Show Your Audience Something, Not Everything

A presenter overkilling his PowerPoint slides in front of an audience

I came across this photo on line and thought, ugh, same mistake most people make when they transfer their thoughts to PowerPoint: overkill. When it comes to words on PowerPoint, more is less. Let me explain. The more words you put on a PowerPoint slide, the less attention the audience gives to what you have to say. For people in the audience the visual of a slide filled with more than 80 words creates a feeling of anxiety, an actual tightness in the chest, a shortness of breath. They can’t absorb all that information and listen to the speaker at the same time because when most people read they silently say the words they are reading. It creates a conflict of voices—the speaker’s voice and the audience members voice.

Put too many words on a PowerPoint slide and your audience literally has to tune you out in order to read your slide—after the audience gets past the feeling of anxiety that a crowded slide always causes.

So follow this simple, but far more effective approach: Show your audience something, not everything. No one wants to read your resume while you talk. Words on a PowerPoint slide should simply reinforce the basic concepts, processes, and information that you convey in the front of the room. It should never look like a transcript, and it should never create a feeling of anxiety.

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