Often when we have to do a regular business presentation, we have to present data in the form of a chart. These charts are typically filled with either text or numbers. Because of the nature of many charts, these words or numbers are usually squeezed into small boxes in the slides and most of the audience cannot read the small text.
The question I am often asked is: how do I make these charts more audience friendly?
The thing to remember is that a presentation is never for the convenience of the presenter. A presentation is always for the convenience of the audience. Because of this you, the presenter, have a duty to make your slides more friendly for your audience and therefore you have a lot of work to do so your audience doesn’t have to.
Let us look at a couple of different examples of showing charts using Stephen Covey’s Time Matrix chart:
This first example is the way 90% of bad presenters would show this chart. Everything placed into one slide, whereupon the audience will inevitably begin reading the whole slide from left to right immediately it appears on the screen. The audience stops listening to you, and they just read. A completely useless way to explain or demostrate this chart.Alternative 1
Rather than showing all the data at once, bring in each item one by one. The downside to this method is time. It will take quite a few minutes to go through each item and explain it. If you are on a tight time schedule this method will probably take too long. However, if this chart is the main point of your presentation, it is probably worth taking the time to explain it in detail.
Fade out the areas of the chart you are not talking about and only leave the area you are focussing on highlighted. This method would overcome the issue of time and allow you to go through each section step by step. The advantage of this method is that it keeps your audience’s attention on the part of the chart you are discussing.
Zoom in the area you are speaking about so that it fills the slide. At the same time fade out the rest of the chart so that it is almost hidden away in the background. This is really a matter of aethetics rather substance and is essentially just a variation of alternative 2, but it does give you an idea of another way to show data in a chart.
You could introduce the full chart briefly at the beginning of this part of your presentation, then as you introduce each part you move on to the next slide which only shows one of the boxes. This would then allow you to introduce each part line by line. At the end of the fourth box, you show the full chart again, but longer to allow your audience to absorb the full data. Again, the issue of time would come up, but it is another alternative of showing this data in a way your audience can follow.
The take away of this is that when you are presenting charts you need to avoid putting too much data up there on the screen at once. Charts and slides with too much text cause your audience to turn off their attention on you, and place their attention elsewhere. The best case scenario is they stop listening and start reading, the worst case, and often the most common case, they just simply stop listening to your presentation altogether. Your job as the presenter is to keep your audience’s attention on you. These alternatives can help you to do that.