Rule 101: How to reduce text on slides so you can impact your audience more.
You need to present slides which are both simple to understand and memorable.
We cannot listen and read simultaneously, and our default is to read (it’s faster). So, when there is a lot of text on your slides, your audience will be too busy reading it to listen to you and your meaning will be lost. Therefore, the simpler you can make your slides the more your audience will grasp the meaning and retain key information.
5 ways to reduce text on slides
1. Use the Notes Pages.
In PowerPoint, below the slide view there is space for notes. You can use this section to help keep your slides succinct, by pulling out any additional text that a (non-live) audience needs to understand the content (and of course you can use these notes as a prompt whilst you are speaking).
If you would like to change the formatting of these notes, click View > Notes Master. This master can be redesigned to match your presentation and make it more visually appealing. One simple trick is to fill the speaker notes placeholder with a background colour taken from the slide palette and use consistent fonts.
If you format the Notes Pages well, they make brilliant hand outs.
2. Have only crucial text on the slides.
Crowded slides can confuse and overwhelm an audience. Unless your point is immediately clear, you’ll struggle to keep their attention. Cut out waffle words, reducing content to the essentials (review your content 2 or 3 times to reduce it). Aim to summarise without losing any of your meaning.
As Blaise Pascal once wrote: “If I had more time, this would be a shorter letter” (I paraphrase!). Invest time into making your text more concise.
Of course, it’s not just text on a slide that can be the culprit for cognitive overload. Question tables, charts, diagrams and the “added” detail you’ve included and sense check if it’s genuinely needed.
3. Use slide headings as a summary message.
Put your key message for each slide into the heading – in other words argue your point and make this argument obvious. Think about the one key point you want the audience to take from each slide. Make these headers short, impactful and pithy.
Don’t use headings as “topics” e.g. Our locations / Our team / Our services. Do tell your audience exactly what they need to know: e.g. We have a reliable national network / Our staff know their onions / Everything we do will make your life easier.
4. Avoid text in lists > use grids to make it appear like less text.
Dodge the bullet. Pull the text from each bullet out into a separate shape and use some cool colours and fonts, distributing the shapes evenly across the available space. You may still have the same amount of text, but it won’t look like it!
5. Communicate graphically by visualising data (instead of text).
If you are communicating a bunch of facts and figures, use this information to build some simple charts and graphics, then you can take out most of the text. Limited text combined with an appropriate image, icon or infographic instantly becomes more memorable. These visual aids to memory should be simple and direct and they should help to create a narrative which will build connections between information.
What have we learnt? Trimming out the unnecessary noise from your slides means that your audience will understand, digest, and remember more of what was said. Put simply, with less text-heavy slides, your presentations are more effective.
If we can help you to make this a reality on your slides, just get in touch. Put our years of expertise at your disposal, and have slides that not only look good, but that put the audience’s experience first.