An 8 Second Trick to Make Any Slide Deck Feel Polished

Aaron Dinin, PhD
4 min readFeb 20, 2020

Big improvements for important projects usually take lots of work, time, and money. But sometimes, when we’re really lucky, massive improvements can be made with tiny amounts of effort. This next piece of advice falls squarely into the latter category. It’s a tiny change that will make a huge difference in the overall quality of any slide-based presentation… and I promise it doesn’t take more than eight seconds

When most people build their presentation slides — PowerPoints, Google Slides, Keynotes, etc. — they focus all their efforts on the content. Focusing on content is a reasonable decision, but it overlooks a simple yet critical fact: the people in your audience see more than your content. They see everything around and in between your content, too. As a result, aesthetic decisions associated with things you, as the presenter, might not be thinking about, are influencing the way your audience experiences your presentations.

Hidden subtly but importantly within the aforementioned collection of aesthetic decisions impacting your audience’s experience is the way your presentation transitions from one slide to the next.

Most presenters don’t think about ways their slides transition. As a result, they build beautiful slides with hideous transitions that jolt viewers from one idea to the next like this:

Stare at the above GIF for 30 seconds. Don’t focus on the words. Just feel the images. Do you notice how jarring each transition feels? Every new piece of information jolts you. In doing so, it subtly but forcefully creates the perception that each point is its own separate piece of content, completely distinct and unrelated to all the information around it.

While the feeling might seem minor in a brief demonstration with fake content, imagine what happens when that feeling expands across an entire presentation. It undercuts the presentation’s purpose. Specifically, it’s in direct contrast with a presenter’s underlying goal of telling a cohesive and interconnected narrative. In a cohesive narrative, each slide builds on the slide prior and smoothly rolls into the…

Aaron Dinin, PhD

I teach entrepreneurship at Duke. Software Engineer. PhD in English. I write about the mistakes entrepreneurs make since I’ve made plenty. More @