“5 slides maximum,” he who has never had this instruction imposed on him at least once, raise your hand! This totally counterproductive rule, has known some notoriety in recent years. So how can we carry it off? How can we stay efficient with constraints that hold us back?
Making a presentation an ultra-standardized exercise in style has been attempted several times. The most emblematic is certainly the Pecha Kucha: 20 slides, 20 seconds each; an exercise close to the Pitch with a total duration of just over 6 minutes. Having tested it, it is not simple but is has a great quality: it forces preparation and rehearsing. Without these two ingredients, it’s a guaranteed failure!
This said, unless you plan on competing in the Olympics of PowerPoint, the exercise isn’t of much use. Complying with these kinds of rules certainly doesn’t make an impact and help you stand out from the crowd.
The same goes with the “5 slides” rule that we have seen flourish everywhere. The excom, dircom, pilcom, and other committees saw it as an opportunity to better control the content and duration of presentations. However, there is no correlation between slides and time. You have speakers who talk for hours without a slide; and exercises like the Pecha Kucha where the slides go by at high speeds. In addition, the exercise tends to consider that the presentation is confined to PowerPoint… As a result, the leadership persona of the speakers melts like snow in the sun because they are no longer focused on their idea and the time given to them, but on the style constraints imposed on them. They find themselves erased behind ineffective and overloaded visual aids with the sole satisfaction of having their presentation held on… 5 slides.
First, it is important to remember that overloaded slides pose several problems:
- Our brains read faster than they hear. It’s a fact. Once the reading skill is acquired, the human brain is able to read very quickly. And, since it alone consumes 20% of our total energy, it necessarily pushes us towards the least energy consuming activity. You’ve probably experienced it by watching a sub-titled video / film. Although it’s in English, you find yourself reading more than listening. Faced with a loaded slide: same battle. The attention that should be paid to the speaker ends up completely on the slide. To avoid that, we provide some advice here (link to Elisa’s article)
- The speaker is completely turned to his PowerPoint, he finds himself commenting on his own material, trying not to forget anything (especially since the audience has already had time to read everything that’s posted several times). It can all be summed up in a simple equation: absent speaker + monotonous voice + loaded slide = an audience keeping busy while waiting for it to end.
- The legibility will most certainly be poor. The more we want to put in, the more we reduce the typography, the graphics… in short, everything becomes illegible unless you’re in the first row. Think of that poor fellow in the back of the room…
Unfortunately, for a number of you, it is not always possible to escape this rule, so you have to find solutions. It is therefore time to propose a ZETIP to help you!
Show only the essentials
A good number of slides are normally completely useless; this is a great opportunity to delete them completely. Here’s a small list of slides to avoid:
- The summary / the plan: takes time and adds nothing more to your presentation
- Empty slides with a sole title: context, key figures, intro, or conclusion…
- Slides with “Any questions?”
- “Thank you for your attention”
- Cover page with title + name + date + … In short, everything that fills the slides without bringing anything more to your remarks.
Play on entertaining displays
Since you’re limited on the number of slides, enjoy entertaining displays! They allow you to display only what you’re talking about in order to keep the focus on the idea you’re sharing. This will guide your audience’s attention to where it belongs: to what you are saying.
Be careful to favor simple demonstrations: brief or sudden appearances, zoom, etc.
Simplify to amplify
This rule doesn’t appear for the first time in our articles. This is an essential rule of slide design. Avoid long sentences, favor simple and impactful sentences to counter the “reading” effect mentioned above.
For example, avoid writing:
“You can join a team that knows how to be dynamic”
“Join a dynamic team”
Get the numbers out of your tables!
In addition to taking up space, tables are not readable and understandable for your audience. And when they are, they absorb all of the attention. Favor showing statistics that are imperative to your remarks or create charts when you want to highlight a trend.
Obviously, you won’t be able to leave this presentation when you leave the room because it will be unusable without your comments. On the other hand, it will play its role perfectly: making your audience want to read the document you left behind.
By applying these few tips, you’ll already have freed up a lot of space and slides. But still end your preparation with one essential question: what is important and what is essential? If it’s essential, keep it; if it’s important, save it for later!