Product Review (kind of): SlideBot


Who doesn’t want a faster way to create amazing slides for their next presentation?

When a colleague sent me a link to SlideBot last week, I was intrigued. The homepage is slick and comes with testimonials like this:

“I don’t know how they do it, but SlideBot’s computer is more creative than I am. They turned one of the weakest slides in my TEDx presentation to one of the strongest – simultaneously hard hitting and humorous.”

– Jon Turk, TEDx Speaker

I was sold. I wanted beautiful slides, and I wanted a computer bot to help me generate them. My experience was a little different than the SlideBot experience that Jon Turk apparently had.  

Just for fun, I tried to quickly create a deck about the top 5 reasons someone should read the Train Like a Champion Blog. I spent a little time coming up with some witty ideas (wondering what kind of slides the SlideBot would generate!!), and then I hit the Create My Slides button.

I felt like Ralphie from A Christmas Story on Christmas morning.

But all I got was an error message.

Maybe I confused the system by adding too many slides, so I narrowed my test deck to three slides (a cover slide plus the top two reasons you should read Train Like a Champion). This is what happened:


The image is small, but the little text box at the top of the screen says: “On no! There was an error!” Grrrrr.

Maybe it didn’t like my shameless self-promotion. Maybe I just needed to create a cover slide so I had something, and then I could add more slides once it generated the cover deck.

I’m working on an online tool called Soapbox, so I tried creating a deck (or at least a cover slide for the deck). Success! It generated something:


Hmmmm. Maybe this wasn’t absolute success. I’m certainly an Obama fan, but I don’t know that’s the slide I’d choose for a cover slide to convince people to use my online tool.

It was time for me to walk away from SlideBot. I really like the idea – an online tool that helps people create amazing imagery with little effort. At this point, it seems there are some bugs to be worked out.

I’m not sold that there’s a silver bullet on the market today to help people design better slides with little effort. It was for a similar reason that I was super excited to read about Haiku Deck in Inc magazine a few years ago. It promised to prevent me from making poor design decisions, and there was an image library that could help alleviate all the time I spent searching for that perfect image. In the end, I found Haiku Deck to be similarly disappointing.

Honestly, I think the better alternative for anyone interested in improving their slide design skills would be to read something like Garr Reynolds’ Presentation Zen or Nancy Duarte’s slide:ology. Or perhaps watch Melissa Marshall’s 3-minute TED Talk entitled Talk Nerdy to Me.

Beyond reading, the key is attempting to apply the concepts that each of these experts talks about. You can do it on your own, or challenge a friend or colleague to trick out some PowerPoint slides with you and see what you both come up with.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. In the absence of some magical tool that creates slide decks for you, what’s the best way to make sure your slides are engaging, visually compelling and something you can be proud of?



6 thoughts on “Product Review (kind of): SlideBot

  1. The Soapbox cover slide that SlideBot created is certainly nice-looking, but I agree – I wouldn’t choose such a potentially polarizing image for participants (especially in this political climate – yikes!). As great of an idea as it is, I’m afraid bots just don’t “get” the emotion I try to convey through imagery in my slide design. I’m still waiting for the “magic bullet” myself….until then, I’ll just keep tricking out my own decks (and anyone else’s who will let me!) and taking inspiration where I can find it. 🙂

    • Bots don’t get the emotion… yet. But the age of the Terminator is coming, Michelle. Just wait… it may not be an Arnold Schwarzenegger-like killing machine (it may just come in the form of an online tool that takes care of all your instructional design needs), but it’s coming!

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