Slide after slide of bullet points went flying by. I sat with my co-workers in the audience trying to keep from falling asleep. The text on the screen became a blur after a while and I just prayed that the torture would soon end. Unfortunately the Vendor’s data dump continued for another hour. When it was finally over I came away with one thought… I never want to sit through that again.
With over 60 slides of data you would think I would walk away with some key concept or at least an idea of what was presented. Unfortunately Powerpoint slides with lots of text are not memorable. In their landmark book, Made To Stick, Chip and Dan Heath offer a simple exercise to illustrate this point.
Look at the text in the box below for 10-15 seconds.
Now look away, grab a sheet of paper and write down what you just saw.
If you are like most respondents you probably remembered seven to ten letters. That is not much information and it resembles what you might take away from the average text filled Powerpoint slide.
Now scroll down the page and repeat the exercise with the second text box below. Take the same 10-15 seconds and then write down what you remember on the same sheet of paper.
It is the same 20 letters from the first box but they are grouped differently this time. You were probably able to write down all 20 pretty easily since their grouping meant something to you. Each grouping of letters was instantly recognizable.
This is the power of simplicity. If you take your core message and break it down into small verbal ideas and segment these ideas on one powerpoint slide at a time, your viewers will be able to internalize the message much better than a screen full of text.
If you add the power of pictures along with your core text, you’ll have a message that will be memorable and that your audience will take away with them.
Consider the following two Powerpoint slides…
This first slide has the usual bullet points with lots of text. It will be hard to read from a distance and the concepts are difficult to grasp from just a quick reading. The average viewer will not remember much of this slide.
This second slide doesn’t mean much by itself, but when it is presented with a powerful message it will be very memorable to the viewer. The concept of speed and efficiency are instantly recognizable and the bold one word mantra will make this stick.
As you can see from this simple exercise when it comes to Powerpoint, Less is More. When you design your next presentation, find your core concepts and present them in a simple and clear manner. Remember… You are the presentation, not your slides. They should be there to reinforce your presentation, not take center stage.
Keep it simple… keep it memorable.
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