Mixing Up Your Content

July 14, 2011

Chapter 11 – Remote Presentations

Meaningful, insightful images or illustrations retain the attention [of your audience] longer.
Nancy Duarte

Varying the amount of data per slide will help your audience pay attention to your content. Change your pacing and rhythm. Some slides need more data for each slide, but not all of them. If you spend five minutes on one slide then show four slides in the next minute. After you show them quantitative data then help them remember the message with a simple overview.

Good quality images are required when creating a simple message. Nancy says, “Having something that is quick paced and has images that are meaningful makes your presence bigger in the room.” Images with emotional content will help your audience remember your material. For a further discussion of this topic, look in Nancy’s book in the further reading section.

People absorb information better if you give it to them with some structure. Structure your data to make is easier to read. Using more data per slide is not an excuse to abandon information sequencing.

Make each slide build on the previous one. Your slides should provide data that backs up and enhances what you are saying. Your talk should build one idea on top of another. This includes what you tell your audience as well as what you show them.

Don’t read your slides. Your audience can read a sentence much faster than you can read it aloud for them. Native English speakers can read about 40 words in ten seconds (The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint). This is much faster than you want to speak during your presentation. Never ever just read your slides. It is a waste of people’s time and it is deadly boring. You either have material to present that complements your slides, or you should skip the meeting and just send your slides.

In this example you are presenting on performance improvements you have recently made to your company’s website. This type of quantitative data is difficult to present well. Assume you have some numbers that look like this:

  • Initial page load time was 5 seconds: now less than one second.
  • Website search time was 10 seconds: now 2 seconds.
  • Used to support 100 hits per minute: now supports 1,000.

This is compelling data, but if you stand in front of people and read it they won’t remember it 10 minutes later. Format this data for maximum readability and put it on your slides, but don’t read it. Tell your audience a story instead. “I used to keep another window open so I could read while I waited for our site to load. Now it loads faster than I can click on it.” Stories are much more memorable than raw data.
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