Less Is More: Strip Back Your Slides for Leaner, Meaner Presentations

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It happens every day. People put pen to PowerPoint and stuff their presentations fit to bursting. But bloated slides that creak with clutter, crammed with facts and figures just give your audience indigestion.   

It’s time to shed those excess pounds and slim down the messaging. Leaner, more streamlined presentations hit the mark, look terrific, and leave your audience feeling energised and inspired. 

We get it. You’ve got a lot to say and limited time to say it. Your presentation needs to convey complex ideas, with stats and data to back it up. Of course your slides are ‘busy’. 

The trouble is that when it comes to presentations, cluttered slides just lead to confusion. The audience ends up overwhelmed and bored – your valuable messages floating away into oblivion.  

So why does this happen?  

When most people sit down to write a presentation, they focus on what the audience needs to take in. And as most people think verbally, they write this out on the slide. All of it! Only they’ve forgotten that a presentation is a visual medium. It is not (and never should be) a report onscreen.  If that’s the level of detail you need then you’re better off circulating a document.  

Presentations Have Their Place

As human beings we cannot read and listen at the same time. If your slides are jam-packed with words, the audience will be too busy reading to listen to you. Presentation slides should complement not detract from what you’re saying. They are your prop, not the other way around. 

So it’s important to choose the right tool for your purpose. Think about what you need your presentation to do. If a handout or circulated report would do the job better, then ditch the presentation. There’s no point being wedded to a format that won’t work for you and forcing that square peg into the round hole.  

A Healthy Balance of Design and Content 

If you decide a presentation is what you need, remember design and content should work together. Don’t just rely on the words, make the design do some of the heavy lifting.  

Clever use of colour, font, layout or imagery will help convey your messages, affecting the audience’s perception and nudging them in the direction you want without you saying a word. 

And don’t forget speaker notes. The bulk of what you want to say should go in there. You can trim down slide content considerably this way. Remember – the slides should not just be a repetition of what you’re saying. Try to be a bit cannier. Encourage your audience along the route you want them to take and resist the temptation to be too literal. A presentation about dog healthcare doesn’t need a picture of a dog on every slide. The audience understands what you mean. 

Instead give the audience the building blocks. Human beings are born problem solvers. By giving them the elements of a problem rather than the solution, you’ll draw them in, inviting them to engage with the presentation rather than sitting back passively letting the messages wash over them.  

Putting It Into Practice

Blending the different presentation ingredients into a delicious, coherent whole, you can make sure your message really cuts through.  

But if you’re still feeling a little unsure, here are some handy hints to bear in mind when writing your next presentation: 

  • Use speaker notes. Don’t just pack everything you can think of onto the slide. Instead use the slides to support and enhance what you say – focusing audience attention on you. 
  • Think visual. Can a diagram, an image or an icon explain the idea more effectively than words?  
  • Cut, cut, and cut again. Write your presentation, then go through and cut the content by half. When you’ve done that, go through and cut again. It may seem crass, but it’ll help focus the mind on the single thing the audience should take away from every slide. 
  • Combine ALL your ingredients. Build your slide content, design and speaker notes into one harmonious whole so that all work together to complement one another and reinforce your message. 
  • Focus on what you need the slide to do. Think as much about the emotions you want it to evoke in the audience as the message it should convey.  

When it comes to presentations, the mantra ‘less is more’ is as much about using all the tools at your disposal as it is about cutting actual slide content. Weaving these elements together for maximum impact, you will create taut presentations that instil the right messages and drive the audience behaviour you need. Why not give it a try? 

And if you can’t face cutting down your on-slide text, give us fearless minimalists a call – we’ll do it for you!

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