No Audience NEEDS Bullet Points

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There are basic principles to living a healthy life: Drink lots of water, count your calories, avoid empty calories (read: junk food), and burn calories (namely through exercise)—these principles matter to every human being on this planet. Some need/burn more calories (Olympic swimmers), some need/burn less (the rest of us), but our health, for better or worse, depends on how well we subscribe to those aforementioned principles. There are no valid excuses as to why junk food is a healthy part of your diet or why eating 10,000 calories a day is okay (if you don’t exercise).

What am I getting at? Well, there are basic principles in presentation design, too. And no matter what, these principles transcend any genre of business.

Many people love and appreciate my style of presentation design, based heavily on what I’ve learned from Garr Reynolds, Nancy Duarte, and John Medina (just to name a few). It’s an effective style of design, and I don’t think there’s any disputing that. But I often get this question (presentation designers, stop me if you’ve heard this one):

“I love how you use imagery and limited text in your presentations. However, I work in finance (or science, or IT, or any technical, data rich field) and images just don’t work. I need lots of text on my slides. What can I do?”

It doesn’t matter what field you’re in or who your audience is. As long as they’re human beings, the basic principles of effective presentation design still apply.

In his book entitled “Brain Rules”(I reviewed the book here), Dr. John Medina pointed out one simple, obvious, yet powerful rule: We don’t pay attention to boring things.

Whether your audience is wearing a suit, a lab coat, or a Mickey Mouse t-shirt, they are human beings and they don’t want  to stare at a screen full of words or packed with data while the presenter competes for their attention (since the audience can’t read and listen at the same time). If you want to provide them with a document they can reference later, create a separate leave behind. Don’t turn your presentation into a slideument.

I’m not saying that every presentation needs images on every slide. But don’t give up on trying to effectively design your presentation simply because  bland, text-heavy slides are commonplace in your indistry. In fact, that’s the EXACT reason you should strive to create an engaging, unique, memorable presentation that your audience won’t soon forget.


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