16:9 vs 4:3: How to Choose the Right Aspect Ratio for Your Presentation – Part 19

Written by Matteo Cassese

In this lesson we need to get a little bit technical because we need to know the formats, resolutions, and the mediums that we are going to use for our presentation.

Let’s start with the formats. They are quite important and there’s just three to know: The first one is 4:3, it’s the traditional format for slideshows and it corresponds to the 1024 by 768 pixels resolution There’s another format made popular by new wide screen televisions and it’s the 16:9 format. It’s a more cinema like format, and it comes in two different resolutions the first one is known as 720p and the second one is the most used, it’s the 1080p resolution.

Now that aspect ratios and resolutions are out of the way, let’s look at medium that you are going to use to present.

If your medium will be paper, use a white background and a 4:3 format, but think for a second and pause. Your presentation is not really a presentation if your medium is paper. In the words of Garr Reynolds, your presentation is a slide document or a slideument. In this case why don’t you turn the paper slightly, change the tool and use a word processor to create a memo instead.

If you are going to use a projector, the most important thing is that your slides have high contrast and most modern projectors will have the 16:9 aspect ratio. Choose the simplest possible background that ensures the best contrast with the information that you want to display on the slides. What happens with a lot of projectors is that your slides will appear watered down. So, if they don’t have enough contrast to begin with, they will be unreadable for your audience. And most importantly, optimize the font size and think about the person in the back of the room: can they read your slides?

If you are going to use a flat screen TV, and this is my favorite medium, you can go straight for a 1080p resolution. Modern TVs offer wide screen sizes and at the same time very high resolution and very high contrast, so they’re great for displaying your slides exactly as you imagine them. The other thing is that they invite your audience to sit closer to you, and they can create a more intimate environment.

If you are going to present with your laptop, I cannot give you any advice about the format or the resolution, you have to look at the format and the resolution of your screen. And in this case, what you get is an even more intimate environment where everybody comes together to access the technology and to look at your presentation.

Another medium that is intimate is the tablet. In this case if you are using any Apple device go with a 4:3 format. Tablets are great because they let your audience interact physically with your presentation, and obviously they have to come together in a very intimate way to enjoy your presentation.

Summary:

  • Paper is not the best medium for your presentations.
  • Projectors: mind your contrast.
  • Modern TVs: just a fantastic medium for presenting.
  • Your laptop can create a more intimate environment.
  • But the tablet is really the killer here because it lets your audience interact with your presentation.

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Who is Matteo Cassese?

Hi! I’m a marketing consultant and an enthusiastic entrepreneur with experience working for multinational companies (Warner Bros.), teaching at a university (Link Campus University), and consulting for entertainment companies (Netflix). I’m a scholar of storytelling and have dug deep into screenwriting techniques, mythology, and trans-media narratives. This passion is translated in the simple structure template that you get in all my courses. In my free time I enjoy driving cars (fast).

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