I remember two things from a one-day course that I attended in London on ‘how to create visual aids’, way back in the late 1970s, just weeks after I started as a trainer:
- Every word on a slide (and by ‘slide’ then we meant 35mm or overhead projector transparencies) is an admission of defeat.
- Don’t more words on a slide than you would on the front of a T shirt.
Wise words when you’re starting from the assumption that slides are primarily visual aids, although in recent years their purpose has been distorted somewhat by their use as presenters’ prompt cards and as as an alternative format for major consultancy reports. But the primary purpose of slides does remain, as visual aids or, to use another term that has disappeared from common parlance, ‘speaker support ‘.
The campaign against endless bullet points has gained ground in recent years and we are beginning at last to see a backlash. I have seen more great slide decks in the past year than in the past 10 put together and they have made a positive difference – more engaging, more informative, more memorable. But there’s always a danger that we go too far and regard words as an enemy, when used in moderation they can indeed be a friend.
Helping us to keep a sense of perspective is Olivia Mitchell, who has prepared her 9 reasons why you should put words on your slides. She’s done a fantastic job so, rather than paraphrase her work, I suggest you click on the link and take a look for yourselves.