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Synopsis of Slide:ology

By Nancy Duarte

Also see: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sjorstrimbach/4729915108/

Chapter 4: Displaying Data

  • When several slides in a row have charts, line up the axes of the charts from slide to slide to avoid content that jumps around.
  • Always start your first data set for a pie chart at the 12 o'clock position.
  • Limit a pie chart to eight sections. More is too many to differentiate on a slide.
  • Percentages on a pie chart must add up to 100%
  • Highlight what is important in a chart
  • Instead of a legend, see if you can put the identifiers right in the graph
  • Modify the background elements so that they are secondary to the data.
  • Assign neutral colors to the secondary information
  • Simplify a legend by removing the border, reducing the font size, and visually separating the primary information from the secondary information
  • De-emphasize the background grid by lightening the color
  • Tilted pie charts tend to give more prominence to the data in the foreground (so don't use tilted pie charts). Also, the same color should be used to represent the same things amongst pie charts.
  • Depth (3D) serves no purpose in bar charts and can often skew the data. Use a color distinction starting with the bars where you want to emphasize a change.
  • Icons instead of numbers can tell a story (e.g., 100 drops of water represent 100% of the water on earth; animation of the water drops dissolving reveals that only 1% of our total water is fresh water).
  • People's retention of data increases when they can "see the numbers." Various icons bring the information to life.
  • Pace information across multiple slides to increase its impact.

Chapter 5: Arranging Elements

  • Contrast the size or color of text in order to highlight what is important.
  • Do not use unintentional contrast because it can confuse the intended message at best, and contradict it at worst.
  • Avoid more than three layers of information on a single plane.
  • Create points of interest (one main point and up to two sub-points).
  • Develop flow within a slide intentionally.
  • Choose images and diagrams with clear directional flow.
  • Select images that flow toward the focal point on the slide or toward the next slide.
  • When using images of people, make sure that they are looking at the content instead of looking away, or fleeing it.
  • Do not make bullet points heavier than the title since it will disrupt the logical flow.
  • It's okay to have white space - clutter is a failure of design.


  • Place objects within an unseen grid in order to give them stability. Think of the rule of thirds but it can be fifths, etc.
  • Don't be afraid to slice an image with the gridlines themselves.
  • Grid elements can span multiple grid parts to appear dynamic.
  • "Breaking" above the grid can be an effective way to focus attention on specific elements (think of background images on the grid and then one superimposed on top of them).
  • Leaving the top and bottom rows in a 5x5 grid creates a more cinematic feeling while providing space for titles and similar information.

Chapter 7: Using Visual Elements

  • Where does it say that every slide needs a logo? The people who have come to hear you speak most likely know who you work for.
  • Backgrounds should never compete with content.
  • Think of your slide like a billboard and ask yourself whether your message can be processed effectively within 3 seconds. The audience should be able to quickly ascertain the meaning before turning their attention back to the presenter.
  • Avoid two-line titles when giving a presentation because of the distance the eye has to travel across the slide.
  • Bullet points, if used, should be consistent: either they all should start with a capital letter (preferred) or not; end or not end with a period, etc. Avoid sub-bullets.
  • Convert photos to black and white and then add a small red element to the text around them.

Chapter 9: Creating Movement

  • Slow-moving animation can help create a feeling of nostalgia or even the passage of time.
  • Fast-moving animation (quick cuts) can help create a sense of excitement, energy, or surprise.
  • Instead of piling info into one slide, split the content between two slides and use the push-left slide animation/transition to connect them together. It will create an illusion that the content is all in the same scene. A transition that makes the slides feel like one large space will help the audience feel like the information is connected within that space. This works best if the sides, top, and bottom are free from all ornamentation (page numbers, titles, logos, etc.).

Chapter 11: Interacting with Slides

  • Select a slide that has too many words on it and highlight one key word per bullet. Rehearse the slide until you can remember the content when you look only at the highlighted word. Remove all other text on the slide leaving just the keywords as mnemonics. Better yet, replace the words on the slide with an image.
  • If you pause during your presentation, it creates more drama and meaning, and reinforces what you have to say.
  • In presentation mode, hit "B" to turn your screen to black so that the focus is on the speaker.

Chapter 12: Manifesto: The Five Theses of the Power of a Presentation

  1. Treat your audience as king
  2. Spread ideas and move people
  3. Help them see what you're saying
  4. Practice design, not decoration
  5. Cultivate healthy relationships