Slideware Trend: Why 16:9 is the New Black

June 19, 2014    |    Brad Holst

I presented at a technology summit recently and was given an old room at a hotel which was in the process of being renovated. My room was nice enough, but the old tube-style TV made it feel really dated.

When I tried to watch a soccer match in my room, the narrow 4:3 aspect ratio made it very difficult to follow the action. I missed my widescreen TV (16:9 aspect ratio) back home.

At the summit, my session followed a presentation given by an executive from the technology company hosting the event.

The first thing I noticed was that his slides had been created in the narrow 4:3 aspect ratio.

What made his slides seem especially dated was that the presentation prior to his had been formatted in the more contemporary looking, widescreen 16:9 aspect ratio.

That outdated perception was only made worse when I brought my slides up—also in the modern 16:9 format. 

It’s not a good thing when an executive presentation representing a leading global technology firm appears to be behind the times at a major event.

I can’t remember the last time I gave a presentation using the old 4:3 aspect ratio.

For important presentations, I make both 16:9 and 4:3 versions of my slides, so I'm ready for any projection situation. But, when given the choice, I always present slides in a 16:9 ratio, whether I'm presenting face-to-face or virtually.  

There are distinct advantages to putting your slides in the 16:9 aspect ratio:

  • You can put more visual information on each slide. When done smartly, this makes your presentation more visually stimulating.
  • Your slides will look great in rooms where visuals are displayed on large LCD screens. 
  • Your slides will look great when viewed on a computer or tablet, which increasingly have 16:9 monitors.
  • You can show larger images, especially in rooms with average ceiling heights.

Most importantly, when your slides are in the 16:9 aspect ratio, your audience is likely to perceive higher production values and a more modern presentation, which all reflects back positively on you—the presenter.


If you'd like to dig deeper into how to build presentation slides that grab and keep the attention of executive audiences, check out Brad's video, Slide Strategy Best Practices, produced together with Harvard Business Publishing.