Join John McWade for an in-depth discussion in this video One point at a time, part of Design 101: Presentations.
- To resonate with your audience, you need us to be where you are, not running ahead, not falling behind, not tuning out. We'll learn the most if we're together on the same page, listening, thinking about what you're saying. If your talk includes slides, there's really only one way to make that happen. And that's to present one point at a time. Have a look. Here's a standard slide. Has some good qualities, plain background, no distractions, one typeface, very clear.
It makes three clear points, each of which is supported by a data point. 25 words total, nothing extraneous, easy slide to make. But it's deceptive, this slide will mess up your talk in three big ways, one of which you've already discovered and that's that you can't read it and listen to me too. What did I just say three sentences ago? The part about the plain background and clear typeface. Let's start at the back of the room.
That slide's hard to read from back here, and for some people it's impossible. So those who can't read it are going to begin tuning out and start falling behind you. Meanwhile at the front of the room, everyone who can read it is reading it, which causes two problems. One is that we're no longer listening to you because we're busy reading. And two, now that we've read ahead, we're getting bored waiting for you to catch up, so we're starting to tune out.
Third problem is that because this slide has now been up there a while, we're getting tired of looking at it so we're starting to fidget. And this is just your first slide, yikes. Here is the simple, radical way to solve that. Remember, data in the context of story. Put one point on your slide as memory hook, then tell us your story orally. Just talk to us, flesh it out, give us the context, you have a smile, you have tone of voice, you have body language.
You're what makes it interesting, and the one point on your slide keeps us with you. Those in front can't read ahead. Those in back can see it just fine. We can remember it, that's important. And it sounds funny, but there's not enough on it to get boring. Now the design is working for you. And it's so easy. Put up your second point, talk about it. This is the secret to a good slide presentation. Sometimes you'll want or need your points on a single slide, for example, when they're to be remembered as a group.
In these cases, use a point by point build. One point, talk about it. Second point, talk about it. Third point, talk about it. That's how you do it, one point at a time. Another example, if this looks familiar it's because it's a pretty standard PowerPoint chart. Type in Arial bold, four product categories, four months, nothing to it. Or so it seems. But there are 54 separate visual elements on this slide.
54, we can't read it from the back of the room. We can't really read it period. So one of two things will happen, we'll tune it out and be bored or we'll try reading it and tune you out. It's the kind of detailed data that belongs in a report or in your notes. To keep us with you, try this slide. Your big story is that the exports of four key fruits are up since the first of the year, and this is a pretty and simple way to show that.
The name of the fruit, a picture of the fruit, and the amount that it's up. Kiwi, cherry, pear, plum. Identical layouts each can come up as you mention it instant comprehension, we can see from the back of the room, they're a pleasure to look at. You can tell us about your trip to Chile and your harrowing bus ride or how your gulf coast team sold the new client or whatever and these slides will keep us with you.
I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that PowerPoint is not your friend, despite how much it's used, it's the wrong tool set. It encourages charts and graphs and bullet points and subheads and even sub-subheads. It encourages you to keep piling stuff on to your slides. Good presentation does exactly the opposite. Exactly the opposite, it eliminates everything except the one essential thing that you're conveying at a given moment.
So rule number one, present one point at a time.
Good presentations take time and thought. Design is too important to leave to a computer! Use these techniques to make personalized, thoughtful presentations that both educate and inspire.
- Putting data in a story form
- Using a simple background
- Choosing the right typeface
- Incorporating charts, photos, and illustrations
- Connecting emotionally with your audience