The template produces an academic presentation using LaTeX with the Beamer class . The presentation follows typographical best practices and has a minimalist design—with the aim to convey information effectively.


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Features

  • The aspect ratio is set to 4:3.
  • There are no frills at the periphery of the slides.
  • The font for text, roman math, and numbers is Source Sans Pro.
  • The font for Greek and calligraphic math is Euler.
  • No colors are used in the text (only grayscale) to reduce distraction; colors are reserved for graphs and alerts.
  • Margins, spacing, and font size are set for comfortable reading.
  • Slides with figures, tables, and section headings can easily be inserted into the presentation.

4:3 versus 16:9 aspect ratio

There has been a shift from slides with a 4:3 aspect ratio to wider slides with a 16:9 aspect ratio. This template sticks to the 4:3 aspect ratio.

First, 4:3 slides are more robust. They are easily readable will all projectors, both new and old. By contrast, the text of 16:9 slides becomes very small when they are displayed on old 4:3 projectors.

Second, 4:3 slides are better at effectively presenting supporting information. And slides are here as support, not as a substitute, for what the speaker is talking about. 4:3 slides force presenters to display only essential information on slides—leading to more effective presentations. 16:9 slides are often used to present two graphs at a time, or two paragraphs at a time, or a graph with some side text. This is confusing and possibly distracting for the audience, who does not know what to look at, and may be looking at the wrong part of the slide. 4:3 slides can only display one graph or one paragraph at a time—focusing the attention of the audience on that one piece of information.

Third, lines of text on 16:9 slides are often excessively long. The lines cannot be read at one glance, so reading them distracts from the presentation.

Fourth, 4:3 slides work better on tablets because most tablets have a 4:3 aspect ratio (iPads for instance). It has becomes very common to read or display slides on tablets, or watch online presentation on tablets. In that context, 4:3 slides display better.

Sometimes, however, host institutions or conferences require to use 16:9 aspect ratio. The template can be adjusted to produce such slides. Just add the aspectratio=169 option to the \documentclass command. Specifically, to produce a 16:9 presentation, the first line of the presentation.tex file should be:

\documentclass[11pt,aspectratio=169,xcolor={dvipsnames},hyperref={pdftex,pdfpagemode=UseNone,hidelinks,pdfdisplaydoctitle=true},usepdftitle=false]{beamer}

Text font

Fonts matter in presentations—just as in papers. The font determines the appearance of the entire presentation. For the presentation’s text, the template uses Source Sans Pro , which is one of the free fonts recommended by Matthew Butterick .

Source Sans Pro is a sans-serif font. This is an important feature for presentations, as sans-serif fonts are more readable than fonts with serif in presentations. Another advantage of Source Sans Pro is that it is not part of typical slide templates (unlike Fira Sans for instance), so it feels new and fresh. And since Source Sans Pro was designed in the last decade, it also feels modern.

Moreover, the Source Pro family includes a very nice monospaced font: Source Code Pro . The template uses Source Code Pro as monospaced font—giving the monospaced text and regular text a similar look. The monospaced font is used in particular to typeset URLs.

Another advantage of Source Sans Pro is that there is a with-serif font in the Source Pro family: Source Serif Pro . This paper template uses Source Serif Pro, which gives presentations and papers produced by the two templates a similar look.


Math font

LaTeX uses one font for text and other fonts for math. For consistency, the template sticks with Source Sans Pro for roman math. It also uses Source Sans Pro for all the numbers in math and for very basic math symbols (such as +, ., , ?, /, %, =), so very basic mathematical expressions look the same in math and text. For example, the commands 1+5 and $1+5$ produce the same result. The same is true of the command 3\% + 5\% = 0.08 and $3\% + 5\% = 0.08$.

There are some sans-serif Greek alphabets, but the letters look unusual and are hard to recognize. So for the Greek letters in math, the template uses the Euler font . These Greek letters look good, have the same thickness as the text letters, and are quite distinctive.

The template also uses the Euler font for calligraphic letters in math. These calligraphic letters fit well with the rest of the text and are very readable.

The template uses a simple geometric sans-serif font as blackboard bold font. It is cleaner than the default blackboard bold font. And it includes not only roman letters but also Arabic numbers and Greek letters—which are often omitted in blackboard bold fonts.

Finally, the template use the Symbol font for many symbols in math. The default Computer Modern symbols are very light and thin in comparison to the Source Sans Pro and Euler letters, and as a result do not mix well with them. The advantage of the Symbol font is that its symbols are thicker, so they mix better with the letters. The symbols are also less curly, which gives them a more modern feel.


Font size

The font size is 11pt. It is easily readable but not too big. It follows Butterick’s advice to choose a font size so as to be able to fit about 12 lines of text on one slide.

The template keeps one font size for all text. So the text is not smaller at different levels of itemized lists—which many Beamer themes impose by default but which is both distracting and clunky.


Line spacing

The line spacing is generous: 150% of the point size. This adds white space to the presentation, which helps with reading, and it limits the amount of stuff that can be written on one slide. There is a small amount of additional vertical spacing between items in lists to separate the items better.


Text margins

The information on the title slide, section titles, frame titles, and regular text are all aligned along the same left margin. (This requires various adjustments as these elements are not usually aligned in Beamer themes.) Lists are slightly indented to the right.


Color scheme

As Butterick says , color should be used with restraint. A lot of colors, especially bright ones, are distracting. To reduce distraction, the template only uses grayscale. The text is in dark gray (85% black), not complete black, to avoid an uncomfortable degree of contrast. The list items (bullet points and numbers) are in lighter gray, to blend in the background. Colors are reserved for graphs and text alerts. The typical, bright Beamer bullet points should be avoided as they are distracting.


No frills at the periphery

A typical slide produced with Beamer might includes the following elements:

  • Outline of the talk above the title
  • Small navigation buttons in the bottom right-hand corner
  • Names of the authors and title of the talk at the bottom of the slide
  • A lot of dark, sharp color at the top and bottom

Such clutter distracts listeners and takes their attention away from the main message of the slide—while conveying no useful information. The audience does not need that information in the middle of the talk. The slides produced by the template are devoid of such frills.

In particular, the pesky navigation buttons are eliminated by placing \setbeamertemplate{navigation symbols}{} in the presentation.sty file.


Slide numbers

By default the slides are not numbered. This seems better for most presentations. It seems that displaying slide numbers does nothing but makes the audience jittery at the thought of the sheer number of slides that remain to be covered in the talk.

But for anyone who needs to share slide decks for comments, or who gives a presentation specifically to collect feedback, it might be helpful to have slides numbers—so the comments can be precisely linked to a slide. To introduce page numbers on slide, just comment the line \setbeamertemplate{footline}{} in the style file presentation.sty, and uncomment the line \setbeamertemplate{footline}[frame number].

With slide numbers, it is possible to remove the slide number from the title slide only. To do that, use \frame[plain]{\titlepage} instead of \frame{\titlepage} in presentation.tex. The page numbers will start appearing on the second slide.


Title slide

The title slide avoids centered text and is otherwise pretty minimalist. The title is in large font (21pt), in small caps, and accentuated by a black line. Authors and dates are in slightly larger font than the text (12pt). The title slide also includes the permanent URL of the paper being presented. When the presentation is posted online, the URL allows readers to go from the presentation directly to the paper. The URL displayed in small font (9pt) and gray so as not to be too obtrusive.

  • To specify the presentation authors, use the command \information{Author 1, Author 2}.
  • To add the location of the presentation or a date to the title page, add a second argument to the command: \information{Author 1, Author 2}{Location -- Date}.
  • The command takes an optional argument to specify the URL where the paper being presented can be found: \information[URL]{Author 1, Author 2}{Location -- Date}.

Headline

The headline is in somewhat larger font than the text (14pt), in small caps, and aligned left. This follows Butterick’s recommendation to avoid centered headlines. The headline stands out, is easily readable, but does not take all the attention away from the text.

The headline is set against the same white background as the text—not against a bright color background. This choice makes the headline easier to read and less distracting.


Alerts

The template comes with a set of predefined alert commands:

  • Standard alert:
    • \al{text} colors the text in magenta.
    • \al[n]{text} colors the text in magenta on nth click.
  • Green alerts (for instance to indicate a positive number):
    • \alg{text} colors the text in green.
    • \alg[n]{text} colors the text in green on nth click.
  • Red alerts (for instance to indicate a negative number):
    • \alr{text} colors the text in red.
    • \alr[n]{text} colors the text in red on nth click.
  • Blue alerts (for instance to indicate a zero):
    • \alb{text} colors the text in blue.
    • \alb[n]{text} colors the text in blue on nth click.

The standard alert is set in magenta, which is a color that stands out but unlike red does not induce anger. Apparently :

A color that, for centuries, has captivated many, magenta is a mixture of violet and red. Magenta is known as a color of harmony and balance. It’s used in Feng Shui and is often considered spiritual.

Of course alerts should be used with restraint.


Figures

An advantage of avoiding colors in the text is that colors in figures stand out.

The template uses a white background for slides because figures have white backgrounds. Figures therefore seamlessly blend into the slide. With a colorful slide background, the figures background would stick out.

There is no need to add a caption to the figure in the template: the slide title makes a great caption.

Figures are centered by default.

An easy way to insert figures into the template is to create a PDF file with all the figures that are featured in the presentation. To do that, create a Keynote or Powerpoint presentation; insert each figure as a slide background; and save the resulting presentation as PDF. With this method, all the figures have the exact same size. It is also possible to use Keynote or Powerpoint to annotate easily the figures created with an external software (Matlab, R, and so on). (See figures.pdf in the repository.)

The code for a slide with a basic figure is the following:

\begin{frame}
\frametitle{Figure caption}
\includegraphics[scale=0.3]{figure.pdf}
\end{frame}

The code for a slide with multiple figures displayed sequentially is the following:

\begin{frame}
\frametitle{Figure caption}
\includegraphics<1>[scale=0.3,page=1]{figures.pdf}%
\includegraphics<2>[scale=0.3,page=2]{figures.pdf}%
\includegraphics<3>[scale=0.3,page=3]{figures.pdf}%
\includegraphics<4>[scale=0.3,page=4]{figures.pdf}%
\end{frame}

Tables

People sometimes copy-paste table from their paper into their slide. That’s not a good idea since it is not possible to read large tables with tiny numbers on slides. It seems more effective to stick to the same font size, and just present the key numbers from the paper table. If listeners want more details, they will go to the paper.

There is no need to add a caption to the table in the template: the slide title makes a great caption.

Tables are centered by default, and fill the slide.

The code for a slide with a basic table is the following:

\begin{frame}
\frametitle{Table caption}
\begin{tabular*}{\textwidth}{@{\extracolsep\fill}lccc}
\toprule
 & Column 1 & Column 2 & Column 3\\
\midrule
Line 1 & A  & B & C \\
Line 2 & D & E & F \\ 
Line 3 & G & H & I \\ 
\midrule
Line 4 & J & K & L \\ 
Line 5 & M & N & O \\ 
\bottomrule
\end{tabular*}
\end{frame}

Section slide

The template has a command to divide the presentation into sections, which adds structure to longer talks. To produces the section slide, just use the following code:

\begin{frame}
\heading{Section title}
\end{frame}

The section title is in small caps, underlined like the presentation title, and with moderately large font (17pt).

This section slide is a good point to stop, recap what has already been showed, and discuss what comes ahead. It is also a good point to take questions.


Pictograms

The template comes with a set of commands to display common pictograms in text mode:

  • \then gives $\rightsquigarrow$
  • \so gives $\Rightarrow$
  • \iff gives $\Leftrightarrow$
  • \up gives ↑
  • \down gives ↓
  • \flat gives →

The template comes with navigation buttons. The buttons have white background, just like the slides, and the button text is gray and in small font (9pt). The buttons blend in the slide, unlike the typical, bright Beamer buttons that stand out and distract from the rest of the content.

Navigation buttons should be used with restraint as hopping from slide to slide with buttons disrupts the flow of the presentation. But buttons are sometimes helpful to go to key backup material.

Here is how to point a button to a specific slide:

  • Add a label at the top of the specific slide: \begin{frame}[label=specificSlide].
  • Create a button in another slide that points to the labelled slide: \hyperlink{specificSlide}{\beamergotobutton{Go to a specific slide}}.

Slide breaks

Each slide should be prepared and planned carefully. There should be a reason why material is on a certain slide rather than on another slide. Nevertheless, sometimes, a slide contains too much material to fit on one slide, and it does not matter too much how the material is split across successive slides. One example is a slide with a long list of references. Another example is a slide with a long mathematical derivation or very long equation. In these cases, the option allowframebreaks can be used to split slides automatically, using the following code:

\begin{frame}[allowframebreaks]
\frametitle{Slide title}

Long list of references or long derivation or long equation.

\end{frame}

Each successive slide is automatically numbered with an arabic number in square brackets: [1], [2], [3], and so on. As the Beamer user guide notes, however, the allowframebreaks option invites the creation of endless presentations that resemble more a paper projected on the wall than a presentation. So the option should only be used sporadically, in the specific cases mentioned above.


Last slide

The template also come with a last slide, which is a just a gray square, and which is called with \lastslide. The last slide can be used instead of conclusion slides—to say thank you, recap in a sentence what the presentation showed, and discuss next steps or related projects.

Conclusion slides are generally ineffective and even mildly upsetting. The audience has been listening for an hour or an hour and a half. They know what they have just been told. At that point they are happy to go on with their day without having to hear again a summary of the same material.