5 tips for creating TED Talk-caliber slides

On-screen projections, whether text or images, augment and complement your narrative—if you craft them properly. Follow these guidelines.

How to craft TED-worthy slides

TED Talks have become a cultural institution.

People turn to TED Talks for wisdom, advice, knowledge and inspiration, through a variety of platforms and formats—including YouTube videos, podcasts and blogs. People can also view slides from previous talks via SlideShare and AuthorStream.

Presenters face particular challenges when creating visuals for TED-style talks, including:

  • Monetary constraints, however, can be useful tools for creative inspiration.
  • No standard templates.You must design a new template for each one.
  • Limited time.TED Talks are limited to 18 minutes, so stringent editing is essential.

Follow these tips when crafting slides for your next presentation:

1. Use a custom background.

PowerPoint and Keynote offer nice selections. The disadvantage is that they’re available to everyone who uses PowerPoint or Keynote—and you want your presentation to be unique.

So, choose a custom background for your TED Talk slides. Consider these factors:

  • Uniqueness, but also subtlety, so your background doesn’t distract from the message
  • Cohesion with the presentation environment (if you know what it will look like)
  • The focus of the presentation—whether the background should highlight the text, or call attention to images

Stock photo sites such as istockphoto or shutterstock offer thousands of textures and gradients, or you could create one using tools included in PowerPoint and Keynote.

2. Choose the fonts for your TED Talk slides wisely.

Sans-serif fonts (Helveltica, Arial, Calibri) are more legible—especially on a screen—than serif fonts, such as Times New Roman.

3. Use animations and transitions appropriately.

Soft dissolves and gentle scrolling can enhance your presentation; you want transitions to be subtle rather than disruptive. Instead of focusing on frenetic animations, use a small amount of nuanced movement to add to the presentation.

4. One idea per slide.

Your audience doesn’t want to stare at the same four points while you weave your narrative around each one. So, make sure each slide focuses on one bullet point or main idea. This helps the audience absorb them one at a time and to focus on your voice and the topic at hand.

5. Select images judiciously.

Google Image Search is not an ideal tool for building professional presentations. Finding the “perfect” image on Google gives you no rights  to use it in your presentation. You must get permission and, in most cases, pay for licensing.

Instead, check out Pixabay, which offers images that can be used and reused commercially without your having to pay for licensing. You can also check out a resource like PresentationPro, which offers a PowerPoint Graphics Pack for purchase and includes many royalty-free graphics and images that you can use in your slides.

Doug Neff is an executive speaker coach and content director for Duarte. A version of this post first appeared on the Duarte blog.

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