How to design effective slides for a presentation.

Onyinye Anyakee Written by Onyinye Anyakee · 3 min read >

An obstacle to an effective presentation is over reliance on slides.

Over reliance on Slides

“PowerPoint makes us stupid.”
—General James N. Mattis, U.S. Marine Corps5

Slides are supporting materials for your presentation not the presentation itself. It is easy for a speaker to get carried away by thinking that the audience needs more information than they do. The problem with crowding your slides with a lot of information is that your literate audience try to read all the points on the slide as soon as it is displayed. This takes their focus away from you and what you are saying.

Of course, the problem is not the PowerPoint software but the speaker’s attitude towards information. He feels the need to empower his audience with the nice to know information instead of need to know information.

The opportunities presented in slides for the speaker to express himself is enormous.He can present using charts, graphs, tables, pictures, clip art et.c. With the availability of these options comes the desire to use all, at once making the presentation difficult to read due to content overload.

Some speakers literally back their audience and read the slides all through the presentation. Some of them do this In order to avoid the glares of the audience thus managing stage fright.
Other people do It unknowingly due to bad presentation posture and unfamiliarity with the information on their slides. This habits reduces the ability of the speaker to connect with the audience.

Due to past experiences with bad presentations, audience members can enter a state of minimal attention—a habit formed from many disappointing experiences.

How to use slides effectively

Presentation slides should contain 3 major slides: a roadmap slide, a signpost slide and a summary slide. The roadmap slide is at the beginning of the presentation, describing the main topics you want to talk about. The signpost slides introduces a topic and tells the audience where you are at that moment. The summary slide contains the points you want the audience to remember.

A dilemma that happens when preparing slides is determining the number of slides you need for the presentation. You are trying to find a balance between providing the audience with adequate information on that topic and not overwhelming them at the same time.

Here is a process for keeping your slide count under control. Imagine that you aren’t going to use any slides for a presentation. Then ask these questions:

• What are the points I will have the hardest time getting across to the audience using only spoken words? Create slides for these points.

• What emotions that align with my purpose could I draw out better using slides instead of spoken words alone? Build emotion into the slides you’ve already created or create new ones.

• What additional slides do I need to assist the audience? Examples are the roadmap and summary slides.

Also, practice the less is more slide design and minimize the use of bullet points. The design of the PowerPoint slide has a space for headline. The expectation is that you write a few words as the heading then proceed to use bullet points. However, studies have shown that this method is less effective compared with writing one or two sentences at the top of the slide. The latter is a better memory aid. The audience are more likely to remember these two sentences. Why not have them recall one thing rather than nothing?

The speaker can build the points in the sentences and engage his audience with the details verbally. Nevertheless, there are cases where the bullet point functions must be used. In this situation, Try to limit use of the bullet point design.

When you do use bullet points, keep the items short. When you show the slide, use the “Build” function to display bullet points one at a time. Literate adults automatically read written language. A slide that displays all of the bullet points at once forces viewers to read them, which can cause information overload.

Designing Effective slides

Some of the factors to consider when adding information to a slide include: it’s relevance, readability, forcefulness, simplicity and clarity.

Achieving the above is very simple. Ask yourself the following questions:

• Can the person farthest away from the screen read the slides easily?

• Is the font size too small? Use sizes of 36 to 44 points for headings and 24 points for text on presentation slides.. One rule of thumb: Don’t use type smaller than 18 points.

• Is there a clear contrast between the font type and the background. A lack of contrast reduces readability.

• Does the added image and image create a significant impression on the audience?

• Is the slide content relevant to the speaker’s spoken words?

• Is it easy to understand the content on the slides?

Also, as a leader you should do the thinking for you’re audience and not bother them with too much information on the slides. You should consolidate the information on the slides as much as possible. Presenting using a poorly prepared slide defeats the purpose of using one in the first place.


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