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Creating Powerful Slide Shows
By Paul Krantz

When I worked for a major consumer website back in the 90s and early 2000s, I found that slide shows were one of the most effective tools for boosting page views per visitor. In fact, I quickly discovered that there was virtually no limit to the number of slides our visitors would click through. Because the site was associated with a monthly magazine, I had access to thousands of high quality photos. Our slide shows soon went from 15 to 20 slides to 30, 40 or 50 or more images. Most of our shows centered on recipes, but topics like decorating, gardening and home improvement also worked well.

Now imagine that you’ve just been put in charge of your company’s website, and your first order of business is to update the “Our Team” section of the “About Us” section. You could stick to the typical approach: a long scrolling page of postage-stamp size images accompanied by meaty chunks of biographical information.  If you’re very lucky, your average visitor will make it as far as the Chief Financial Officer before heading off in search of a stock quote or the latest annual report.

But what if you put much of that same information into a slide show? Now your visitors are greeted with a large photo of your CEO and a brief but compelling bio. Click. Another slide, another key member of your management team. Click, click, click. The Assistant Vice President for the Eastern U.S. Click, click ... click. Hey, that’s the intern that changes the toner in the copy machine.  Your visitor has reached the last slide, number 32, and  she’s still looking for the button to choose the next slide!

Not only have you added 31 page views to your website’s tally, you’ve suddenly become a hero in the eye’s of every team member who’s given his or her star turn on the pages of your site.

Keys to a compelling slide show

Slide shows are one of the most forgiving of the web-based communication power structures, but by keeping a few simple rules in mind, you can boost their effectiveness. Here’s how these rules might affect your work on the “Out Team” slide show. Later on, we’ll look at other situations where a slide show can work wonders for your communications program.

Rule one: Size and quality matter. The larger your images, the more alluring they will be. Photos should be no smaller than 300 pixels wide; a width of 600 pixels is the sweet spot. And to create a professional impression, all photos should be similar in scale if not exactly the same sizes.

Quality images are also critical to creating the positive impression you want to project. That means shelling out for professional portraits of your team, ideally images that show them in a business setting, not plopped in front of a painted backdrop. If hiring a pro is out of the question,  check out these tips for taking better photos.

Rule two: Keep captions  brief. Thinks of your bios as “elevator pitches” for your team members. If you had only 30 seconds to convince someone that your CEO is the best person for the job, what key elements would you include? Education history? Probably not. The fact that she doubled her division’s revenues in her previous role? Definitely. Be ruthless in your bio pruning and you’ll multiply the odds that you’ll leave a memorable and positive impression of each team member.

Rule three: Don’t leave readers hanging. When visitors reach the last slide in your show, they are primed to want more. Leverage that desire by making your last slide a gateway to another part of your website. Pick one, two or three key links to make it easy for your visitors to find the information they are most likely to want next. Maybe that’s a slide show that summarizes key elements of your current Annual Report. Or a slide show of your most important clients. Do you see the pattern here?

When to consider a slide show. There’s plenty of free and open source slide show software out there, so even if your budget is tight, your IT provider should be able to get code that will work for your site. Slide shows are ideal for content that already has images associated with it. New products are a natural. For businesses like landscaping or remodeling, get into the habit of taking multiple photos of each job, including “before” images. (Pro Tip: Be sure to get your clients to sign photo releases even if you don’t plan to include their name or location when you publish the images.) For reports and the like, consider creating slides from very simple charts and graphs. If the clutter is kept in check, these can be an effective way to coax visitors to sit through a fairly lengthy presentation.

Got your own ideas? Don’t hesitate to consider a slide show for almost any type of content you can chunk out into manageable bites.s
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