The chart above was a slide in an actual presentation. Looking at this slide, it would be easy to rant about PowerPoint abuses. Anyone who puts 26 bubbles and 25 arrows on a single slide and expects people to “get it,” shouldn’t be surprised if all eyes in the audience glaze over within 30 seconds.
Tempting though it may be to cram everything possible into a slide presentation, the result is bound to be counter-productive and boring. So ask yourself three questions before you finalize your next set of presentation slides:
Will I feel the need at any point to say to my audience, “I know this slide will be difficult to read for those of you in the back?” If a slide is tough to see from the back of the room, it’s likely a problem for those in the front too. If there’s a chance that people can’t make out the content of any slide, redesign it until it’s readable for everyone in the room. Once people have to start squinting at your slides, you lose their attention.
What is the point of focus? Your slides should reinforce and clarify your message. Look at them critically to see how each slide performs those important roles. Can your audience draw a connection between the concept you are explaining and the image you are displaying? If not, you’re probably not connecting with your audience on any level.
Minds wander during presentations, so focus each slide on the most important idea you want to convey. Then, move on to the next idea and slide. You don’t want your audience pondering the meaning of the bubble on “willingness to speculate” while you are talking about the bubble on “goals and values.”
What can come off this slide? Before you finalize your presentation, reconsider the content of each slide. Decide which elements you could remove. If any slide, for example, contains words or images that are simply a reminder for you to say something, get rid of it. Find another way to remember what you need to emphasize in your presentation.
Stand back from your slides as if you were in the back of the room. How will each person in the audience experience that slide? Too many people put too much on their slides. Be aggressive. Dump anything that doesn’t directly support your main ideas.
Our job is to enlighten, educate, influence, and be catalysts for action. That’s a tall order, but it’s even tougher if your presentation leaves clients confused, or worse, comatose.