Another reason billboard-style slides are better

Virtual meetings have become commonplace as we navigate the Covid-19 pandemic. They will continue to be popular for some time to come, probably becoming as common to the working world as stickie notes and email. The flexibility for team members and guests to tune in from far afield could help more ideas flow and find new ways of making the world a better place. We can get to that better future faster if the best practices for stage-based presentations are used even though the screen is inches from many participants’ faces.

Use slides that look more like billboards. 

Yes, billboards, even though the screen might be as small as a smartphone. Especially because the screen might be a smartphone.

in design we trust billboard
Photo by Kaboompics .com on

In my experience coaching keynote speakers, the billboard design aesthetic is well appreciated. But as creatures of habit, many presenters still try to cram a lot of information onto their slides. Sometimes they tell me that most talks in their field have a lot of text: speakers are worried that they might not be taken seriously with a performance-looking slide deck instead of a dull academic one. Other times speakers admit that they use their slides as cue cards, essentially showing the audience their notes. 

But let’s consider Audiences First instead of content first. In virtual meetings, the number one complaint is that they are tiring. Personally, I find this is from my eyes darting all over the screen to take in the sheer number of people. Our brains are constantly trying to make sense of these visuals. Combined with eye fatigue from possibly hours of video conferences, virtual meetings can make for an energy-sapping experience. 

working pattern internet abstract
Photo by Markus Spiske on

So make your slides the very opposite – spartan frames that provide just the right words and a contextualizing image. Slides that can be read in 3 seconds or less, just like a billboard. 

A few advantages:

Turn your meeting into an idea-generator, not a reading test.

A clean image shows your audience where to look without telling them where to look. This means they spend more time listening to and considering your words.

Secondly, brains notice when things look different. Replacing a sea of faces with a clearly readable slide is captivating. Keep this constant difference in mind as you change from slide to slide – easier to do if there are fewer design elements. 

Also, simpler slides can easily be given a dark background, providing a high contrast that makes the slide easier to read.  If you’re speaking to a global meeting, darker slides are as as kind to eyes after sunset as those who are just greeting the dawn. 

Quench your audience’s thirst for ideas, don’t drown them in noisy slides.

Virtual meetings provide more speaking opportunities for all of us. With simpler slide decks, you will spend less time writing slides and more practicing how to deliver them memorably. Your presentation will be an oasis of thought-provoking ideas amidst a sea of buzzing faces. 

djgcomms show not tell.001

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