Slide Redesign: Rodney Hopson’s Keynote

Last year I had the joy of working with Rodney Hopson, 2012 President of the American Evaluation Association, on the slides for his keynote talk. The transformation was so huge that I asked Rodney if I could write a blog post about it and the thinking we put into the new design. He said I could, asking me to “Pick the rudest and most unorganized slide” for the discussion. Here it is:


Most of Rodney’s slides in his original talk looked similar to this one. These slides are the sign of someone who is really steeped in the literature and research and thinking of a field. In fact, Rodney is attempting to bridge several fields here, so he’s really swimming in information.

As we know, slides like this discourage involvement because it puts the audience in a position of reading and listening at the same time. Our brains are not very good multitaskers, so the result of this situation is that we get mentally overloaded and we take a break. We don’t walk away retaining much information.

The first discussion Rodney and I had about the slide redesign was that we would break each bullet into its own slide. One idea per slide. This is the biggest bang for the buck for those with text-heavy slides. I warned him that it would make the number of slides in his deck explode, but that it would be the same amount of content, the same number of minutes talking. He was okay with that. Well, we both slipped a little into “How am I going to get through 80 slides in 45 minutes?” mentality a few times, but we emerged okay.

Here is that same slide, revised into two:



The heading font and the action color were intentional choices. I wanted to relate the conference’s keynote talk to the graphic design put in to the conference’s annual theme (and developed by my friend Chris Metzner).  So for the slides, Rodney and I snagged the design elements and used them to support the slidedeck’s theme.  To my short memory, I’ve never seen a presidential keynote talk tie so closely to the annual theme.

We also broke down the text – one idea per slide, of course. But we broke that one idea down even further so that it was visually depicted as a diagram, where each text chunk appeared one at a time. It  reads more like how we think.

We also agreed that these somewhat academic concepts might relate better with strong, real world examples. So we added in mini-stories, this one about Pittsburgh, to illustrate Rodney’s theories.

Finally, we removed the references from slide. I convinced Rodney that his references belonged in the paper each president published in the American Journal of Evaluation. And that leaving them in his slides risked asking people to copy words, read, and listen simultaneously.

All of the after slides can be viewed in AEA’s eLibrary, here. You’ll see there that we also pulled in images from the program cover, which was a swirling soup of images, all related to evaluation, complexity, and ecology (I told you Hopson was bridging fields).

Want to learn more? I’m offering an online workshop on slides and another one on data visualization. Check out the details on these upcoming events.


  1. Fantastic Stephanie,

    When watching the keynote I couldn’t help but notice how well the slides were designed. I knew you helped with the deck but didn’t know to what extent. Thanks for sharing the example.

    This presentation really kicked off a conference that will be remembered for the forward movement in slide/presentation design.

  2. Thank you Stephanie this is a wonderful descripton of how slide information was improved! It helped me to learn-by seeing the examples. I wish I had a magical fairy Godmother to tweak my next presentation like this!

    1. Give yourself enough time and you can totally do it on your own, Carol! Or tell your boss that Fairy Godmothers aren’t all that expensive.

  3. Great example. This is like slide redesign on steroids. You’ve demonstrated that it isn’t just about picking better colors or using less words (which is the quick and dirty method of slide redesign).

    You first had to figure out the essence of the slide (i.e., what the main point really is) and then visually represent it in a meaningful and accessible way. I think this is a skill that goes beyond slide design. Are there steps or strategies you use to sort this all out or is it Evergreen intuition and magic?

    1. I’d like to claim it’s special and proprietary, but I think it’s really about having multiple conversations with the speaker/author. Rodney and I had at least 11 revisions to his slides before he presented them at the conference and near-weekly phone calls. I don’t think every redesign process needs that much back-and-forth. But, in part, I think our conversations helped him clarify his own thinking. At the same time, it let me know what needed to be on the slide. Having a PhD in evaluation definitely helped me out in those conversations.

  4. I asked Stephanie to be Dataviz Fairy Godmother to the slides for the keynote I did last year in Brazil. Fantastic!!! I learned so much from getting her input on that one piece, and have recycled slides and designed more along those lines for my other presentations and workshops ever since.

    In addition to doing Stephanie’s webinars, I think it’s fantastic value for money to get her to help you intensively with one really high-stakes presentation. You mill be able to milk more and more value out of not just those slides but also what you learn about slide design while she does it.

    Oh, and P.S. she helped me revamp my website too, so take a look! (OK I am not completely ‘finished’ redoing it, but you get the idea …).

    Highly recommend!!!

      1. Sorry this is a late posting, but I just checked out Jane’s new website…it does look good! Maybe you can do something about AEA’s website? It needs help.

        1. Stephanie Evergreen

          That’s funny, Anna! Yes, the AEA sure does need some work. It boggles my mind how many files and such need to be moved to a new platform. A monumental task! The rumor I hear is that AEA is hoping to get a site renovation in the next 18 months. An awesome website to reflect an awesome organization.

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