A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the need to make sure that the images you use in your presentation are relevant to the subject matter you are talking about. Linked to that is an excuse I often hear given for poor quality and boring presentations: “But we are different”
This excuse is usually given after someone has explained to me that they know using images and less text is important, but their business or their subject matter does not allow using clear, relevant images and few words on a slide. Frankly, it is possibly the worst excuse I have ever heard! The worst because if they know using less text and more visuals makes a better presentation, then why do they insist on boring their audiences time and time again? Do they not understand that it is their duty to find a better way to present their message?
The simple truth is that slides full of text will be immediately forgettable. Not only have you wasted your time, but more worryingly you have wasted the time of your audience as well. And that, as a presenter, is unforgivable!
And yes, all of you in the world of academia and medicine – listen up – You are not exempt either. Just because your subject matter is complex and technical does not mean you have an excuse to fill your slides with boring text that is too small to read. You are NOT different. (see here for an excellent post by Dr Simon Raybould about medical presentations)
A great presentation is not about deciding what to put in, it is about what to take out. Your audience does not have the capacity to remember everything you say, so you have to keep your message simple and memorable and to do that you have to keep your words and points to the minimum, not the maximum. Relevant and clear images are much easier to remember than row after row of bullet-pointed words.
There is no excuse for slides filled with unreadable text, no matter what you are presenting about. So stop doing it. The next presentation you create focus on taking out and not putting in.