Look at this picture.
Is this an inspector looking for a defect in a product?
Is this a detective looking for a clue?
Making Your Audience Work Too Hard
This is a picture of my friend Laurie (she gave me permission to use this image). She’s using a magnifying glass to read a PowerPoint slide during an online presentation.
For over two decades, I have been suggesting — OK, asking, begging, and pleading — speakers to do something. Stop using 8-point font, lengthy sentences, and multi-paragraph documents that audience members can’t read.
Yet, they keep using them in presentations.
And audiences keeping tuning out of those presentations.
Take another look at Laurie and what she’s doing in the picture.
She’s like a detective because she’s focused on reading the tiny words on a screen.
And she’s not listening to what the speaker is saying.
He speaks. She reads. And the voice she’s hearing is the one in her head, reading the words on the screen, but not hearing the speaker’s meaning or intent.
The disconnection from the speaker’s message is complete.
I Wish This Was a Rare Example, But It’s Not
If you’re creating slides that look like this….
… here’s what’s going on in the minds of your listener.
“Wow! There’s a lot here. I guess the speaker wants me to read it.”
“I wish he’d slow down. I can’t keep up.”
“I wish he’d be quiet for a minute so I can read this.”
“He’s talking too fast for me. Should I read this or listen to him?”
“He could’ve just sent this in a PDF and saved me the trouble.”
“This is boring. I wonder who just texted.”
This would be funny IF it wasn’t so sad. Every time you speak to an audience it’s a golden opportunity to stand out, create a bond, and earn people’s trust.
And most people STILL blow this opportunity. They continue to create visuals that overwhelm, bore, and numb their audiences.
Do You Want to Stand Out?
There are slide rules that can make you a memorable presenter who leaves a lasting impression:
- Only use visuals that support your message. Don’t use a slide to do your talking for you.
- Use pictures, illustrations, and videos. Images are powerful, movement and action are memorable and longer-lasting.
- If you use verbiage, make it no more than a short, single sentence. Forget the old rule of 6 lines with 6 words each per slide. If they have that much verbiage, you’re asking audiences to read.
- You don’t need large amounts of text to remember your talk. You were asked to speak for a reason. You have knowledge or expertise about your topic. Word cues will suffice.
- Nothing will ever take the place of repetition and internalization. It’s vital that you rehearse your presentation often so that you don’t think about your talk. Practice until it flows out of you.
- Be sure your slides are brain-friendly. Certain color schemes are more attractive. And you should usually place images on the left side of your slide with verbiage and numbers on the right side.
A Better Way to Present Your Visuals
Following these rules, I could replace the verbiage-filled slide above with this one:
One image and two words (Clear Goal). These are all I need to remind me to talk about the importance of a clear finish line in my Main Character’s story.
Use the above rules when creating and delivering slides. You’ll avoid the confusion that too many speakers create.
There’s no mystery to effectively using slides in your speeches, keynotes, or sales presentations. Don’t make your audience choose between reading your presentation and listening to you.
Speaking to an audience is an opportunity for you to shine. Don’t force your audience to be detectives. Make it easy for them and you can be the speaker that leaves a meaningful and memorable message.
Take your storytelling skills to a higher level…
Get the mini-course ‘Keys to Storytelling Mastery for Speakers’
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