This is a question we are asked frequently. And for good reason; pared down slides have something to intimidate fans of overloaded slides. Because it is true that in business, the norm is more like using slides where bullet points follow one another and compete with graphs, tables and figures that invade your visual aids.
But if these overloaded slides are our comfort zone, they also highlight one of the main pitfalls for the presenter: the good student syndrome. The good student presents to prove that he is serious and has worked hard. Therefore, he has the reflex to “put tons” – both in words and in his slides, to prove that the work was done and done well! But the good student has it all wrong: when you speak, you do not present to show you’ve worked hard but to change things. And, to change things, there’s no need to turn your slides into Christmas trees! Here are 3 tips to seriously clean up your slides.
Change your vision of the role of slides
It’s not because everyone else overloads their slides that it is necessary for you to do the same. As we can see, companies unfairly condition employees to be good students and believers of overloaded slides, but you have the power to decide otherwise!
You will need to change the vision of the role of slides that has been imposed on you. No, your slides are not there to reassure you or to prove that you worked hard. You are not there to comment on your slides but to deliver a promise of change for your audience. Your slides have a vocation: to amplify your message. And to amplify, there is nothing more effective than to simplify!
Pare down…but not too much!
“Simplify” is a word that can scare our complicated minds, and our expert egos. Yet, this is the key to making your visual aid your best friend. So, how to simplify without falling into simplistic?
First of all, it is not a question of paring down your visual aid for the simple pleasure of purging it: always keep in mind that your objective is to increase its impact tenfold. So, you clean up strategically by finding the right balance between too many elements on your slides and not enough to amplify your remarks.
You’ve put in too much if… you have more than one idea per slide; you multiply your bullet points, paragraphs and information levels; you accumulate extended figures and tables, or you use slides like your notes.
You haven’t put in enough if… you are satisfied with a single image that doesn’t fit with your remarks; your key idea is not clearly formulated or your visual aid is only there to decorate.
What is your common theme for choosing what to add or remove? Identify what is important and essential, and keep only the essentials! And if you get carried away, despite everything, and want to purge everything, a previous ZE TIP can also enlighten you.
Take a first step in the right direction
It is obvious that going from an overloaded slide to a simplified slide is difficult to do overnight. This concerns habits, reflexes, and a new view that you will have to develop. Here are some tips to at least get you started:
– Concentrate first on the key rule of slide design: 1 idea per slide. Beyond 1 idea, you lose in impact and clarity. For each of your slides, identify your key idea and make it clear and concise in your visual aid.
– Pay particular attention to your figures and the story they tell, and avoid accumulating them: a number can be an idea in itself, and a whole slide can be dedicated to it.
– Favor organizing your ideas horizontally rather than in bullet point format, which encourages your audience to read and gives the feeling that you’re prioritizing.
– Dare to use the duo “one visual” + “one idea” format. A full-size image and its associated idea make it possible to amplify your message twice over and promotes recall all the more. Simple, fast and effective!
Finally, the main obstacle to pared down slides is the fear of not being taken seriously. But by simplifying your slides, you amplify your message and thus contribute to the change that you propose. And the more you take this subject seriously, the more your audience will pay attention to you.