How to Design a Slide for a Story

One of the most powerful ways to make an abstract concept concrete is to tell an anecdote – a brief story that makes your point.

When I worked with BBP Online member Kathy Kerchner on her presentation recently, one of the points she wanted to make to her students is that you can’t take an audience for granted. We wrote that point in the Explanation column of her story template, below, and then in the Detail column to the right we wrote out three anecdotes that would back up that point:

With the story structure in place, we imported the story template headlines into PowerPoint, where we then sketched out an illustration to accompany each of the anecdotes, below:

Next, we searched iStockphoto for stock photographs, and added a simple graphic to replace the sketch on each slide, below:

When Kathy presents each slide, the ellipsis at the end of the headline leaves the main point intentionally incomplete, so her audience would be eager to hear her complete the story.

In the example below, she relates a personal story about how she assumed she knew her own audience of Arizona policemen, but it turned out her assumptions were incorrect:

The simple graphic conveys the essence of the topic without giving too much away as she tells the verbal story over the next minute, before moving on to the next slide.

In another example below, she tells the story of how one presenter used the “OK” hand signal with an American audience, only to find out that the same hand signal was actually offensive to a Brazilian audience:

These are a few examples of how to design a slide to tell a story, with the slide serving as a backdrop to your anecdote rather than a distraction.

Is there a way that you can integrate more visual anecdotes into your next presentation? If you can, you’ll unlock a secret of effective communication that will make sure your message is visible and memorable.

(BBP Online members can watch the recorded videos of the live BBP sessions with Kathy at this page.)

This entry was posted in BBP Case Studies. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to “How to Design a Slide for a Story”

  1. TJ says:

    Hello Cliff
    Great site. I’ll be digging in further. I was looking for data and info experts when researching some things for a client of mine, Tableau Software, and found your site.

  2. Brenda says:

    I just found your blog. I often work with clients as a graphic designer so I can appreciate the content here. I’ll have to get your feed to read more!

  3. TJ McCue says:

    Hi Cliff
    I apologize — i left the wrong url for you.

  4. Cliff Atkinson says:

    Thanks for the kind words!

  5. Terry Gault says:


    This is a great example of using power-point correctly: not as the main meat of the presentation but instead as a visual anchor.

    Too often I see presentations that are overly loaded with text.

    One thing I especially like about this example is that she uses bullets as hooks.

    By that I mean that the bullet reminds the presenter of their talking points but also incite curiosity in your audience. Here are a few other examples of what I mean:

    · Why Automate Processes?
    · License to Fail
    · Magnet Markets
    · Customers: Faithful or Fickle?
    · Plan or Wing It?
    · Tragedy or Triumph?

    Thanks for the post!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *