“Knowledge is a process of piling up facts; wisdom lies in their simplification.” Martin Luther King. “Order and simplification are the first steps toward the mastery of a subject”. Thomas Mann. “If you can’t explain it to a 6-year-old, you don’t understand it yourself.” Albert Einstein. “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” Leonardo da Vinci. “Simplicity is the glory of expression.” Walt Whitman. If all great men agree on this principle, we should acknowledge the benefits of simplification. So why do we keep giving boring, overcomplicated and confusing presentations?
First of all, we often think that it would look insufficient and unprofessional to make a 10-minute presentation with just a few ideas and 5 or 6 slides. Nonetheless, the main objective is not to show how hard you worked for your presentation, but what your audience will remember. It is proven that a short presentation with a few strong ideas will have much more impact than a one-hour lecture filled with facts and statistics.
“Less is more”. This quote, adopted by Ludwig Mies von der Rohe as an architecture concept, can be applied to many other fields. In terms of presentations, the idea of minimalism will help you communicate clear, efficient, and memorable information with your audience. In this article, we have broken down this concept into 10 ideas that will help you deliver great presentations. Both your visual aids and speech will be improved by getting rid of what is unnecessary and focusing on your essential ideas.
1. Simplify your slides
a. Less text and more key words
We all know that packing your slides with text is the worst you can do. Actually, the worst you can do is read your packed slides to your audience! So, how should you present textual information that you think is worth projecting on slides? The answer: key words. The main concepts that you need your audience to remember should appear on your slides, and nothing else!
b. Fewer words and more visuals
Although key words are worth mentioning on your slides, you must give priority to visual elements: images, photos, videos and even graphics, if they are clear, relevant and impactful. Author and entrepreneur Seth Godin once said: “Slides should reinforce your words, not repeat them.” Indeed, your visual aids should not be a mirror of your speech but an illustration of it.
c. Fewer visuals and more design
Not everybody is a natural-born graphic designer but we all should be able to feel the impact of the slides we create. Your photos and texts should be highlighted thanks to a simple yet efficient design. That is why your slides have to be clear, coherent, harmonized and pleasant to the eye. Instead of having three photos on a slide, choose only one and edit it so that it has more impact. For instance, you can make it bigger, enhance the contrast and choose a great dark background or border around your image.
d. Fewer packed slides and more empty space
When we want to reduce the number of slides we are going to project, we sometimes make the mistake of packing too much information on one slide. However, the basic rules of slide design say that you should only share one concept per slide and a maximum of 6 elements on each one. An excess of visuals can have dire consequences: your audience might lose the thread or stop listening to you in order to analyze all the visual content of your slides. Remember slides are free and it is not a drawback to have more slides, as long as they are relevant, or, shall we say, essential.
e. Fewer colors and more harmony
The colors of your visual elements, including backgrounds, should be chosen carefully. Again, limitation is key: don’t display more than 4 colors on a slide and in your whole presentation. For instance, if you want to display a hierarchy in a graphic, you could use different shades of the same color instead of a large number of colors. One color theory that can be followed is the timeless 60-30-10 rule used for interior decoration: 60% of a primary color, 30% of a secondary one and 10% of the accent color.
f. Fewer fonts and more clarity
Your slide deck should not contain more than 3 fonts. If you exceed this number, your slides will lose clarity and become a distraction to the eye. Most presentations only include two fonts, that is why you need to choose them carefully. They have to be distinguishable and complementary at the same time.
2. Simplify your speech
a. Fewer slides and more speech
Less info on your slides means more focus on you. Remember: you are the star of the show. Your slide deck is not a work of art for sale, it is just a means to an end: get your message across and convince your audience. The only things you ought to put on your slides are the elements you cannot express better with words. A lot of things do not need to be shown, they need to be said.
b. Less time and more relevance
We know that time management is key to the success of your presentation. Indeed, it needs to be as short as it should be. Get rid of everything that is not essential to the comprehension of your ideas. Don’t go astray: with each digression, you may confuse or lose your audience. Remember the human attention span is limited, so always get to the point!
c. Fewer facts and more stories
Facts do not mean anything on their own: they need contextualization, they need to be analyzed, explained, and understood. On the contrary, ideas have an inner power: an idea is strong by itself. If you want to illustrate your ideas, the best way to do it is not a stat or a graphic, but a story. We humans love stories: we love to hear them, tell them, and remember them.
d. Fewer ideas and more impact
There are only so many ideas that we can process at a time. So, if you have a lot of ideas worth sharing, it would be better to split them up into two presentations. If you feel you have many concepts to communicate, you should at least hierarchize them and make sure your “big ideas” do not exceed the number of 5 or 6.
That’s it! We hope you will find these tips helpful. Remember: keep it as simple as possible! We wish you the best of luck on your next presentation.