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Can You Read This? January 7, 2009

Posted by Chuck Musciano in Random Musings.
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2 comments

We’ve all been in this situation.

You’re sitting through some PowerPoint presentation when the speaker puts up a slide and comments, “I know you can’t read this slide, but…”

But what?  “But I thought I’d waste your time with it?”  “But I really like it anyway?”  “But my need to talk completely outranks your need to stay awake?”

But, nothing.  This is one of the biggest, rudest mistakes a speaker can make.  The point of any presentation is to effectively convey information to an audience and leave them with a positive impression of the speaker.  The audience is investing their precious time to gain knowledge.  By giving them a slide that is unreadable, you have wasted their time, diminished their trust, and made it that much harder to teach them anything.

PowerPoint may be one of the most abused tools in the history of computing, if only because you can use it to torment so many people at once in a captive situation.  The purpose of a slide deck is to enhance your presentation, add value to what you are saying, and help your audience follow your ideas.  It is not a shared teleprompter that you read to your audience, nor is it a reproduction of a white paper that you talk over.

Well-crafted slide decks generate interest and keep your audience engaged.  They provide useful illustrations that bring your words to life, or provide a skeltal structure that you fill out verbally. They should be readable from every point in the room, and use color schemes that do not induce seizures among the more sensitive in the audience. And for the compulsive in the room, please make sure the bullets and indents are consistently and correctly applied in each and every slide.  A little time spent making your slides perfect demonstrates your respect for your audience.

Now don’t get me started on the what follows the presentation: “I’d like to give a demo of our product, even though these screens are kind of hard to read…”