Less is more – four words on a slide communicate more than forty. But a lot of presenters still make the mistake of thinking that more detail is helpful to the audience. It’s not. It just means every individual word or image has to battle a little harder to be seen.

When designing your presentation, focus on removing the non-essential, limiting your slide content to only the most critical. After all, slides, used to their full effect, should accent and illustrate your most important point.

One point per slide

Our short term memory is limited and our brains can’t process too much information at once. For more information about this, read our blog about Cognitive Load. So, it is important to focus on one point per slide. You may end up with more slides than you’re used to, but you’re still presenting the same content, in the same amount of time. It is just spread out in more digestible chunks to make your story clearer and help memorability too.

Simplify the text and amplify the message

For every slide, show a relevant image, a stripped-down graph, or single sentence to add clarity or reinforce your point. Most of your message should be in your spoken words, not on the screen. This approach is effective as it keeps the audience focused on you and what you’re saying, while supporting the key messages with a visual narrative that is easy to follow and remember.

Think creatively

Bill Gates certainly understood this. The average PowerPoint slide has 40 words (too many to follow in our opinion). In his legendary TED presentation “Innovating to Zero”, it took Gates 15 slides to reach 40 words of text, as he mainly relied on images.

Gates is remarkable for making complex content easy to grasp. He explained global warming in seven seconds by using a simple visual formula. According to Gates, “CO2 gets emitted. That leads to a temperature increase, and that temperature increase leads to some very negative effects.”

less is more bill gates
Re-creation of Bill Gate’s global warming formula from his 2010 TED Talk Image credit: Empowered Presentations @empoweredpres

If you want to create a TED-worthy presentation to wow your audience, make ‘less is more’ your mantra.

Here’s an exercise. Strive for no more than 40 words in the first 10 slides. This will encourage you to think creatively about telling a memorable and engaging story, that your audience will love! You might not be able to achieve this with every slide, but it’s good practice.

Once you manage to eliminate wordy slides, you’ll realise how much more fun you can have with your presentation.

If you need support in creating a stand-out presentation for your business, get in touch.

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