• Scott Stiefvater

Making your slides more visual may improve things, but it's not a cure.

Updated: Nov 25, 2020

Some have concluded that the cure to Death by PowerPoint is making slides more visual by employing less text and more imagery. They are right, sort of.

Going visual removes the mind-numbing effect of wordy slides.

Wordy slides present a challenge for the listener's mind by crowding their auditory processing channel and causing a mental traffic jam. Learn why in this older post.

Getting rid of this cognitive strain and fatigue is probably the biggest payoff to making slides more visual. The payoff is even greater if the imagery you use is simple, well composed, and consistent in both color-palette and photographic style.

It's time to put slides in their place.

But even visual slides have a disconnection cost.

Any slide presents a conundrum for the listener: Do they look at you or the slide? When looking at the slide, listeners are not receiving your body language, facial expressions and hand gestures – important sources of rapport and meaning. Sure, a simple slide can be decoded in a few seconds, but when that slide is left glowing on a big screen set centrally in the listener's field of view, it continues to compete for their attention.

So that you can connect and foster rapport, use slides sparingly.

So what's the true cure to Death by PowerPoint? It's to see and treat slides as secondary. It's to see and treat slides as visual-aids while recognizing you, the speaker, are the primary visual. So...

  • Leave screen-sharing off when you start a virtual presentation. Connect.

  • Ask yourself if the slide you have in mind will deliver more visual value than you. If the answer is yes, design it to be simple and largely word-free.

  • After displaying a valuable visual aid, turn screen-sharing off again (the in-person equivalent to doing this is to display a black slide on your screen).


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