How to Create a Widescreen Presentation

Screen shapes have evolved resulting in widescreen presentations becoming more common. This new size takes full advantage of laptops, desktop monitors, projectors and flat screen televisions. We have been fielding numerous questions on optimizing this new layout. We have seen this format used within organizations, at advisory boards, CHE, national and international conferences.

The questions I field fall into three groups. How do I create a widescreen presentation? Why would I create a widescreen presentation? Does widescreen mean I can cram more content onto my slides?

How to Create a Widescreen Presentation

To set the size of your slide to widescreen, follow these few simple steps.

In PowerPoint* 2013:
1. Click the Design tab, and then click Slide Size
2. Click Widescreen (16:9)

In PowerPoint 2010 and 2007:
1. Click the Design tab, and then click Page Setup
2. In the drop down menu for Slides sized for: choose On Screen Show (16:9)

The steps are the same if you want to convert a presentation you already have from 4:3 to 16:9. However, PowerPoint 2013 offers new options (Maximize or Ensure Fit) that automatically scales your content to fit within the new slide format that you choose. Although not perfect, this can help you save time with resizing content, graphs and images. PowerPoint 2010 and 2007 do not have these options. You may need to re-import images such as logos if they become distorted. As always we can help with this.

If you are using PowerPoint for MAC** it is straightforward. Go to page set-up and from the drop down menu select 16:9.

Why Create a Widescreen Presentation?

Presentations in widescreen are excellent for projecting sweeping imagery, better support storytelling and help to achieve a more cinematic impact. The 16:9 aspect ratio or widescreen means that you no longer have black boxes on either side of your slides. They are great if you are presenting on modern equipment or a flat screen. If you are presenting on an older LCD projector it may not be the best choice as the equipment will end up making everything smaller. My suggestion would be to know how your presentation will be projected before you make the leap to widescreen.

Does Widescreen Mean Squeezing More Content Onto Slides?

In fact it depends on what version of PowerPoint you are using. For those working with PowerPoint 2010 or older and PowerPoint MAC 2011, you will have less vertical real-estate to work with. This means less space for most graphs and charts. For bullet point lists I suggest a 5 by 10 rule (5 lines per slide, 10 words per line).

For those using PowerPoint 2013; Microsoft corrected the lack of vertical space to optimize the real-estate. While fitting more content on a slide will reduce slide-count it will not make the presentation delivery go any faster and it makes for an overly cluttered slide. If you want to be audience oriented, ‘less is truly more’.

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