METM10 plenary talk

Effective slides: design, construction, and use

Jean-luc Doumont, Brussels, Belgium

Edward Tufte has pointed out that several hundred million copies of PowerPoint are turning out trillions of slides each year and he contends that the tool "is making us stupid" (1). Those of us who frequently attend presentations probably agree that most of these slides are ineffective, often detracting from what presenters are saying instead of enhancing their presentation. Slides have too much text for us to want to read them, or not enough for us to understand the point. They impress us with colors, clip art, and special effects, but not with content. As a sequence of information chunks, they easily create a feeling of tedious linearity. Nevertheless, few of us would agree with Tufte that we should distrust speakers who use them. Having conducted more than 150 in-depth discussions of slides with engineers, scientists, executives, and other professionals at workshops, I would argue that slides can be effective when they are well designed, well constructed, and well used.

Based on Trees, maps, and theorems, my book on "effective communication for rational minds" (2), this talk will discuss how to design, construct, and use slides effectively. Building on three simple yet solid principles, it will establish what (not) to include on a slide and why, how to optimize the slide's layout to get the message across effectively, and how to use slides appropriately when delivering the presentation.


Jean-luc Doumont, an engineer who trained at the Louvain School of Engineering and received his PhD in applied physics from Stanford University, now devotes his time and energy to training engineers, scientists, business people, and other rational minds in effective communication, pedagogy, statistical thinking, and related themes. Articulate, entertaining, and thought-provoking, Jean-luc is a popular invited speaker worldwide, in particular at international scientific conferences, research laboratories, and top-ranked universities. For additional information, visit

(1) Tufte ER. The cognitive style of PowerPoint. Cheshire, CT, USA: Graphics Press. 2003.
(2) Doumont JL. Trees, maps, and theorems. Kraainem, Belgium: Principiae. 2009. ISBN 978 90 813677 07.