One idea per slide

This is the antidote for death by PowerPoint.number1

Seriously.

Especially when bullet points are involved.

Ok, so…this is a slide I recently came across.

The speaker notes that accompany the slides indicate that the message for this slide is “Everyone’s emotional response to having stroke is likely to differ.”. Which is good. It’s one, clear, simple message.

Screen Shot 2013-09-04 at 4.41.20 PMBut here’s the thing. The slide is made up of two column lists. One to show the different types of strokes that people suffer from, and the other is a list of things that differentiates individuals from others. AND, there’s a custom animation for this slide. Each bullet point only appears when the presenter clicks the mouse. Which could mean that the presenter either plans to elaborate on each bullet point, or wants to emphasise the fact that there really are quite a few items to consider.

Either way, it’s no longer a slide with just one idea. And that’s a problem. By the time the presenter finally comes around to making her point (after clicking the mouse 21 times), the risks are that the audience may be:

  • distracted by a particular item on the list (eg.: “What does SES stand for again?” or  “everyone’s goals and dreams are different, in fact, I can remember one time….”
  • visually saturated with information – too long a list
  • thinking about the column lists instead of thinking about what the presenter is saying

And… the clipart? Well, he looks confused too.

One way to get this message across with a simpler, cleaner design, is to just remove the lists completely (as well as the confused clipart man). I’ve also added a simple, full coloured background using a colour from the default palette similar to the coloured bar on the original design.. No page numbers or headers needed. It’s a presentation – not a document.

Screen Shot 2013-09-04 at 4.46.30 PM

Here, the presenter can quickly share a few examples of the different kinds of strokes.

Screen Shot 2013-09-04 at 4.46.37 PM

And here she can talk about how we’re all quite different from each other.

Screen Shot 2013-09-04 at 4.45.51 PM

Finally, make the equation. Everyone’s emotional response to having stroke, is likely to differ.

Ok, you might be saying. This is crap. From one slide, you’ve added two more! But here’s the thing. Yes, the number of slides may be more, but the time spent getting the message across clearly, and effectively, is much shorter.

Even if your message is simple, if you share too many things or ideas on a single slide, you run the risk of losing your audience’s attention or diluting your message.

Sure, this may not be the best design, but it’s certainly easier to create (no clipart or list-building needed). It’s just text on a solid background. You can guarantee that the audience is visually fed with very short, simple, words – just enough for them to follow closely what the presenter is saying.

If you have a slide that you’d like me to dissect, would love to hear from you.

Written by Dinesh Rudra