Text for the back of the room: Four essential tips for readability in your presentation

Next Wed., Mar. 2, Jon Swerens and I will partner to present “How to Create and Deliver a Great Presentation” at the Greater Fort Wayne Chamber of Commerce. Jon will talk about why slide design is critical in helping you make a connection with the audience–and in this guest post, he provides a preview of his insights.

Text for the back of the room: Four essential tips for readability in your presentation

By Jon Swerens

The problem with trying to choose a font for your presentation is a typical American one: You have way too many choices. Let’s narrow down the options by looking at the main purpose of the typeface in your presentation: Readability.

It doesn’t matter how well-written your text is if the guy in the back of the room can’t read it. Clarity, not cleverness, is the goal. Here are four pointers:

      • Choose one font. Look at your local newspaper. Does it change its headline font on every other page? Nope! It uses one or perhaps two readable fonts for every headline in the publication. Choose one font for every slide. And choose one with a bold variant.
      • Choose a straight-forward font. You may think using Curlz makes your slides more feminine, or that Comic Sans makes them funnier. Actually, such fonts just make your slides look silly. Instead, try a readable, classy font such as Helvetica, Franklin Gothic or Myriad. Let your choice of words carry the emotion of your story rather than the kind of font you use.
      • Think big. Make your text large enough so it can be read from the back of the room. That means a lot fewer words per slide, maybe six to eight per slide. Each bullet point might need its own slide. But that’s OK: Slides are free. Use as many as you need!
      • Assume poor lighting conditions. High contrast between the text and the background is essential. You have to account for the fact that the room will not be – and should not be – completely dark. On simple slides with only text, use a completely black background with white text. When you place text on photos, choose photos that feature either some empty space for the text or a low-contrast photo that’s either light enough for black text or dark enough for white text. Failing that, adjust the brightness and contrast of a photo behind the text (you can do this in PowerPoint) to make the words pop better.

You don’t want your audience remembering your typeface. You want them remembering your words. Simple, big text helps your message shine.

Jon Swerens is the director of communications at The Greater Fort Wayne Chamber of Commerce.

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One Response to Text for the back of the room: Four essential tips for readability in your presentation

  1. Pingback: This Is Your Brain on Visuals credits and notes | Jon Swerens

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