To deliver your message more effectively in your presentations, remember one simple rule: less is more. Keeping your slides free from large chunks of text and complex displays of data is one of the easiest ways to ensure your audience is able to engage with and digest your content.
According to a survey we carried out, almost 60% of people admit to falling asleep or feeling drowsy during a presentation at work. When so many presentations involve big chunks of information being read out from dull, unimaginative slides, perhaps that’s not surprising.
PowerPoint slides are a fantastic way to illustrate ideas graphically and visually support what you’re saying. They are not, however, the correct medium for detailed reading. If your slides are filled with statistics, graphs and paragraphs of text, it will be very difficult for your audience to take in the information. It will be even more difficult to get them to like you again after making them sit through something so boring.
The most important piece of advice we always offer here at Future Present is: avoid cramming lots of information onto your slides. It’s easy to do and will have a hugely positive impact on the experience and understanding of your audience. Even science backs it up.
In the 1980s, Australian psychologist John Sweller developed the Cognitive Load Theory (CLT). The theory analysed the way in which humans acquire and process information. It stated that no matter how hard we might try, we can only absorb a certain amount of information in one go.
The amount of information people can retain is very much dependent on the way in which it is presented to them. Visual representations such as images, videos and simple diagrams aid the memory process. However, slides full of paragraphs, data and long sentences, make it difficult for an audience to digest and understand key ideas.
In the context of PowerPoint presentations, this means simple and clear slides that rely largely on visual content make it easier for people to retain information in larger quantities. You can drastically reduce your audience’s cognitive load by adopting this more visual approach, and by introducing difficult theories and ideas in a clear and concise way.
Slides are just slides
Remember, your slides are your slides. They’re there to visually support what you’re saying. They are not there to act as your script, or to be used as a handout afterwards.
Countless frequent presenters admit to using their slides as a teleprompter, without which they would have no idea what to say. Some of these people may also be guilty of the greatest PowerPoint sin of all: transferring their entire script onto their slides, which they then read from directly.
Do this and you will definitely end up in PowerPoint prison. Slides are there to help your audience understand and engage with your ideas. They are the last place you should be putting reminders for yourself.
As for the handouts, if you’re putting enough information on the slides to be read as a handout, what is the point of having the presentation at all? If the presenter is only reading from the slides and adding no content to the presentation, they may as well send those slides via email and save themselves, and their audience, a lot of time.
We’re not superhuman
The members of your audience are not (as far as we know) superhuman. Therefore, they cannot listen to you and read the content of the slides at the same time. This highlights yet another problem with overloading slides with text. We regular human beings are naturally inclined to read anything that is in front of us. So if you fill your slides with information, your audience will read it.
“Great!”, you might think. But if they’re reading it, they won’t be listening to you. It’s almost impossible to do both at the same time, meaning much of what you actually say might be lost on your audience. If you keep the text to a minimum, they’ll be focussed on you instead. Much better.
Less is more
When it comes to PowerPoint presentations, less is more. Less text on slides, and more visual content, is a fantastic way to reduce cognitive load and get your point across more effectively.
By breaking your content up into small, easily-manageable pieces, your listeners will be in with a far greater chance of understanding your message. Also, with less content on your slides, they will be more focussed on you. Seize this opportunity to deliver your message in the way you had envisioned.
By embracing this “less is more” principle, you’ll be able to ensure your next presentation is the most engaging and successful one yet.
If you need help developing an awesome presentation that will get you the results you want, get in touch with us today. From expertly designed slides, to damn-clever PowerPoint development, no one does presentations like we do.