In the last few years there has been a rather quick, yet subtle, switch in slide format being used by brands, event organizers and professional speakers alike. That transition is to the wide screen 16:9 format and away from the perennial standard of 4:3.
Personally, I much prefer the wide screen format, as do most frequent speakers, as it provides a lusher and more elegant canvas from which to work. It conveys more of a movie screen type feel, rather than boxy and almost square feeling that the 4:3 format exhibits.
While this transition to the 16:9 format is great for speakers and audiences alike, it has also created a few challenges for presenters. These include:
- Reworking old slides: When creating a new 16:9 presentation from an older 4:3, much of the content on your slides will get stretched.
- Back and forth: You might find that you have to create two versions, one in each format, of your go-to presentations. Not a huge issue, but quite annoying.
- Surprises: in 2015, I delivered nearly 25 presentations at conferences and events and of those only two were still set-up for the 4:3 presentation format. One I knew about in advance as they provided their branded template, the other I found out the night before. I was speaking on the third day of a conference and had noticed on day one that many of the other presentations looked squished and had formatting issues. That’s when I asked the A/V people if they were supporting 16:9 – and the answer was of course “no.” Unlike many of the other speakers I was able to redo my slides.
- Slide real estate: Not only is reworking your old 4:3 slides a challenge, but when creating new 16:9 format slides you may find that a lot of your visual assets – screenshots, charts, stock photos, etc. don’t fit or work as well on the wider, narrower format. For example, when you expand an almost square or tall image to the wide-screen format, you are going to cut off elements in the image at the top or bottom.
Tips to Successfully Deal With the Transition to 16:9
Here are a few tips to help you address the 16:9 format head on:
1. Re-do your templates: Hopefully your marketing department has already updated all of your company’s presentation templates – but if not, read them the riot act and get them on board ASAP.
2. Update your stock photo inventory: You will need to start buying or creating stock photos that are more landscape than portrait. Those dozens of stock photos and other images that work well in the almost square 4:3 format, won’t cut it in 16:9. Also, for a full-screen effect, many of your images will have to be enlargened so much that key elements of the image may be cut off.
3. Find out conference format in advance: Reach out to the conference organizer early in the process and find out which format they will be supporting. You want to avoid last minute surprises (like mine above), but also give yourself plenty of time to reformat existing slides if leveraging an older 4:3 format presentation.
Good luck with your formats!