2. Keep lines short.
If you think about it, a slide show is much like
a series of headlines, all in the same format.
Unfortunately, looking at a bunch of similar headlines
does not excite most of us. To combat this
built-in yawn factor, the copy in presentation graphics,
whether it introduces additional information or
stands on its own, must be short and simple to read.
Limit headlines to three or four words—use
much more and the reader will begin to lose interest.
Headlines in presentation graphics should do one of
- Introduce information that follows
- Make a point
- Provide continuity for a series of related slides
Bullet-point copy should be five to seven words
in length. The words in slides should punctuate what
the presenter says, not echo it. If you need to record
exactly what the speaker said for your audience,
develop a separate document and pass it out after
the talk (for more presentation advice, check out the
Quick Tip below). Slide copy should be crisp and
precise, never cute. Cute rarely works in the business
environments where most presentations are made.
3. Eliminate Clutter.
Software applications offer a variety of design formats
for slides. Most are good starting points for
presentation graphics—if you remove the clutter
that applications vendors seem obligated to include
with the templates. Complicated or illustrative background
textures, fancy bullets, multiple rules, and
large graphic shapes generally do nothing to help
the communication process. The most important
stuff on slides is the type and information graphics
that illustrate important points. Simple slides are
good slides. (See G.)
Restrict the amount of information you include
on a single slide. Confine typography to four or five
lines. There seems to be a natural tendency on the
part of those who write the copy for presentations
to put as much information as possible on a slide.
Help these people resist the temptation to overcrowd.
Inform them that too much copy will force their
concepts to be shown at a smaller size, reducing
impact. Let them know that too much information
will confuse the audience. Tell them that too much
information on one slide will mean that it has to be
shown too long, and the audience will become bored.
Use rules and bullets only when they add to
understanding. Rules can help separate headlines
from subpoints, and bullets are an aid to referencing
information in series. But these are also powerful
graphic presences that can detract from the process
of information transfer. If bullets begin to look too
dominant, tone down their size or color. Use single
hairline rules instead of the bold or double variety.
Bold type and size and font changes work
fine as typographic emphasizers. Avoid italics with
underlines, bold type with drop shadows, and outline
fonts with internal textures. They make presentation
graphics look more like circus posters than solid
instruments for communication.