How to start a presentation: crafting the perfect first slide

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It’s at the top of every presentation. And often it isn’t any good. I am talking about the first slide of your deck: the one that reveals the title, sets the mood and reveals the tone of your presentation.

How do you craft the perfect first slide?

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The First Slide

You have lived this scenario a thousand times: you enter a conference or meeting room, unsure if it’s the right one, glance at the screen to see if the slide that is being projected aligns with the topic of the presentation that you are expecting. Based on that you take a seat.

Or maybe you’ve been on the internet a few times and have seen the first slide of presentations being used as a “preview image” on social media, inviting you to click and see the whole presentation.

You may even know (and love) Slideshare, the most popular slide hosting site on the web: here the first slide is used to invite you to click, like and download a presentation deck.

You have spent time waiting for a presentation to start looking at a first slide, wondering if the presenter would be any good, wondering who they were and what to expect.

The Jobs of the First Slide

From the cases that I just outlined it’s easy to understand that the first slide has many jobs, many functions, many purposes. First of all it needs to convey clearly the message of your presentation. It can do that – in the traditional template – with a Title and Subtitle. At least this is how PowerPoint displays a “title slide”. But those are not fields that you must fill in.

In fact there are more important objectives that a first slide can help you accomplish: depending on the setting you should have your name or your twitter handle in the first slide. In some settings it would be better to have both.

Sometimes it helps to display a 3 word bio. Oftentimes you also represent a company so your logo also belongs somewhere on this first slide.

Some people even feature the location and the date of the presentation. Is this information really useful or just filler?

It’s easy to have an overcrowded first slide that – while trying to accomplish all the objectives – fails miserably at conveying any useful message.

Focus, focus, focus

My solution is to focus on one objective first. The most important one is usually the title of the talk. It’s great if your title goes well with an image. Image and title are then the core element of your first slide.

Once you have a powerful title with a powerful visual you can think about the output format of your slides. When I’m presenting at a conference I always display my twitter handle and a website as part of the first slide.

If your output format will be paper or a slide sharing platform you can have a super clean title slide with just a title and visual and devote a second slide to you, your contacts and your bio. If you are presenting in a more formal environment you may want to skip the social contacts and focus on your name and bio a bit more.

The important thing is that your core message comes across clearly.

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