The infinite slide deck
Issue 38: Creating a narrative system for your presentation needs
If you’ve ever done a presentation, this feeling of frantically looking for images to make your slides beautiful days before the talk may feel familiar to you. It feels like you’re spending hours on the look of the slides instead of focusing on the story.
Designers are so focused on other work that what gets neglected is their own portfolio and content. Maintaining this content is a lot of work and years might go by before you’re needing it. This is where creating the infinite slide deck can be your remedy. It creates the source of truth for creative content in a modular way; a primer for your narrative decks. The infinite slide deck is something you actively maintain to ensure you have the most up-to-date concepts to use.
Like all good modular designs, the key principles are flexibility and reusability. Your slide deck modules operate like components in a design system. Like all good presentations, focus on what’s important...the story. Let’s walk through how you can create your own infinite slide deck. Start with high-level structure of the primary building blocks of your presentations.
The elements of an infinite slide deck
Plot out the scenes you have in your narratives. There are common patterns that you’ll see in presentations. For example, most conference talks have an intro, about section, the content, and conclusion. These sections can be built out as reusable modules. Create a list of concepts you cover in your talks. This gives you some structure to work with where you can nest slides that are relevant to each section.
Finding the right images and assets is the hardest part. If you don’t organize your assets in a central place, it can be laborious to hunt them all down when needed. Build your collection of images to make it easy to find source material.
I use the asset library that I use for my website, portfolio, and slide deck all in the same place to ensure consistent storytelling. The former production designer in me ends up creating different asset sizes that can be used for various use cases.
My slide deck system is in Keynote. We use Google Slides a lot at work to make it easily sharable. Though it can work, Google Slides misses a few key features to make the styles of your infinite deck. I like keynote because it’s simple to nest slides and build out robust sections that you can repurpose for other slide decks. Ultimately, use the presentation software is preferred and you’ll find a way to modify this structure.
Within each section, you can have sets of different elements. For example, if you have a case studies section, you can put all of them here.
Create variants of different formats of how you want to present to make it accommodate the length of your talk. For example, in one talk, you may have five minutes to cover an “about me” section whereas in shorter talks you may only have 30 seconds. Create variations that accommodate these.
If you need to work with a branded deck, it's pretty simple to make a new keynote file and update the styles to that one.
Next time you have a moment, start an infinite slide deck. It's been a time-saver for me to focus on concepts instead of the details of each slide itself and has forced me to think at a higher level. I'd love to see what you come up with!
P.S. I gave my talk at Config last week about The Universal Challenges of Every Scaling Design Team. Here are the slides if you want to check them out