Last week I had the opportunity to attend a terrific training presented by Jon Blum of Force Concepts. One thing that set his training apart from others I have attended was his slide deck. He followed two simple rules to keep his slide simple and effective. With some thoughtful planning, a little research and some practice with layout your next presentation can benefit from the same principals Jon employed. The first principle is minimize text. The second is maximize images.
The original popular presentation software PowerPoint was named so to help presenters make the points of their presentations powerfully. They were intended to be short and sweet. A common rule is to limit the text on a slide to six words per line and no more than six lines per slide. Often presenters read their slides verbatim which defeats the point of inserting the bullet point on the screen. The audience can read. They came to your presentation to hear what you have to say. If the only thing you say is what is written on your slides, they could have stayed in their offices and read your work. I suggest that you tell your group what your want to say, pause then show the slide and allow them to read the text on their own. The points on your slide should emphasize what you said.
Another great thing Jon did in his presentation was the way he presented the text on the slide. First he discussed the point. Next he showed the text and led a discussion about the point. Upon conclusion of the discussion on that point, he introduced the next point and then revealed the text. The previous line remained visible, but the font was in a light shade of gray drawing the viewer’s eye to the current point. Identifying the few simple words that effectively communicate the idea behind the point of discussion requires you to identify the principals and key points of your presentations.
How many times have you said or hear that a picture is worth 1,000 words; at least a thousand? How many pictures have you seen in a slide presentation? I would guess the answer is few. Today images are inexpensive and plentiful. Choices include charts, graphs, clip art and photographs. Websites such as flickr.com, gettyimages.com and shutterfly.com have a large selection of photos to purchase, within the public domain or under the Creative Commons license. Sometimes finding the right photo or image on line is time consuming, but with the advent of digital photography and paint software you can create your own images that convey your message. The images I use to attract readers to my blog are my own creations or images I found on line available under the Creative Commons license for use by only providing attribution to the person who took the photo.
When selecting an image, pick one that communicates your message. You may use a few words to ensure your point is understood or to ask a question to start a discussion. If you use text with your image, keep it shorter than the suggestions offered above.
Following simple rules improve the slides you use in your presentations. Reduce the text on your slide. Use pictures and communicate 1,000 words without uttering a syllable. It may not always be possible to limit your idea to six words or to one picture, but with practice implementing these principals becomes second nature. As you prepare your next presentation, add a few extra pictures and subtract some words. Your audience will be grateful.
For a more detailed disucssion about improving your presentations, check out my Prezi at http://prezi.com/uaxckg-4fkkn/using-media/. Another great resource is http://www.slideshare.net/ArtilleryMarketing/you-suck-at-powerpoint-12040413. Update 3/15/14: 57 slides in 18 minutes…exact amount of text during the presentation…zero!!!! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bOYIKJho18I&feature=youtu.be
Photo credit: Kei Kondo add.me flickr.com
Thank you very much for the feedback Chris. In addition to developing content, its always nice to hear good things about my tech writing skills. My top 3 rules for .pptx slides:
1. Arial font; 26-28 point.
2. No more than five bullets per slide
3. No more than 50 words per slide
Thanks again Chris.