At my first company, Course Technology, Inc., an educational publishing firm, I forged a strategic alliance with Apple’s Education Division, called Macintosh Across the Curriculum (MAC).
I still remember a meeting with Katie Povejsil, who was a manager in the education group, in which I showed her a presentation we planned to make to Bernie Gifford, who was then VP of Education at Apple.
Katie watched me go through what was a typical, text-only, bullet-filled PowerPoint presentation, and kindly but firmly said, “Steve, that’s not how we do it at Apple. We present visually, it’s much more powerful and more effective.” With that she picked up a pen and sketched out one of the points I had made.
That was a lesson that transformed by entire presentation career – though by nature I’m a text-focused person, I read omnivorously and obviously my blog posts are 100% text – I immediately went back to the office and redid the Apple presentation, probably using the crude but useful graphic tools built into PowerPoint.
Even since that meeting decades ago I’ve been an enemy of the typical bulleted text PowerPoint presentation, with it’s overload of information. Frankly, PowerPoint makes people lazy. It’s so easy to just enter yet another bullet point, and worse yet, to nest those bullet points.
Outlines and bullet points are fine for documents to be read by an individual at their own pace. But if you are using text in your presentation to an audience – and you should – keep it to short snippets. Line lengths should be short – much shorter than this blog – for easy scanning. Fonts should be large, but not fancy. Every word needs to justify its existence. Keep in mind your audience is absorbing information at your pace, not their own.
As the diagram accompanying this post shows, you don’t have to be an artist to present visually.
Start thinking visually and you will present visually. Visual thinking is an entire subject by itself, with of course many books on the subject. More about this at a later point.