Recently I have been working with a doctor on preparing a presentation where there is a lot of medical data. The problem is that the presenter has only five minutes to make the presentation and will then be allowed to answer question for 3 minutes.
When we present data in a presentation the temptation is to load as much information as possible into the chart, but when we do this we are running the risk of overloading our audience’s brain with too much information. And the information we really want our audience to see and learn is lost in a chart full of unecessary information.
Below is an example of such a chart:
On this chart we have a lot of information that really is not necessary. In this example, the presenter wants to highlight the yellow and orange columns. Other information the presenter wants the audience to see is the authors names and the dates. The four columns at the end of the table is not referred to in the presentation.
The problem here is that the final four columns are distractions. They are not relevant to the presentation or to the point the presenter is making.
My advice in this situation is to remove them. While your boss may not like this, it is more important to allow your slide to ‘breath’ and to give your audience the chance to focus on the information that is relevant. While I personally think that the “author” and the “period” is also not relevant, as these are not referred to by the presenter, this slide can be improved by removing the final four slides:
Now the slide looks much less cluttered and messy. The audience has a chance to actually focus on the relevant information, and the presenter is now showing essentially the important information only.
If I were given the opportunity to prepare this slide, here’s how I would present it:
Now, only the information I talk about is presented on the slide. There is nothing to distract my audience and the information is presented in a clear and concise way.
When we prepare presentation slides, it is very tempting to overload out charts with data. However, we must think about our audience, and so only putting in the information that is relevant allows us to focus our audience’s attention on that information and nothing else. If we want to give more detail, then this is where a handout can be useful. Our audience members can then study the data in more detail after our presentation. This is particularly important when we have a very short time to give our presentation.
So, please think about your audience, put yourself in their shoes when you prepare your slides and ask yourself if all the data in your slide is really relevant. If it is not, remove it.