PodiumWise | Tips for advanced presentation skills

I am enjoying reading Garr Reynolds’ book Presentation Zen.

One of the guest writer segments he includes is authored by marketing guru, Seth Godin.  In it, Godin includes tips for immediate improvement to PowerPoint slide presentations.  One of his tips is to limit the number of words to six.  He declares: “No more than six words on a slide.  EVER.  There is no presentation so complex that this rule needs to be broken.”

Reading this took me back to a time when I worked in an ad agency that had retail clients who used billboards.  The process of designing a billboard would begin with a similar six-word-maximum guideline.  Somebody, somewhere, had researched the matter and determined that six was the maximum number of words people could be expected to read as they raced past a board at highway speeds.

Our clients bought the logic of the six-word rule, but they couldn’t live with it.  After signing a contract for $1,200 per month (1980 prices), they would inevitably demand more copy.  We would go through one design revision after another as they thought of new messages that had to be included.  If I’m going to pay that kind of money I want my store hours listed, driving directions included, and a list of the brands I carry!  And, while I’m thinking about it, put something at the bottom about our expanded parking.

In their minds, the more detail they included, the more they were getting their money’s worth.  By the time their boards went up, drivers would literally have to pull off the road and park in order to read one of them.

Drivers should be able to read a quick message and then put their attention back on the road.  Audience members should be able to read a quick message and then put their attention back on the speaker.

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