Reducing the Amount of Text on your PowerPoint Slides

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If you’ve read any of my previous posts, you’ll know that the cornerstone to an effective PowerPoint or Keynote presentation is idea of “Simplicity.” Keeping your slides as simple and image-based as possible will keep your audience visually engaged and will help them recall your message more easily.

Filling slides with useless text can be detrimental to your presentation’s health. I say “useless” because what’s written on a slide is (or should) also coming out of the presenter’s mouth. If they’re saying it, why does it also need to be on a slide?  Too much text can be detrimental because the audience will inevitably read it, thus ignoring the most important part of the presentation – THE PRESENTER! Even worse, since the audience can’t read and listen at the same time, they’ll sometimes do neither, giving the message a 0% chance of making an impact and being recalled.

Putting significant amounts of text onto a slide seems so natural though. It’s the way 99.9% are presentations are made. It helps the presenter stay on track. It aids the presenter in remembering all the points they wanted to touch. While these points bear some truth, they’re all excuses in my book. With a little education in effective presenting (and by reading this blog, you’re already ahead of the game), ample preparation time and lots of practice, you won’t need any text on those slides to make a killer presentation.

So without further adieu, here are 5 ways to reduce the amount of text on your slides:
(Click images to enlarge):

  1. Remove all text from your slides and place them in your notes section
    If you’re working from a presentation you’ve already made, this is the first place to start. You can use the notes section while you practice presenting the slides, and even keep them near you while you present (in printed form) if you simply can’t part with the text. This is also a great way to disseminate your slides AFTER you present. Thus, you’re not inclined to have text on your slide because you want to use it as a leave-behind (which is often used as an excuse for using so much text). 

    Slide1 Notes

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  3. Find an image that represents the point you’re trying to make
    I realize this is easier said than done, but the sweat equity you put into it will pay major dividends. Even if your audience doesn’t “get it” right away just by looking at the image, that’s okay! You’re right there, as the presenter, to fill in the missing pieces to complete the puzzle. Once they view the image, their attention come right back to you because you hold the valuable information. If you have text on your slide, their attention may remain on the slide as they read instead of listening to you. 

    Simplicity Image on Slide

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  5. If necessary, add a short title or data point
    Not every slide can be one singular image. The slide from the previous point probably needs a little more to help the audience member along.  Slides with a short one or two-word title, statistics, diagrams, or quotes can be effective. A number of these exist in all of the presentations I make. Just try to keep the text to a minimum and the font to a legible type and size.Slide4
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  7. If you must, break up the bullet points onto multiple slides
    Sometimes it is required that you leave the text unaltered, or maybe you’re redesigning a PowerPoint for someone else and can’t personally ensure that enough preparation and practice will be done. When bullet points are entered on a slide, presenters will often put as many as they can fit, resulting in font sizes nearing single digits. Instead, ditch the bullet and put each “point” on its own slide. This should give you ample space to jack up the font size. It also prevents the audience from reading ahead.
    Simplicity Simplicity Isn't EasyMark Twain Quote on Simplicity One Big Idea Slide
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  9. If all else fails, you can use different colors and font sizes to highlight the important points
    Okay, so this doesn’t technically reduce the amount of text, but it can help highlight the important points. Choose colors that contrast to ensure that the important words catch the eye. I like to use brighter colors, like a lime green, for the important words and darker colors, like black, for the rest.Slide: Simplicity Quote by Leonardo DaVinci

With all presentations, try your best not to compromise. If it can be expressed in a sole image, leave it that way. If it can’t, use as few words as possible. Simply remember that the audience is there to hear you, so the important information should come out of your mouth, not typed on the slide for them to read.

If after reading this you’re still having trouble trying to simplify a slide, just shoot me an email and I’ll be happy to give you my thoughts, free of charge of course ;)

*All images have been created under the Creative Commons license.  You are free to copy, distribute, and transmit the work as long as appropriate credit is given.

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