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Are you stuffing your presentation slide deck with dreadful graphs and charts?
Few things can induce information overwhelm and Death by PowerPoint faster than a bad graph. Unfortunately, most business presenters have some pretty bad habits when it comes to their graphs.
In this Communication Q&A, I give you some pointers on how to make the graphs and charts in your slide deck easier on the eyes and the brain. Please remember to like the video when you’re done so more people can find this video!
(Embedded video being fussy? Click here to watch it directly on YouTube. Prefer to read rather than watch? Scroll down for the full transcript.
Uh oh…someone might be creating Death by Powerpoint….
Greeting and good day fellow presenters! My name is Lauren Sergy and this is communication Q&A where we get into your thorny speaking and communication issues. And as we start, please remember to like the video and subscribe to my channel as it helps others find these videos more easily!
Today’s question is from Marcie, who says “Hi Lauren, I’ve got some presentation problems. (don’t we all!) I need to show a lot of data and use a lot of graphs. But I’ve been told my slide decks are too complicated and hard to read. I’ve tried to dress them up with different colours and layouts, but I’m still getting complaints. How can I fix this?”
Marcie, every person watching this channel who has to communicate a lot of technical info, data, and numbers in their presentations is glad you asked this question. Now I haven’t seen examples of your slides, but I’m willing to bet they contain a lot of information. And the rule for showing data on slide decks is that you must simplify to clarify.
Usually we stuff too much information into our graphs, showing most or all the data points in a set. This puts a big burden on your audience, because they have to read and interpret all those points while also listening to you. And our brains can’t read AND listen at the same time. So people quickly get overwhelmed with information. Unfortunately, with the way our brains work, they’re also most likely to focus their attention on reading the chart than listening to you…but the REALLY important stuff should be coming out of your mouth!
Part of your job as the presenter is to pull out ONLY those data points that will best help reinforce your main point. You needed all the info in the set to do your analyses or make your recommendations, but they only need a sliver of that. So figure out WHICH sliver is most impactful, and design your slide to highlight that. You can do it by removing other info, or by fading it out so the most pertinent info is highlighted. Go bare-bones in terms of design. Tidy and easy to take in trumps colorful and visually impressive any day of the week.
BUT LAUREN you say, I’m required to give them ALL the info! They need the full graphs and tables, it’s a must! And that may be true, but they don’t need to see it all on the slide. That’s where handouts and attachments come in. Put the full graph or data set on a separate handout that you can print and pass around or email to the attendees. They can bring those with them and refer to them as they wish, and your slides can remain tidy and easy to read.
Be ruthless when stripping out information from your slides. It will feel like you’re cutting out too much, but remember that you can always put the stuff you’re chopping out it in the handout and refer to it should people have questions.
I hope that gives you an idea of how to start improving your slides, Marcie. And for those watching – if you’re thinking “gosh…my slides need some serious work”, then I suggest you check out my online course Business Presentation Mastery. I get into every nook and cranny of creating and delivering outstanding presentations, including even more strategies for making your slide decks shine. It’s a fantastic program, so head over to laurensergy.com/BPM to find out more. And I’ll see you on the next Communication Q&A!