The most common and most serious problem I’ve seen in the hundreds of presentations I’ve reviewed over the past few decades is presenters cramming far too many words into a single slide. Just to recap, here are the problems with this practice:
- Try as they might, people actually cannot multi-task. Thus they cannot read your many words while at the same time listening to you talk. If they try they will just get frustrated. e.
- Too many words on a slide necessitates type that is too small: it is hard to read, especially for middle aged people, many of whom have developed age-related vision deficiencies. Smaller text has less impact than large type.
- Less room for graphics, which have a higher impact and recall rate than text.
So I was pleased to read the Inc. article by presentation guru Carmine Gallo, Guy Kawasaki Explains Why Steve Jobs Used 190-Point Text on Presentation Slides. The sub-title presents the benefit: Make your presentations stand out with fewer words and bigger text.
Using larger text forces the presenter to user fewer words, which need to be more carefully chosen.
… most presenters try to put as many words as possible on a slide–Jobs did the opposite. He removed and removed and removed through every iteration. The result was strikingly simple, often just one word on a slide.
Jobs would go so far as to have a slide with just a single word, in 190 point type! And he would show slides with no text at all!
According to cognitive biologists, the human brain is far more capable of recalling information when it’s presented as pictures with few words–one or two words to accompany the photo. If you take a look at some of Jobs’s presentations, you’ll see he followed the guideline.
There is one other tip from Mr. Gallo’s interview with Guy Kawasaki: “He [Jobs] really practiced,” Kawasaki says. “He made it look easy because he practiced for weeks.” When was the last time you practiced your presentation for weeks?