Why you shouldn’t read from your PowerPoint slides


A common mistake presenters make, is packing their slides full of words, and then reading all those words to the audience. Unless the audience is pre-school, it’s likely they can read for themselves. Reading to them can be seen as annoying and slightly insulting.

Should you read from your PowerPoint slides?

Well no. Of course not. Yet still “we all do it”. You see people read much faster than they speak, so when faced with a slide full of text, most of your audience will focus on speed-reading any text, essentially leaving you talking to yourself. Here’s the thing: People can’t read and listen at the same time.

When a person reads they will be listening to their own internal voice, and quickly too as we do read fast. So a presenter speaking the same text much more slowly, immediately becomes out of sync with the audience’s internal voice. End result: the presenter ends up being more of a distraction than a help.

Or, the audience doesn’t bother reading, because they assume it will be the same content that is spoken… Good for listening, but of course – if that happens, then why did you bother putting the text on the screen anyway?!

don't read to your audience

You could forgive people for thinking that receiving the message in two ways, on screen and verbally, will help to reinforce it, but actually the exact opposite is true. Visuals and a voice is a far stronger communication tool than reading text and listening.

Visuals trump all the senses for learning

Therefore, if you want the audience to understand and remember your words, present just one, short, clear statement per slide. And include a visual which explains and clarifies it. You and the audience should be able to read the statement in a matter of seconds. Then focus on attaining a deeper understanding through the visual and your spoken words. If you need notes to help you, no problem, but keep your notes to yourself, not on the screen.

Indeed, if you (cleverly) use the Notes Area in PowerPoint for additional information (instead of using the screen space) – then you will have an option to share that information in the Notes Area with the audience afterwards by printing the Notes View to PDF. These can be designed to look really professional as well. We have some examples of this – just ask!

Read this blog for further tips on how to reduce cognitive load in PowerPoint.

So to sum up, the answer to “Should you read from your PowerPoint slides”  is 100% no.