When your audience sees a slide that is a sea of words, they will remember almost nothing. This type of slide overloads short-term memory and as they say these days, it’s TMI (too much information).
No matter how interesting your topic, when you present a slide full of text, people read it. They can read faster than you can talk, so they read ahead of you. In order to understand what they’re reading, they shut out your voice.
When they’re finished reading, they turn their attention back to you and discover that you’re talking about content they’ve already read! So they tune out.
The best solution is to use fewer words. You can do this by dividing up a slide with 5 bullet points into 5 slides, each with an image that illustrates the point. When I work with my clients, we also edit, edit, edit.
But if you think you need all of that text on the slide, you can help your audience understand and remember more by highlighting important words. This technique makes the words stand out, so people notice them—and remember them.
Here are 3 techniques you can use to make key words stand out.
Research shows that people skim when they read on-screen. You can help people find the important words by making them a different color. Just follow these steps:
Remember that the new color has to contrast with both your slide background and the rest of the text. Do pay attention to psychological effects of certain colors; if you’re talking about income, red, which sometimes denotes loss, might be inappropriate. Likewise, if you’re presenting bad news, shades of pink might come across as frivolous.
I generally hate animation for text unless you’re creating a sales video. But you can use it to control when people see your text. Just realize that the animation should be as simple as possible; in one research study, animation reduced the amount of content people remembered.
In this technique, you put a contrasting rectangle behind the text and click to make it appear when you’re ready to discuss the related text. Here are the steps:
Here is the result in Slide Show view after 3 clicks.
I love SmartArt because it help make text more graphical. One layout works well to help you highlight words and it’s especially useful for lists like the one at the top of this blog post, which has a colon after a couple of words on each line.
Using the Tab List SmartArt layout, you can turn it into this. The audience now easily sees the 4 categories because they are visually set apart from the rest of the text.
Here are the steps to create this effect:
Continue to restructure the text for all of the lines of text, as you see here.
Will one of these techniques be useful for you? Leave a comment and share your thoughts!
Ellen Finkelstein is a Microsoft PowerPoint MVP and author of several PowerPoint, Flash, and AutoCAD books. She also holds webinars on presenting skills on a regular basis.
Her company, Ellen Finkelstein, Inc. helps clients create presentations that communicate clearly and achieve their goals. Her site offers PowerPoint tips, and a selection of free backgrounds.
See Also: Ellen Finkelstein on Indezine
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