One tip to change the outlook of your PowerPoint slides

At the beginning of the month, I wrote a post about some small tweaks to a slide deck that could lead to a much better visual presentation. One reader, Dan Jones, posted this comment:


I’ve been thinking about it ever since. I actually suggested this particular tip within my organization recently after attending a monthly stats meeting. The more I look around, the more I see this particular engagement strategy being used… except it doesn’t seem to be used very frequently in the world of presentations or learning and development.  

Over the weekend, I was perusing ESPN and I saw this:


99 times out of 100, if this was a PowerPoint presentation the headline would have been: Golden State vs. Los Angeles. Or maybe Visiting Team’s Jump Shot.

Both of those headlines are true, but neither really gets you excited for the story in the image. Ingram blocks Durant from behind actually makes me want to pause, maybe even click on the link to see it for myself.

I really like Dan Jones’ advice in his comment: “Tell a story with your slide title to share the key message from your slide.”

I went back and took a look at some old slide decks and wondered how I’d adjust them. Here is a slide from a presentation I gave in Saudi Arabia several years ago:


The headline here is: The story continues. True, but what’s the story? Why am I making the learners work so hard when they’re looking at the slide? And what about those learners who might have been distracted or not paying attention in the exact moment that I told them what was happening on this slide?

This slide is about a particular process (abbreviated by the acronym HCRP) that has led to unprecedented growth in the developing world in the availability of corneas for transplant, which in turn helps restore sight to people who are blind. Perhaps it would have been a more effective and engaging slide if I had labelled it something like this:


Or this:


The point being: your slides become instruments of your story if you just spend a little bit of time massaging the headline.

Want to give it a try? Below is a slide I used during the same presentation. 

For context: Every time someone dies in a hospital in the U.S., that hospital is required to notify an organ donation agency of that death. This is known as a “required referral” law, and has helped dramatically increase the number of organs available for transplant each year. Such a law does not exist in India (or much of the rest of the world). The goal of this slide is to show how many more corneal transplants could occur in the next year with a simple change in the law to mandate “required referral” in India.


If you were me, how would you re-title this slide to better tell the story? Let’s hear your thoughts and ideas in the Comment section below!

4 thoughts on “One tip to change the outlook of your PowerPoint slides

  1. I’m glad my tip provided inspiration for your blog! In training presentations, I often teach a process or review a list of actions to take. I normally feature a slide for each step or action that has an “action” title and strong visual image. I use an “action verb” in the short title of each slide that tells the learner what to do. For example, “Update your profile,” “Make a follow-up call”, or “Research your customer.” Then, in a summary slide, I feature an image of all the slides in order with all the steps or actions. Action verbs and strong images help learners remember.

    As for your challenge, I’ve come up with these ideas:
    Required referrals can increase transplants in India by 172% in 1 year (if you use long titles)
    Referrals can increase transplants by 172% (for a shorter title)

    I personally like to use short titles limited to one line on my slides, but longer titles are fine too. In any case, they always share the key message from my slide to which I add additional information verbally.

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