Why less is more on your presentation slides

Steve Jobs understood that, when it comes to presentation slides, less is more. "Apple WWDC 2010 Keynote" By BENM.AT Live Coverage on Flickr

There are a lot of good reasons to have as little as possible on your presentation slides, but here’s the best reason of all: less detail on your slides means more focus on you.

A lot of speakers make the mistake of thinking that more detail is helpful to the audience. It’s not. More detail means every individual word or image has to battle a little harder to be seen. Furthermore, more detail obscures the fact that some of your words and images are much more important than others. When designing your slides, your focus should be only on what’s most critical. Then it’s your responsibility to include the details in your spoken comments.

There’s a reason why many speakers include all the details in their slides: they’re afraid. They’re afraid they’ll forget something. They’re afraid the audience won’t understand what they’re saying. They’re afraid the slides won’t accurately represent their presentation when someone is reads a printed handout or a slideshow on SlideShare.

The truth is, your slides will rarely, if ever, replace your presentation–and good speakers know making the slides the focus is the quickest road to an inattentive audience. Good speakers know that slides are just window dressing, a supplemental tool that accents and illustrates your most important points. The real focus is on you, the speaker. That’s where the audience wants to connect.

For many speakers, the idea that they will be the focus, not their slides, is too daunting. But think of this way: it’s not a matter of the audience choosing between paying attention to you and paying attention to your slides. It’s more a matter of the audience choosing between paying attention to you, or not paying attention at all.

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3 Responses to Why less is more on your presentation slides

  1. Andy Welfle says:

    Great post! I think I’ve mentioned this before, but I managed to make it through college without once doing a PowerPoint presentation, which I’m afraid left my skills lacking when coming into my professional life.

    I’ll be presenting to a group of small business owners in Huntington County, soon, and when I’m putting together my slides, I’ll keep this post in mind as a challenge to keep them simple. That’s definitely harder to do than add every detail I can think of into the slide.

    Thanks for the challenge! I look forward to sharing them with you after to see if they rise to the challenge.

  2. Excellent advice! Dale Carnegie would approve wholeheartedly. Going to share on our fan page. 🙂

  3. ajjuliano says:

    Thanks, guys–I appreciate the comments. It’s all about getting the audience to stay connected to YOU, not just your slides.

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