I work in an organization that loves… LOVES… to prey upon innocent minds with a relentless assault of Slide-uments. Slide-uments are what presentation professionals like Garr Reynolds and Nancy Duarte call a cross between a slide-show and a document — text laden, information saturated splashes of stuff. They’re like abstract art with words and the occasional clip-art cliche just to fool you into thinking the presenter actually put some thought into the visuals.
Now, calm down Policy Analysts, I know there are times when a slide-ument is absolutely suitable, if not entirely necessary, and you may have no choice. I would suggest that in such times you simply create a Word document to circulate and discuss details rather than have a bunch of innocent spectators sit around a table, stare at a screen and try desperately to look like they’re paying attention. It’s a form of torture and it’s just cruel.
Remember, a solid presentation has three legs holding it up — content, delivery, and visual presentation. Your visuals should never BE the content. They provide clarity, and enhance the delivery, helping ensure that your message resonates in the minds of your audience. If I have to read every word you have to say, I’ll order a transcript. And I might punch you.
There is help. An excellent resource is Nancy Duarte’s book Slide:ology – The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations. It may seem intimidating at first (it really goes deep into the graphic art of slide design), but I assure you, you do not need to be a graphic designer to pull it off. The book provides detailed, step-by-step instruction on how to create individual slides that will project what you really need – VISUAL IMPACT. I encourage anyone who’s been tasked with putting together a persuasive presentation to read this book. If you don’t want to take my word for it, Alex Rister gives it a solid defense on her blog, Creating Communications.
I will share with you, however, three general slide rules that I picked up:
- Only 1 idea per slide: don’t fall into the trap of trying to condense multiple thoughts by using smaller fonts. You’re getting into slide-ument territory.
- Three second rule: Your audience should get that 1 idea in 3 seconds, tops.
- Enhance, don’t detract: Your idea should enhance your message with visual impact, not distract the audience from what you are saying.
Visual impact is not a myth. It’s out there for you to harness.
Your audience thanks you.