Mastering Text Emphasis in Your Presentation: Tips and Techniques

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In an ideal world, all the slides of our presentations would only display captivating images, stunning photos, amusing videos, and insightful infographics. In a nutshell: engaging visuals. However, we often need to convey important ideas, and sometimes it’s beneficial to showcase and emphasize key words and concepts. Written messages can have a strong and lasting impact, but you need to know how to display them in the most efficient way.

In any type of presentation, whether academic or professional, written text is indeed a delicate matter. Many questions should be raised when preparing your slide deck. The first and most important one is the purpose. What do I need to project this slide for? Does it help viewers understand my idea? Can I convey this idea in a more efficient way, for instance by telling a story, showing a diagram, or a picture?

Discover how to effectively emphasize text in your presentation to make your message stand out and leave a lasting impression on your audience. Learn the secrets of font selection, size, color, and more to make your PowerPoint or Google Slides presentation truly memorable.

Optimizing Text Quantity in Your Slides

Photo of a yellow soft tape measure to illustrate how optimizing text quantity in presentation slides
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Most presentation experts will give you this simple tip: keep text to a minimum! But what does that mean exactly? You can find many theories about the correct amount of text. The “1-6-6 rule” says that each slide should display one main idea, no more than six bullet points, and six words per point. This can represent up to 36 words on a slide, a quantity of text that requires time to read and is also hard to process and memorize. Then we have the “5-5-5 rule”, which suggests 5 bullet points with 5 words and a maximum of 5 text slides in a row.

Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Airman’s Odyssey

Everyone seems to invent their own rules. However, these should be designed based on the capacity of the human brain to read and retain information. Therefore, we need to reduce text to a minimum. Firstly, because our brain capacity is limited in terms of photographic memory. Secondly, the less text you have, the more important it will be. Finally, a text-heavy slide can be counterproductive. While your attendees are reading, they are not listening to you, so think about giving them time to read when necessary. Of course, this should not take more than a few seconds.

Your audience should actually be able to understand the content of your slide in 3 seconds. This is what we call the glance test. Imagine that you are driving your car and see a billboard on the side of the road. These ads are generally made of a strong image and a few words. The main reason for keeping slides simple and text to a minimum is that what you say is always more important than what you show.

Some presenters tend to think: the more information I give my audience, the better. Yet the golden rule of presentations is to efficiently convey important ideas and information that will be understood, memorized, processed, and applied later. Simplify, simplify, simplify! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand.” What works for life also works for PowerPoint presentations!

Displaying Text Effectively in Presentations

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1. Mastering Font Selection for Impactful Presentations

Choose your fonts wisely! Each style of font conveys an emotion or a sensation, which can be tradition, modernity, creativity, etc. You can choose from a wide variety of free fonts to surprise or reassure your audience. Moreover, if you need to highlight a specific word in a sentence or list of words, think about using effects. In addition to bold and italics styles, you can use the outline, shadow, reflection, or glow tools. Try to stick to two fonts in the whole presentation to display a united and coherent design.

Typography is an art. Good typography is art.

Paul Rand (source)

2. Ensuring Optimal Font Size for Audience Engagement

If you are going to show only a few words on each slide, you had better make them big enough for everyone to see. In this case, follow the “10-20-30” rule: a presentation should have 10 slides, last less than 20 minutes, and have fonts no smaller than size 30.

3. Achieving Perfect Harmony: Color, Background, and Contrast

Changing the font color for a specific word is another way to highlight it. Remember to choose complementary colors that will contrast with each other. To improve readability, choose plain and not patterned backgrounds. Furthermore, a light-color text over a dark background provides better contrast and is less aggressive to the eye than the opposite.

4. Developing Powerful Writing Styles for Slide Content

Don’t write long sentences; instead, create brief, impactful messages. Try to limit the use of punctuation and put words in capital letters to make reading easier. You also need to leave enough empty space on the slide to improve readability. Don’t write in the style of a novel: your written text should resemble newspaper headlines or slogans.

Picking the Perfect Template for Your Text

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What kind of text are you going to share? A list, a stat, a quote, a metaphor, keywords, steps to follow? According to the kind of information you need to display on your slides, you have a large option of templates that offer the most striking way to share your message effectively.

Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.

Steve Jobs (source)

For instance, if you are going to quote somebody, speech bubbles can work perfectly. If you want to share a list of steps to follow or tasks to do or not to do, there are many kinds of checklist templates. There are countless ways to highlight your text in a simple yet professional way: bullet points, banners, word clouds, text boxes, and blocks, etc.

Also, remember to personalize your slides according to your topic or field of work. For example, why not use coat hanger banners for your presentation about clothing or plane text boxes for your presentation about travel?

Last but not least, associating your text with several other elements will make it easier to remember. The most important one is the story that goes with your slide and how you will tell the story. Then, there is the visual impact of your text: if you associate your text with a strong visual metaphor, words will endure in your audience’s minds.

The Power of Emphasized Text in Presentations

In conclusion, emphasizing text in your presentation is a powerful technique to make your message stand out and leave a lasting impression on your audience. With the right balance of text, font, and design, you can ensure that your message is understood, memorable, and impactful. Remember, simplicity is key, and your spoken words should always take center stage.