How To Create an Engaging Slide Presentation - Skillshare
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How To Create an Engaging Slide Presentation

How To Create an Engaging Slide Presentation

Elissa Bernstein

Elissa Bernstein

Program Manager, Skillshare Mavericks

Slides are a great tool to use for your Skillshare class. You can create a class entirely from slides or use them as helpful visual aids to reinforce and illustrate the key concepts of your class.

However, stale slides can easily make a student tune out and disengage. Good slide design matters, but you don’t need an MFA to make your next set of slides. With this quick tutorial, you’ll be on your way to a well-designed, engaging slide presentation in no time!


1. Pick your software.

There are a few different ways you can build your slides. We recommend any of the following software: PowerPoint ($9.99/mo), Keynote ($19.99), Google Slides (free), Canva (free) or Prezi ($13/mo).

Each software has its pros and cons, but all give you the ability to create a customized and engaging slide presentation. However, PowerPoint and Keynote give you the most flexibility with your design.

No matter the software, a good place to start is with a blank canvas at a 16:9 aspect ratio.


2. Select a color palette.

It may be tempting to use a stock template, but resist! A custom presentation will resonate more with the community, as they will see the hard work you put into making a presentation that fits the class you’re teaching.

To create your own custom template and design, start with the color palette.

A color palette should be cohesive and no more than 5 colors. Try using Adobe’s color wheel to create or find a set of colors that relate to your class topic or convey a certain emotion that you want students to feel. For example, if you’re teaching a class on gardening, greens and browns work best to remind students of organic material. Or if you’re teaching a class on public speaking, you might want to use colors that are more energizing like yellow or orange.

When in doubt, using shades of black and white for a light background with dark text or dark background with light text works just as well!

Here are a couple of great examples:

Slide from Branding Your Creative Business: Define Your Brand

Slide from Inky Illustrations: Combining Analogue and Digital Media

Slide from Demystifying Graphic Design: How Posters Work


3. Choose the right typography.

The wrong font can ruin a slide presentation (read: no one likes slides set in Comic Sans). In general, it’s best to pick a legible font over a fun font – remember, students are reading your slides to learn and absorb information. Feel free to get creative with the slide title, but avoid doing so for the body text.

We recommend Google Fonts or DaFont to find free downloadable fonts. If you’re struggling to find the right font combination try Font Pair or to find fonts that work well together.

When in doubt, sticking with standard san-serif fonts (Helvetica, Arial) will give you a clean, crisp presentation.

Slide from Web Design: Using Typography to Convey the Right Message


4. Find the best format and layout.

Now that you have your colors and fonts, it’s time to start building out your slides–and simplicity and readability are paramount.

Keep your slide layout clear, focused and consistent. You should only have one core concept or key theme per slide. Having competing information on your slide will distract and overwhelm your students.

You also don’t want to clutter your slide with text. It’s best to only write up to 6 lines of text per slide. Again, students are reading your slides to ingest information, so conciseness matters.

The other key thing to watch for is the readability of the text against your background. There should be a strong contrast between your text and the background. For example, if you have a dark background and light text, you may want to bold your text so it stands out.

Here’s an example of good slide format because it’s clear, concise and focused:

Slide from Character Illustration: From Feelings to Faces

And here is a major slide no-no:

Overall, simplicity reigns supreme when it comes to slide design. If you think your slide is cluttered or hard to read, chances are it is.

5. Add visual elements to make your slides more compelling

Keeping your slides simple, doesn’t mean that the slides have to be boring. In fact, adding visuals to your slides is important. Research says, visuals help improve comprehension. Our brains process images faster and more easily than solid blocks of text. Our brains also make emotional connections to images, which help us retain information.

Using quality photography will help make your slides more engaging. You can use images that you’ve taken on your own (especially if you’re teaching a photography class!) or you can use stock images. But avoid cheesy stock images – you know the kind we’re talking about. Check out this list of stock photo sites to find quality photos for your slides.

You should also think about other types of graphics that are relevant to the information in your class. For example, when it’s applicable, try translating data into a graphic, chart or infographic.

No matter the type of visual you choose, it should always add value and be relevant to the information on your slide to help your students better understand the concepts you’re teaching!

Here are some great examples:

Slide from Fundamentals of ISO and Shutter Speed: Create Images That Freeze or Blur Action

Slide from Animated Self-Portrait: Bring Your Evil Twin to Life


That's a wrap!

Engaging slides boil down to clarity, consistency and simplicity. If you follow the recommendations from this tutorial, you will have visually compelling and information rich slides that students will thank you for!

To learn even more tips and best practices, check out some of these Skillshare classes on slide design:


Elissa Bernstein

Program Manager, Skillshare Mavericks

Elissa Bernstein

Program Manager, Skillshare Mavericks

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