Spencer Waldron
Spencer Waldron 21 September 2017

Quit the Clutter - 5 Tips to Cutting Text-Heavy Presentations

Recent research from Harvard University gives insight into the types of presentation that grabs the attention of your audience and keeps them engaged throughout. In light of this, Prezi has provided its top tips and trick to help cut down text-heavy presentations and make them more concise, creative and attention-grabbing.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of creating a text-heavy presentation – particularly if you have a lot of information to share in a short amount of time. However, recent research from Harvard University shows presenters and presentations are typically rated poorly if they have too much text, and not enough graphs, images, and animations. Harvard also found audience members were less likely to make a ‘positive decision’ following the presentation if it was too text-heavy.

Generally, you are more likely to concentrate on any piece of material if it is visually more exciting, split into smaller paragraphs, and concise. When creating your presentation, this will be vital if you want to get your point across and make it visually appealing for your audience.

As technology has evolved, so has presenting. With this in mind, we’ve come up with a few tips on creating more concise, creative, and attention-grabbing presentations.

1. Every Image Should Serve a Purpose

Make sure every image in your presentation serves a purpose. Your images should replace text and provide context for your speech. An easy way to ensure this is to draw out your presentation on paper or use post-it notes first to build from images you might already have in mind. Think of it like building a house – consider the foundation, the main building blocks, the roof, and then what can be added to make the interior more exciting.

It’s important to ensure that you have something to say about your images that is not only a vital talking point but one that will make a lasting impression on your audience. Allow time for your visual image to sink in, it will keep your audience engaged and is more likely to be remembered later. This is especially important when considering your first and last screens – what is the one thing you want the audience to remember when you’ve finished talking?

2. Be eye-catching

It’s inevitable that some portions of your presentation will require more text than others. In these instances, highlighting specific words or phrases will make it much easier for your audience to remember your screens. Pick a couple of key facts that you want your audience to remember and make them stand out.

Breaking up text will help make slides more digestible. It will also direct the audience on where to focus their attention. Other methods you can employ are using italics, adding quote bubbles, or making the text bold.

3. Background Imagery

Keeping the attention of your audience is only half the battle; the hardest part is getting them to focus in the first place. Starting out with the right background image is key. By using one image strategically throughout your presentation, alongside the structure of your topics, you’ll create an effective and memorable work of art. Think about it as a visual metaphor — you flavour your talk with stories and anecdotes that convey your message, the background imagery should do the same.

When choosing a colour or image for your background, consider the psychology of colours. Research shows that people associate colours like red and purple as bold and creative, whereas blues and greys are seen as trustworthy and logical.  

People are more likely to engage in a presentation that is clear, colourful, and crisp. Be bold and striking but, remember to find a good balance. Consider what you’re presenting and how you want your audience to feel when you’re finished. For example, filtering red tones into a pitch about new ideas will make your audience more excited and inspired.

4. Symbols and Motifs

By setting a motif you’ll visually tie your presentation together, grabbing the attention of your audience and keeping it engaged. According to research by Thorpe, it takes only ¼ second for the human brain to process and attach meaning to a symbol. In comparison, it takes an average of six seconds to read 20-25 words. When making your presentation, you should begin by using relatable symbols or images as talking points and build out from there. This will help your audience remember your presentation; even if they weren’t engaged, they’re more likely to process and remember your image than they would a heavy chunk of text.

5. Making an emotional connection

Emotive storytelling is proven to be a more effective method of engaging your audience and evoking emotions. Using a more conversational presentation style lets you adapt your delivery for a more relaxing and engaging experience. The storytelling approach allows you to take your audience on a collaborative journey, encouraging involvement and engagement with your presentation from beginning to end.

When developing a presentation, it can be easy to slip into old ways and include more text than necessary. Try to keep your audience at the forefront the entire time and begin with the end in mind. When your audience walks out of the room, what message do you want them to remember the most? Planning your presentation beforehand is as important as planning how you’re going to build a house. Without the right foundations or building blocks, it may just crumble away.


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