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5 Easy Steps to More Effective Slides
By: Jason Moore

It's a funny thing, really…we all do them, but it's practically unanimous that no one thinks they work. I'm referring, of course, to announcement slides.

For the past several years at my Design Matters seminar, I've regularly asked attendees whether they use announcement loops and if they feel they work. About 99.9% of the time, the majority of the crowd responds first with nods and then with shaking heads.

The "announcement loop" seems to be completely ineffective, but it doesn't have to be. Here are five tips for making your announcements more effective.

1. Kill the clipart.

The first and perhaps biggest problem is that from a design standpoint, our announcement slides stink. They are often thrown together at the last minute, are mostly made up of text, and are ultimately devoid of any sense of design. When we do incorporate imagery, we look to the wrong sources.

If Microsoft Office's clipart gallery is your starting point, you've unwittingly discovered the root of the problem.

Clipart was originally designed for prints purposes. It was literally clipped/cut out and pasted to fliers, newsletters, and other print publications.

While clipart may have served a distinct purpose in the print mediums of the past, it doesn't usually translate well to screen use. Unfortunately, no one gave the folks on the PowerPoint development team that note.

Avoiding clipart will start you on the path to more appealing announcements. Look to full-screen or high-quality stylized art found at such places as www.istockphoto.com or www.shutterstock.com. Try using the search illustrations option to find some really tasteful source material.

2. Engage in the creative process.

For many announcement "designers," creativity is barely considered when announcements are put together. Usually, creativity is limited to the selection of gradient colors, what font(s) to use (Comic Sans is the devil), and which clipart file best fits the headline.

Creativity matters! Brainstorm ways to make your announcements fun and visually appealing. Is there a creative twist you can put on your announcement that will catch the eye? Could you do a parody of a movie poster to convey the information? Might you display your info in the image on a brick wall, yellow legal pad, or iPhone rather than over a gradient or solid color? Look for visual hooks to make your announcements stick.

3. Consider your audience.

The visual style of your announcement should appeal to your target audience. This may mean doing a little research.

For announcements appealing to youth, look at the design styles of MTV, G4, and other edgy networks. Lifetime and OWN might provide visual insights for imagery that appeals to women. ESPN, Spike, and Comedy Central would be good references for men.

Also, don't design in a vacuum. It never hurts to pull someone in from your target audience to give a little feedback on a graphic's appeal.

4. Model after the movies.

One of the best models for worship announcements can be experienced at your local movie theater. Using trivia, word scrambles, and other creative slides in between your announcements can help keep the attention of the viewer.

When you pose a question on screen, it's only natural for the viewer to want to wait around for the answer. This means that they read everything in between.

There's only one rule for how to make this work. You can only use the trivia one week! Don't be tempted to reuse them – even once.

5. Make multiple versions.

Believe it or not, there is a shelf life for announcement slides. The newness of a design wears off after about two weeks.

It's sort of like wallpaper. Lots of care and attention goes into the selection of a pattern, but once hung, it's not long before wallpaper almost disappears.

When seen every day, what once was appealing becomes uninteresting and unworthy of focused attention. If you use the same announcement slides week in and week out for weeks on end, people will tune them out.

The solution to the wallpaper problem is to design a minimum of three slides per reoccurring announcement – four or five would be even better. Any given design should only be used for one week at a time, never to be repeated on a consecutive week.

When followed, these simple tips will give your announcements some traction.

Jason Moore is a founding partner of Midnight Oil Productions, www.midnightoilproductions.com.

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