As we wrote a few weeks ago, one of the greatest challenges in creating a corporate presentation can be to compress vast amounts of information into a clean, 15-minute speech.
Moving down one level, then: How do we judge what information should go into a presentation slide to effectively mirror the part of the speech it accompanies?
To answer this question, the best starting point is to ask three more questions: What is the MAIN MESSAGE of a particular slide? Why is that slide needed? If you had to deliver the message of the slide in only one sentence, what would it be?
By answering these questions each time (hint: the answer is the same for all!), you’ll have a strong indication of the direction you should follow in populating a slide. That alone will help you to define what’s relevant and what isn’t.
Also, the content of a slide is very much dependent on how prepared the presenter is. So, before defining that content, ask: Do you (as a presenter) really know the speech, or is a given slide (or all the slides) needed as a crutch?
The Well-Prepared Presenter
If a presenter knows exactly what is to be delivered with a given slide, he/she can afford to use just a visual, and one that will make the speech interesting, remarkable and memorable.
Knowing the message well allows the use of a graphic element alone, no words needed. This means the audience doesn’t have to read a slide, which keeps the focus on the presenter and eliminates one of the main reasons for “losing” an audience.
This is where Visual Language comes in handy. Use visuals that complement and leverage the message rather than just express it. Carmen Taran has written a great book on how to choose visuals, and our free app Presenter Pro has useful suggestions, as well.
Now, if it’s just data that you’re presenting, try to focus attention on the main data point on each slide — make each of those main points stand out among all the other figures in the slides.
The Not-So-Well-Prepared Presenter
And if the presenter isn’t well prepared? Well, in this case, the slides need to work as guides to the spoken points. It will be hard to eliminate all the text in any given slide, but try to use only key words, not sentences, giving just enough information in each slide to trigger the presenter’s memory.
Also, build on these words one by one, so you don’t distract the audience from what’s being said.
And don’t worry that the slide words you choose won’t be enough to make the whole point. That’s why there’s a presenter there in the first place. (You can see here the differences between a stand-alone and a face-to-face presentation.)
Bottom-line, using as little text as possible is probably the most basic and powerful way to improve a presentation. Yes, it may be obvious. But, also yes, we continue to see too-wordy slide mistake repeated day after day by even the largest global companies.
Finally, the suggestions in this message are simple to execute and require no extra time or any knowledge of PowerPoint and/or Photoshop. When your slides look simple and clean, the audience will pay attention and thank you for it.