Do Your Slides Pass the Glance Test?

An audience can’t listen to your presentation and read detailed, text-heavy slides at the same time (not without missing key parts of your message, anyway). So make sure your slides pass what I call the glance test: People should be able to comprehend each one in about three seconds.

Think of your slides as billboards. When people drive, they only briefly take their eyes off their main focus — the road — to process billboard information. Similarly, your audience should focus intently on what you’re saying, looking only briefly at your slides when you display them.

Keep It Simple Research shows that people learn more effectively from multimedia messages when they’re stripped of extraneous words, graphics, animation, and sounds. Lots of extras actually take away meaning because they become a distraction. They overtax the audience’s cognitive resources.

So when adding elements to your slides, have a good reason: Does the audience need to see your logo on each slide to remember who you work for? Does that blue swoosh add meaning? If not, leave it off. The same goes for text. Keep it short and easy to skim. Scale the type as large as possible so the people in the back of the room can see it.

It’s also important to stick to a consistent visual style in your slide deck. Select one typeface — two at most. Use the same color palette throughout (limit yourself to three complementary colors, plus a couple of neutral shades, like gray and pale blue). Photos should be taken by the same photographer or look as if they are. Illustrations should be done in the same style.

Consider the “before” slide below. It fails the glance test because it’s packed with text. It’s functioning like a teleprompter — which may help you remember what to cover but won’t make it easier for the audience to digest it. Read More

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