What is the biggest issue in presentations today? According to the audiences I survey and the participants in my workshops, it is information overload. Presenters put too much information in their presentations, which overwhelms and confuses the audience. Mistakenly, presenters think that more detail is better, when what the audience really wants is to hear the result, conclusion, or summary of your analysis.
So what can presenters do to reduce information overload in their presentations? In my book Present It So They Get It, I offer five strategies for reducing information overload. Let me give you a brief summary of them in this lesson.
Strategy 1: Don't include answers to every question in the core presentation
The first strategy is to ask yourself if the information is really necessary in the core presentation or if it should be moved to a backup document or hidden slide. Too often presenters include information just in case someone may ask about it. Anticipating questions is a good strategy, but the answers shouldn't always be part of your core presentation. I have an e-book that discusses a solution to the issue of using a single PowerPoint file for both a presentation and a detailed handout if this is a concern for you.
Strategy 2: Reduce the text on slides
The second strategy is to reduce the text on "wall of text" slides that contain many bullet points or paragraphs of text. These slides lead to the presenter reading the slide to the audience, which is the most annoying thing you can do according to audience surveys I conduct. Select only the most important words or phrases in the text and put those on the slide. Then you can speak to those ideas one at a time and give the audience more details as needed.
Strategy 3: Explain why the numbers are important
Strategy three is to make sure that you explain why numbers are important instead of just listing numbers from calculations. We have often done analysis that compares a measured result to a standard that we want to achieve. While this is good, it does not go far enough. Make sure you explain what that result means to the audience and why they should care about it. Don't assume they will be able to figure out the meaning on their own. This reduces the volume of numbers in a presentation to just those the audience will care about.
Strategy 4: Eliminate irrelevant information
The fourth strategy is to eliminate information that is not relevant to the point you are making. Make sure any numbers only have a level of precision that is meaningful. Don't use three or four decimal places if the audience will only understand one. See this article on how you can eliminate 75% of the numbers on many financial slides.
Strategy 5: One point per slide
The final strategy is to have only one point per slide. By forcing yourself to figure out what one single point you want to make on each slide, you reduce the information down to just what is needed to support that one point. This strategy will likely lead to your presentation having more slides, but this article explains why the number of slides in your presentation doesn't matter, the effectiveness of your message is what matters.
Here are some additional articles that will help focus the information in your presentation:
This is one of the lessons in my free seven day e-course that will help you create more effective PowerPoint presentations. If you reached this page from a web search, you can sign up to get all seven e-mails delivered to your Inbox by filling in the information in the form located at the top right of this page.
Dave Paradi has over twenty years of experience delivering customized training workshops to help business professionals improve their presentations. He has written nine books and over 100 articles on the topic of effective presentations and his ideas have appeared in publications around the world. His focus is on helping corporate professionals visually communicate the messages in their data so they don’t overwhelm and confuse executives. Dave is one of less than ten people in North America recognized by Microsoft with the Most Valuable Professional Award for his contributions to the Excel and PowerPoint communities. He regularly presents highly rated sessions at national and regional conferences of financial professionals.