Presenting is part of your daily business, but you hate creating slides? You’re an online instructor, public speaker or need to present at board meetings, but an empty Powerpoint file gives you the willies? You’re not alone. Tools like Powerpoint and Keynote have been around for a long time, and web-based alternatives like Google Slides and Visme.co offer interesting alternatives. However, they’re just tools – you’re the slide creator. While a good slide deck can improve a presentation and emphasize key points, creating slides that don’t sabotage your presentation is challenging and can take a huge amount of time. But does it have to?
The Difficulty of Creating Great Slide Decks
A good slide deck needs to
- Support your presentation
- without overwhelming and distracting your audience
You’ll need to write succinct headlines and support them with imagery. Selecting images that work to make your point is time consuming and often expensive. If you want to have a large enough choice of images, you’ll often need a stock photo account. Once you’ve selected your images, you’ll need to arrange text and images and make sure the result is visually appealing. If you’re a non-designer, you’ll probably struggle with this (I know I do).
An Artificial Intelligence Solution to Creating Presentations
Slidebot.io, a service that was started in 2015, claims to have solved this issue for us. According to their tag line, the tool will “create beautiful slides, instantly”. Slidebot’s goal is to enable anyone to create engaging and powerful presentations, regardless of their design skills. Let’s take a look!
How Slidebot works
Slidebot.io is a web application which runs on Safari or Chrome. Slidebot analyses your textual presentation content slide-by-slide using natural language processing. Once it understands what you’re saying, it will search images to find pictures that fit your message and create a slide, combining your textual content and a matching image. It will then apply a large number of design rules to format each slide in a matter of seconds, resulting in a unique presentation – all on autopilot.
How to Use Slidebot
You can sign up for a 10 days trial – but you’ll need a credit card right from the start. You can cancel at any time before the end of your trial. If you forget to do that, you’ll be billed ($19/Month or $179/year). Cancelling requires sending an email to the (very helpful and responsive) Slidebot team. Once you’ve signed up, you’ll be greeted by the incredibly simple interface:
For a new slide deck, you start by entering your headlines on separate lines. Once you click on “Create my slides”, Slidebot.io will do the following:
- Create one slide for every headline
- Find a matching image for each headline
- Make that image the slide background and
- Arrange your headline text so that it’s visually appealing and easily readable
The entire process only takes a couple of seconds and the results are really quite good. The slide layout algorithm works well and places text at the ideal spot. Oh, and it’s super-easy to use! The length of this walkthrough should tell you how easy it is to use Slidebot, and how quick the slide creation process is.
Once Slidebot has created your slide deck (in 16:9 or 4:3 format), you may re-arrange slides and slide elements, add further text and adjust colors, sizes, transparency. If you’re not happy with the selected image for a slide, you may change it with very few clicks. According to their own claims, Slidebot has access to 25 million images. I didn’t count.
Need slides for commercial purposes? Ask Slidebot to only use images with a suitable license! Alternatively, you could upload your own images. You can even insert uploaded images as page elements (as opposed to a background), which can’t be done with the standard images that Slidebot provides. (This is the only time where the interface is a little awkward as you need to do this from the “background” tab, not the “object” tab)
Instead of background images, you can also opt for unicolor backgrounds. When you change a background image, text will automatically move around to fit perfectly. If required, Slidebot will place a transparent overlay above the image to increase contrast between text and image. Have I mentioned that the layout algorithm is smart? Overlay colors can, of course, be adjusted (either for one slide or all slides in the presentation). Adding further slides is easy. Add another headline, and you’re good to go.
If you don’t agree with Slidebot’s positioning of your headline text, you may adjust the text position either using an automatic option – or you can simply drag the text around the slide.
If you want to add additional text, you can do so very easily. However, you’ll need to take care of the design for your custom text additions. Text options will allow you to customize font, font color, font size, adjustment and line height. You may also insert symbols from a library if you manage to find a suitable symbol (there’s no search).
Limitations of Slidebot.io
Slidebot is a tool with a specific purpose. I like that it’s not bloated, but it also means that for many applications, you’ll need to tweak your results with Powerpoint afterwards:
- Variety in Slidebot output is limited, it clearly relies on the power of images to provide variety.
- Links are not supported (see this article on Visme if you need interactive presentations instead)
- There is no video support. You’re limited to text and images.
- There are no animations or transitions. Use Powerpoint after exporting if you need them.
- Once you’ve added additional text fields or objects, there is no option to recalculate ideal positioning. Slidebot’s workday ends when headlines and images have been arranged.
- Sometimes, text positioning is just a little off. This is easy to fix manually though.
- Firefox isn’t officially supported, but worked well enough in my quick test.
- While the image selection works well, sometimes the natural language processing reaches its limits. With the headline “Futureproof training”, Slidebot had a clear preference for pictures of “Trains”. While visually appealing, the images didn’t contribute much to the slide’s message. These problems are being tackled with learning algorithms that will track users’ corrections of images and reprioritize images based on these actions for future presentations.
If you can go online when presenting, there’s no need to take a file with you. Log in to Slidebot, choose your presentation, and click “Show full screen”. You’ll be able to present immediately.
However, if you’re presenting where wifi coverage is flaky, or if you want to tweak Slidebot’s results further, you’ll want to export a file. Slidebot exports to PDF, JPG and Powerpoint (and I’m told that Keynote export is in the works). You can use Slidebot to create a great starting point for your manual adjustments in Powerpoint afterwards. The Slidebot team is working on a branding option to create slides in line with your corporate identity, so you’ll save time when transforming your slides after exporting them.
Slidebot output truly looks great – the slides are better than 90% of slide decks I need to endure in daily business. In part, this is due to a simplistic approach it takes: Slides with one headline and a fullscreen image look good when properly arranged – and proper arrangement is Slidebot’s specialty. Simplicity is a good thing, and for visual presentation, talks and speeches, the approach works very well. If you’re conveying an idea, a passion and soft facts, Slidedeck will allow you to create appealing slides to support your talk in no time.
If you need to present facts and figures, percentages and graphs, Slidebot will be less helpful. That doesn’t mean there’s no place for Slidebot in corporations though. Often, you need to convince stakeholders of a course of action to take, at a time where facts and figures are not yet available. Images work miracles in such situations, and the image based style enforces good presentation principles (where you won’t be able to read text off of slides. Yes, I’m looking at you, dear colleagues!).
Slidebot is extremely easy to use. Anyone who’s used Powerpoint, Keynote or google slides before will have zero trouble with Slidebot. I really love the simplicity of the interface. This is a tool that you can use once a month without ever having to pause and think about how to use it.
The price tag may be a little high if you’re only using it once a month, but if you’re a regular presenter that struggles with good slide design, Slidebot may be the remedy you need to you avoid “death by powerpoint”.
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