Presentation slides are a useful tool to tell the story of your project or company – but they shouldn’t be relied on to deliver your whole message.
Often, it can feel easier to make as many slides as possible; maximising the amount of information provided in the time you’ve been allocated.
That temptation is especially strong if you have a captive audience. But too often people create presentations that are bloated with information. When dozens of slides need to be flipped through, each making an individual point, a presenter’s real message risks being lost.
‘Less is more’ is something we’re all used to hearing, but never is it truer than when talking to a crowd, who are struggling to follow a rapid-fire procession of information. If you’re spending more time clicking through prepared slides than talking about the topic, there’s a problem.
Fundamentally, slides need to be thought of as an enhancement to what you’re saying verbally. Photographs, graphs and tables are great to use in your slides, because they often illustrate details and trends more effectively than words.
But if you’re having to follow them with three slides of explanation, you need to re-think your approach. A good guideline to follow is ‘one slide or less per minute of talking’.
It gives your audience time to absorb information without feeling rushed or distracted. It also gives you (the presenter) time to expand on your points at a relaxed and easy-to-digest pace.
Another important thing to avoid is repetition in your slides. Although repetition is a useful oration tool, that doesn’t translate visually. If you’ve already used a slide highlighting a certain point, there is no need to repeat it later down the line.
It is also a good idea to consider keeping your presentation shorter than the time you’ve been allotted. Sure, if you’ve only been given 10 minutes to present, you can talk right up to the last second without worry, but for hour-long presentations there’s only so long your audience will stay engaged.
Instead, make time for questions and discussion. If you can directly address or clarify things brought up by your audience, it encourages active discussion and engagement.
People are much more likely to remember a discussion they actively played a part in, rather than passively sitting and listening to a speaker for an hour, while trying to memorise an endless succession of presentation slides.
It’s counter-intuitive to rely on presentation slides to make your presentation for you. People have come to listen to you speak, not to read a loosely-condensed report slapped onto dozens of slides.
So trust in what you’ve got to say and remove the presentation bloat. You won’t regret it.