Dear Slide Doctor: Perfectly Polished!

Illustration by Kate Moore.

Illustration by Kate Moore.

Slide Doctor is a post series where crowded, lackluster, or otherwise ornery slides are transformed into beautiful, effective ones. Have slides you need help with? Submit your question and slides to the Slide Doctor at with the Subject Line: Slide Doctor!

Dear readers,

Let’s get right to the point. The Slide Doctor has been responding to your requests for over a year now, and she knows you’ve been hanging on every word. You’re an old pro at streamlined design, you’ve ditched all distractions, and you’d never, ever use a soporific static slide in place of an intriguing interactive inquiry. You might even believe you no longer need help with your Slides at all.

The Slide Doctor would forgive you for thinking so; she understands how intoxicating a little know-how can be. But there’s more to a legendary lesson than tossing together some nicely-designed questions. If you’re truly ready to take your lessons to the next level, read on for the Slide Doctor’s best professional tips.

Outline at the Outset
It may be a tad counterintuitive, but often the best way to build thoughtful Slides is to not start with Slides at all. The Slide Doctor recommends beginning each presentation with a text-only outline, rather than jumping into design head-first. In your favorite text editor, make an outline with bullet points of every single thing you’d like to say, like so.

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When you’ve finished putting together an outstanding outline, copy each bullet point into the presenter notes of a blank Slide. Then, begin pulling information from those points onto the Slide itself. Before adding a nugget of information to the Slide, ask yourself a few questions: is this information essential to students’ understanding? Would it be equally informative if I were to say it out loud? Is my Slide getting crowded enough that I need to add another one? It’s good to keep that Slide count as low as possible, but the Slide Doctor firmly believes in going up a size rather than squeezing into something too small.

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In this way, you’ll build a lesson that leans on learning, not just on looks. In fact, the Slide Doctor says ignore the design of your Slide during this step. But don’t clutch those pearls just yet—there is a method to the madness.

Scheming Your Space
One of the trickiest traps the Slide Doctor sees regularly is that of the space-to-question-type mismatch. It’s important to consider what kind of question you’re asking when you set up the design of your Slide. Asking a Drawing question? You’ll need to leave plenty of space for students to execute their creative vision. And obviously, a Draggable Slide needs something for students to drag to. But outside of those question types, there’s no need to leave acres of white space on your Slide—for Text, Number, Multiple Choice, and Website slides, your Slide will appear split-screen beside a window where students will enter their response. Don’t stuff your Slide with superfluities, but feel free to use the space for anything that—to quote a fellow wise, stylish, advice-dispensing sage—sparks joy.

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Take Advantage of Tools
The Pear Deck Add-on offers dozens of ways to improve your lessons, but don’t forget that Google Slides comes with its own array of options, too. Here are just a few ways to use built-in Slides features to your advantage:

  • With an image selected, click the drop-down arrow beside the Crop button to choose a shape to crop it into. You can make a regular rectangular image look more like an intentional design element by cropping it into a circle or rounded rectangle, for example.

  • As the Slide Doctor mentioned in a prior post, use animations to bring your content on-screen one chunk at a time. No need to overload students with everything at once!

  • Building a Student-Paced Deck? Help students hop with hyperlinks between Slides. With an image or bit of text selected, click Insert > Link and choose another Slide in your Deck. If you’re feeling creative, you can even use this technique to create Choose-Your-Own-Adventure lessons.

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Remix & Repurpose
As a seasoned Slide Doctor veteran, you’ve surely looked through the templates available through the Pear Deck sidebar (and, for extra credit, the other template packs that have been released). But did you know you can pick, choose, and alter the elements to suit your strategy? Copy and paste images between Slides, edit or remove text, change Draggable types, and more. The possibilities are positively endless.

Refining, Finally
When you’ve got every other piece of the puzzle in place, it’s time to sit back and look at the whole picture. After organizing your content, adding question types, and putting images and other elements in place, scroll through your Slides and evaluate them as a whole. As a rule of thumb (of course, the Slide Doctor has none, but pardon the expression), look for 2-3 colors that fit well with your content, and use those for backgrounds and accents. It’s also a good idea to choose no more than two fonts to use throughout your lesson: one for headlines (the “display” font) and one for your main text (the “body” font). Go through each Slide and apply the look you’ve chosen, and finish your lesson secure in the knowledge that your content looks consistent.

With these tips in place, dear readers, your Decks will be more perfectly polished than ever. But don’t worry; just because you’re making beautiful lessons doesn’t mean there’s no more to learn. The Slide Doctor will return to solve more of your stickiest Slide scrapes. In the meantime, best of luck with your fine-tuning.

Have slides you need help with? Submit your question and slides to the Slide Doctor at with the Subject Line: Slide Doctor!

Kate Moore