My Biggest Pet Peeve with Presentation Slides

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The other day, my husband told me about Prezi’s acquisition of Infogram, an infographic and chart maker. (If you didn’t know, he’s a fan of Prezi.) Our conversation reminded me of my biggest pet peeve with presentation slides – illegible charts and graphics.

I hate when a presenter includes a chart, graphics, and even text so small and hard to read that the presenter has to say, “You can’t read this, but…” Those words should never be said because if the speaker was audience-centric, the slide would never be so difficult to read.

How to Prevent Having Illegible Charts

  • Think Simple, Skip the Fine Details – Keep charts and graphics clean with minimal content that shows the gist of what you’re saying. You can leave off the tiny numbers and just explain the significance of the chart. If the chart isn’t significant, then do not include it. (Infogram can help with that, but you can still clutter up their charts with too much detail.)
  • web_offer_banner_3_contentmarketingMinimal Words – I suggest 5-7 words per slide max. That’s right, most slides should just be a 1-line title with an image that supports the message you’re trying to share during that slide. (No bullet points, but that is another post.)
  • Keep Goals in Mind – Remember to start preparing your presentation by defining your goals (what you want the audience to learn) and your thesis, then start your presentation outline. When brainstorming your ideas and drafting the outline, think of what charts and graphics you need to support your message.
  • Rehearse with Your Visual Aid – Also, when you’re practicing your presentation, look out for anytime you must say or think “you can’t read this but…” This reason is why I always suggest doing a rehearsal with your visual aid because many presenters just practice with their outline and never pair it with the visual aid.
  • Step Back – Occasionally, in life, you need to step back and look at the big picture. With presentation slides, you need to step back and look at it from the back of the room. If you can’t read your slides from the back of the room, then you need to adjust your slides. (Now I know you can’t always do this test early enough to make any changes, but take a look and make adjustments next time.)
  • Don’t Let Your Audience Read Everything – If someone that doesn’t attend your presentation can read your slidedeck and glean everything they need to know, then you’re boring your audience. When you include nearly every word you say on the slide, then you’re useless as a presenter because your audience can read. (And they read faster then you can talk too.)

Don’t let catch you saying, “you can’t read this but…” at your next presentation because I’ve warned you that it is my biggest pet peeve with presentation slides. That phrase is like nails on a chalkboard to me and it can so easily be prevented.

Additional Resources

How Speak Simple Can Help You

Win more work, increasing your billing rate, and prospects coming to you are all results of being an excellent presenter. Erica Olson created Speak Simple to help technical professionals to become comfortable presenting and excel at each presentation, whether a bid presentation or an educational, content marketing presentation. Learn more about Speak Simple’s flagship program is SpeakU, a self-guided presentation training program.

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