Message from Allison: We are thrilled to feature our talented trainer and coach John Watkis in this blog post. John is an international speaker, speechwriter, and public speaking coach who helps leaders find their rhythm when they get up to speak. To work with John, please contact us.
Are your slides sabotaging the success of your presentations? If they’re dominated by a lot of text and bullet points, the answer is “yes.” Allow me to explain…
I recently led a workshop on How to Use Slides for Good, Not for Evil. During the workshop, I had participants present to the whole group while using their slides. There was one particular presentation that became an “a-hah!” moment for everyone.
The person presenting did a great job of knowing his content, speaking confidently, and maintaining eye contact with everyone in the room. As far as platform mechanics go, he did everything right. But the participant decided to use his original slides so he could get feedback before making edits.
As the group gave feedback on the presentation, one person in the group made an observation.
“When I present, my slides look a lot like his. I was trying to pay attention to what he was saying, but my eyes kept going back and reading the slides instead. Is it just me? Or is that what happens when I present, too?”
It wasn’t just him.
With rare exception, the audience will default to reading your slides, and faintly hearing you speak in the background, if this is what you’re putting up on the screen:
Does this look similar to the way you design your slides?
If it does, here are some quick tips to help you keep the attention of your audience members while visually supporting and reinforcing your key points:
Use fewer words and larger font. The more words you use on your slides, the smaller your font will be. The smaller your font is, the more difficult it will be to read. The more difficult it is to read, the harder your audience members will have to concentrate on the screen. This leads to them spending less time concentrating on what you’re saying and missing out on the information. At minimum, use 30 point font.
Keep each slide to one main point. Whether your presentation is 5 minutes or 50, do not put more than one major point in front of your audience. If you do, they will read ahead rather than listening to you. They can’t do both.
Create a relevant visual and present each bullet point individually instead of long lists of bullet points.
If you have to use bullet points, use the reveal technique. Before PowerPoint, we used acetate transparencies and overhead projectors. Transparencies weren’t cheap and led to people putting as many points on one slide as possible. To prevent the audience from seeing our entire list of bullet points, we would place a piece of paper under the transparency (the static would prevent it from sliding out) and pull the paper down to reveal each point when we were ready to discuss it. Through the magic of software, you can now reveal each point as you’re ready to discuss it and dim the points you’ve already discussed as you go down the list. Whatever you do…don’t give them all the bullet points right off the bat unless you want them to read ahead and ignore you.
The tips listed above will go a long way to preventing self sabotage that results from text-heavy slides.