a creative approach, instead of just getting some slides made as best you can.
Either way, it helps to be prepared! Don’t wait until deadline pressure is on top of you — keep some inspirations stashed away for the moment of need. And practice some techniques that can produce quick breakthroughs when you need a creativity boost.
Here are three sample sparks:
1. Get spatial. PowerPoint is linear by nature (i.e., one slide, then another, etc.), so it’s natural to get in the habit of developing a presentation from beginning to end. Break that habit by working offline with hands-on storyboarding. Put each element — topic, image, text block, whatever works—on an index card. Shuffle them, move them around, play with the sequences and relationships. You could use any size card (I like 5 X 7s for plenty of room), and if you are working out a big presentation, you can also get colored index cards to color-code different sections or elements. Write on them with a marker-type pen so you can see the content of each card easily.
Tool Tip: If you find offline designing useful, find some great gear at Levenger. They offer Card Bleachers, Action Boards, and Pocket Dock-It sheets for arranging note cards in different ways, as well as an 11 X 17 Oasis Storyboard pad that’s perfect for sketching out ideas.
2. Get curious. Go see what other folks are up to. Look at some presentations online and spend equal time on what you think does work, and what doesn’t. Put some notes and/or screen captures in a PowerPoint album and keep adding to it over time. Then review the album when you are stuck for ideas.
Tool Tip: A previous post on Five Great Resources for PowerPoint Tips and Tricks suggested some places to look for information and inspiration. One is SlideShare, where lots (and lots) of people post presentations. Browse around!
3. Get mixy. Play with collected images and slide examples to get ideas. Look for random collisions and unexpected connections that invite “what if” thinking. Here’s a great way to do it:
Tool Tip: A nifty site called Image Spark provides a place to collect interesting images. Choose from images uploaded by the community, and/or add your own. (Upload tools let you right-click on any online image to send it directly to your library.) Image Spark is intended as a design space, not a photo-sharing site—so it’s very different from Flickr. Best part is the “moodboard” feature, which lets you collage images from your library to experiment with different styles and approaches. You can work privately if you want, and Image Spark is free.
If all this sounds like time spent not producing slides . . . well, that’s true. But it’s time that can be spent in small increments—and after a while, it could pay back dividends in more creative presentations, as well as faster development.
Thanks to J. Wickerham for the sparkler image.