To Read or Not to Read
I write frequently about presentation design, and regular readers of this blog probably know by now that it’s good practice to use captivating images in your slides and to avoid using too much text. You don’t want your audience to spend their time reading your slides over your shoulder when they should be listening to your presentation.
Occasionally, however, you may find that you really need to include a full sentence or two in order to drive a point home. If you do include full sentences, it’s vital that you read the sentence word for word. Why? Your audience will get confused if there’s a disconnect between what they are reading and what you are saying. If you pull up a slide with full sentences on it and then start paraphrasing, many of your listeners’ brains may begin short-circuiting. They're going to be reading a sentence, you're going to be saying something else, and they're going to try to reconcile the two streams of information. That reconciliation is going to take bandwidth from their mental processors as they attempt to decipher what you're trying to say.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, if you use keywords or short phrases that are not complete sentences in your slides (which you should be doing most of the time!), do not feel as if you need to read them word for word. Doing so will leave your audience wondering if it’s the first time you’ve seen your own presentation!
I recently read about a particularly impactful presentation where the speaker used 52 slides, all of which were pictures with no words. He explained, “I’m a storyteller, not a narrator.” The audience was appropriately wowed…You might try a similar trick some time and revel in your audience’s reaction.