Less Is More: Why Wordy Slides Are an Audience Turn-off

17.01.18 Members

Bad news, the average PowerPoint slide now contains 40 words. For perspective, the amount of information we retain at a time is a maximum of just four items! If you want your message to stick, overcrowding your slides with text is simply not an option

The good news is, it’s never too late to salvage your slides. Here’s how to avoid this common presentation blunder.

Allow Your Audience to Listen

Every presentation aims to get a message across. With too much text on your slides, it’s likely that your audience will become preoccupied with reading. This divides their attention and prevents them from fully engaging with you.

It’s far better for your audience to listen than read. Compared to listening, reading involves one extra step – called decoding – before information is understood. By listening, your audience instantly gets the message, leaving you free to influence and inspire them.

Choose Impact over Volume

Distil your information into a few key points. Expert speakers will often select just three points and stick to those. You may have more than three points to present, but remember, our minds can only handle four items at a time.

If you’re struggling to keep the word count down, why not use a picture? Choose a high-quality image that illustrates your point, supports your message and makes it memorable for your audience.

Don’t forget about handouts. These are great for communicating text-heavy information or items that are difficult to read on-screen. By providing your audience with handouts, they’ll know that they don’t need to take notes, which means they can simply sit back and enjoy your presentation.

Remember, You’re the Expert

Wordy slides make it easy for presenters to just read the text aloud. Audiences don’t appreciate this. A survey found that nearly 70 per cent of audiences said the most annoying thing a speaker does during presentations is reading from their slides.

If you’re presenting on a topic, chances are you’re the expert at it. Be confident in your knowledge. Don’t turn your slides into a teleprompter or include everything you plan to say. Think about it, would you trust a doctor who answers questions by reading out of a textbook? You’re more credible if you can simply talk about your topic.

Practice Your Delivery

Practice your presentation well and you won’t need too many notes. Even the most successful speakers make time to rehearse. Because no one is born naturally confident, you’ll need to work hard to polish your skills. Presentations look effortless after you put in the effort to rehearse. 

If you need to follow notes, add these into the notes section where only you can see it. Remember, slides should support your talk and aid comprehension – not act as your proxy.

In a nutshell: Avoid text-heavy slides by going for impact over volume and ensure your audience gets the message every time!