One of the things I'm proudest of about GDS is that, most of the time, when you see one of us presenting, you can actually read our slides.
This is a big deal. It's hard to achieve than you'd imagine.
We have a few presentation 'rules', mostly observed most of the time, the important ones are these:
1. Nothing smaller than 36 point
2. No more than seven words per line
3. No bullet points
We do this for two big reasons:
So you can actually read it
I absolutely hate it when someone stands up, points to a slide and says 'You won't be able to read this'. It happens all the time. I bet it's happened to you this week. It normally happens because:
a. People have cut and paste something from another format and haven't been bothered to rethink and rewrite.
b. People aren't actually writing a presentation, they're writing a report and they're going to take that report and project it onto a screen. If your job is to communicate a lot of detailed text or numbers don't do a presentation, don't project it on a screen, write a report and give it to people.
Often, in fact, what you should be doing is both. You should write a report and then use a presentation to guide people through the important bits. Adapt the same material to the media you're using and the situation you're in.* This is MORE WORK. I know that, I'm sorry, but it'll be worth it in the long run.
c. People who spend their life writing documents open a text box in a presentation tool and start writing in exactly the same way. You shouldn't do that. You're not writing an white paper, you're writing a poster. It's a different communicative task. Otherwise it's like playing tennis with a ping pong bat. Or something.
So people actually have to think about it
Shorten people's word count and they have to think harder about what they're trying to say. They can't just splurge the usual equivocal blah into a text box, they have to sharpen their point. This is a good thing. More on this tomorrow.
*I will admit that there's no productivity software that makes this easy to do. It feels like the big missing hole in 'office apps' - the notes field in presentation software isn't right. PDFs aren't right.