When we give a speech, we want to accomplish something. We want to be effective in using the importance of public speaking to get our audience to start to look at their world just a little bit differently. We want our words to have connected with them and caused them to open their eyes just a little bit more so that they can see the world around them in a different light. When we give this type of presentation we generally use slides and those slides are going to have to help us to accomplish our goal. How are we going to make this happen?
As speakers, when we are creating a slide deck to use with our next speech we tend to spend all of our time focused on the slide’s foreground. We pick our images, our graphics, and our text very carefully. This is rather sad because we tend to overlook one of the most important parts of the slide: the background.
When we are creating a slide deck we should change our slide background to black. When we are trying to win our audience over to our way of thinking, we want our slides to look serious. A slide with a black background looks serious. A slide with a white background (the default color) tells your audience that you didn’t care enough to customize your deck for them.
One of the questions that speakers have been wrestling with for a long time is how many words to put on a slide. On one hand, we’ve got a lot to say and we’d like to put it all down on our slide so that our audience can take it home and if they look at the slide again they’ll be able to remember our key points. However, doing this is missing the point.
We need to understand what the real purpose of a slide is. Your slides are there to assist you in the telling of your speech. They are not there to tell the speech for you. You want to use each of your slides to anchor what you are saying at that moment in time. However, you don’t want your audience to understand your speech simply by reading through your slides. This means that you are going to want to limit yourself to using 25 words (or less) per slide.
Isn’t technology wonderful? Back in the days before PowerPoint when we would have to just physically put our next slide on the Elmo display system, everything that we wanted to say with that slide would be there for your audience to read without having to listen to what you were saying. Thankfully those days are over.
Now you have options. When you have a slide with multiple bullets on it, what you are going to want to do is to initially display the slide with all of your bullets hidden. Then, one-by-one, you are going to want to “build” your slide by clicking and causing the next bullet to be displayed. When you do it this way, it permits you to introduce your story to your audience in a step-by-step fashion.
This is the step that I find to be the hardest. After you have your slides built, what you are going to want to do is to go back and change all of your fonts to be at least 30 point size. You know exactly what’s going to happen: your text is now going to fill up the slide and will probably even spill over the edges.
So what’s a speaker to do now? Simple – cut your text. Yes, you heard me correctly. Make your text very large and then get rid of all of the text that no longer fits. Doing so causes you to have to refine what you want to say and causes you to have to get rid of all of the dead wood.
I’ve known speakers who have spent days trying to pick the right font to use with their slides. At the same time, I’ve also known speakers who have spent no time trying to pick a font and just went with the default font that PowerPoint used when they were creating their slides. Who was right?
It turns out that both parties were wrong. The correct thing to do with the fonts on your slides is to change all of your text so that you are using one of the sans serif fonts that are available. What this means is that your words won’t have the loopy look where each letter folds into the next one. The traditional font that PowerPoint uses, Arial, is too bland and won’t capture the attention of your audience.
The Magic Of Four
When we are giving a speech, we have a lot that we want to tell our audience. When we find ourselves in this situation, often what we’ll do is take everything that we want to say and turn it into bullets that we then put on a slide. The problem with this is that we then end up with a lot of slides with a lot of bullets.
Instead of doing this, what we need to do is to limit ourselves. We should only allow ourselves to putting no more than four bullets per slide. If you truly believe that you need to have more than four bullets to communicate your point, then either you need to add another slide to your deck or you are trying to say too much.
What All Of This Means For You
We deliver speeches for a reason. We want to convince our audience to look at their world in a different way by using the benefits of public speaking. In order to accomplish this goal, more often than not we use slides as a part of our speech. This means that our slides need to have the ability to communicate what we want to say in a way that will connect with our audience. What we need is a powerful pitch.
One of the first things that we’re going to want to do is to change our slide’s background to black. This will show that we are serious and will capture our audience’s attention. Each slide should contain no more than 25 words. We need to start with a blank slide and then proceed to “build” the slide in order to support the story that we are telling. All of our text needs to be at least 30 point size. The font that we use should be sans serif. We should never use more than four bullets per slide.
Speakers need to keep in mind why they are using slides as a part of a speech. The slides are there to emphasize what you are saying. You are the star of the show – not your slides. We need to build our slides so that they can support our message without distracting from it. Follow these recommendations and allow your slides to enhance the message that you are delivering during your next speech.
– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Public Speaking Skills™
Question For You: When you are creating a slide deck, how many slides do you think that you should use for the standard 30 minute speech?Click here to get automatic updates when The Accidental Communicator Blog is updated. P.S.: Free subscriptions to The Accidental Communicator Newsletter are now available. Subscribe now: Click Here! Note: What we talked about are advanced speaking skills. If you are just starting out I highly recommend joining Toastmasters in order to get the benefits of public speaking. Look for a Toastmasters club to join in your home town by visiting the web site www.Toastmasters.org. Toastmasters is dedicated to helping their members to understand the importance of public speaking by developing listening skills and getting presentation tips. Toastmasters is how I got started speaking and it can help you also!
What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time
Is there anything in this life that is as scary as getting up on a stage and giving a speech? There might be, but I’m not sure what it is. Despite knowing about the importance of public speaking we all fell nervous and uncertain about ourselves when we prepare to make a presentation. We’d like to be able to become more self-confident and be able to face our fears head on. The good news is that self-confidence is something that can be learned. We don’t have to grow our self-confidence by making huge leaps, this is something that can increase if we make even the smallest effort. The key is knowing what you need to do to grow your self-confidence.