Why you shouldn’t read from your PowerPoint slides

A classic mistake presenters make, is to pack their slides full of words, which they then read to the audience. Unless your audience is very young indeed, they can read for themselves. Reading to them can be seen as annoying and slightly insulting.

Should you read from your PowerPoint slides?

You may be forgiven 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.

don't read to your audience

People read much faster than they speak, so when faced with a slide full of text, most of your audience will focus on reading the message, leaving you talking to yourself. People can’t read and listen at the same time. What happens when a person reads: simply, they will be listening to their own internal voice, and quickly too as we can read fast. A presenter will be speaking the same text much more slowly, so rather than a stereo effect, the effect is two voices speaking out of sync. And the presenter ends up being more of a distraction than a help.

If you want the audience to understand and remember your words, present just one, short, clear statement per slide and a visual which explains and clarifies it. You and the audience should be able to read the statement in a matter of seconds, and 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.

There are short phrases or diagram labels that of course you should voice out loud. But sentences of bullet points? Don’t even have them on the slide!

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 basically no. Instead of reading to your audience, try talking to them instead: this will lead to better understanding and less eye-strain.