Go Easy on Your Audience

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If no one reads anymore, then why are presenters still overloading their PowerPoint presentations with bullets?

We are visual creatures. Our brains process images 60,000 times faster than text alone. As meeting planners and organizers, you’ve put on enough events and presentations to recognize the importance and impact of a minimalistic approach to text and thoughtful visuals.

But here’s the challenge: Your clients and presenters don’t always think this way, yet they still want their presentations to be engaging and amazing experiences.

Here are a few ways we guide clients and presenters to meet their event expectations.

Read Less, Connect More

Audiences don’t read and presenters shouldn’t either. When collaborating with clients, our presentation designers are quick to steer clients toward approaches that feed the presenter/audience connection.

Reading from the slide will have a whole lot of audience members wondering why they came to the presentation in the first place (Psst. That’s what the notes section is for). When presenters refrain from reading and thus keep their eyes on the audience, they have a better chance at connecting—and conversing—with them.

But our presentation designers have worked with enough presenters to know that behavior-changing guidance like that needs reinforcement. Presenters will fall back into their old reading ways. So, we build in text and visual supports to encourage that change.

Say More with Less Words

According to marketing guru Seth Godin, one of the golden rules of incredible PowerPoint presentation creation is to limit your text on screen to six words a slide. Yeah, you read that right—six words. That’s a tall order for some presentations, but even if it’s impossible to cut it down to that level of sparsity, aim for it anyway—cut out the noise and focus on the key message or point to get across per slide.

Presenters may balk at the suggestion, but our presentations designers are skilled at showing presenters the audience engagement value of less cluttered slides. “If there’s too much information on the slide,” said Amanda Bridges, Event Planner and Presentation Designer, “then your audience is distracted while trying to read the slide. Then they’re not listening, because they can’t really do both.”

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Choose Powerful and Relevant Visuals

Take away their bullet points and presenters get nervous. Give them powerful and relevant visuals to go with their slimmed down word count and they start to get it…sometimes…Okay, only after they realize that part of our job as presentation designers is to be their creative partner.

Take a quick scan through David Epstein’s 2014 TED Talks presentation on the changing bodies of athletes (Or watch the entire thing. It’s really interesting!). As you will see, Epstein marries clean, sparse images of athletes with key bits of data. The effect of this visual technique is hard to forget, even when just skimming through the presentation. Why? The visuals suck us in, which makes it easy for us to pay attention. And even if you don’t remember everything he said, you remember the stories behind the images because the visuals so powerfully match his message.

Go Easy on Your Audience

This takes us full circle back to the unspoken dilemma all meeting planners face. Clients and presenters want you to make their events and presentations successful. They want their audiences attentive and their messages well-received. Period.

While the exact creative solutions needed to meet client expectations can change from project to project, one important question tends to guide our process—How can we go easy on the audience?

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