Slow Reveal

Most of the time I advocate for replacing words with images when presenting slideshows. But sometimes the slide just needs to have a lot of words, like this:

But when we have a lot of words on a slide and we’re truly trying to get people’s minds oriented toward our presentation content, overwhelming their field of vision with so much at once can cause them to just mentally check out (or check their email).

Here’s a strategy for presenting those word-filled slides that can better support audience comprehension – the slow reveal.

Basically, just reveal one point at a time. You start by constructing the full slide, as I’ve shown above. That slide has 3 objectives plus 1 title, so I’ll duplicate it such that I end up with four slides that look the same. Then, just delete one item from each slide, working backward:

This way, when I start at the beginning and work through the slide deck, I’m presenting just one point at a time. This lets my audience focus on what I’m saying (instead of reading ahead and not fully paying attention). The slow reveal also better helps the audience build the mental concept I’m trying to convey.

So ultimately, I end up with four times the number of slides. But don’t let that scare you. It’s the exact same amount of content, same number of minutes talking.

Hot tip: Make each element on the slide a separate text box. So the final slide shown above has four text boxes (and a star). Using separate text boxes makes it a million times easier to delete individual items so the slideshow can build. I’ve seen people try to keep all the objectives in one text box, while attempting the same type of slow reveal. But keeping them in the same text box often introduces the chance for spacing errors. If just one space is different during the slide build, it’ll totally get noticed (in a bad way). Just use separate text boxes.

Related hot tip: Don’t try to compile it all into one slide and use animation to reveal each element. Animation distracts when you want the audience to focus. Animation is also often slower than anticipated, and sometimes doesn’t work at all in certain webinar platforms. Just use separate text boxes.

Atomic Slide Development

Seth Godin recently published a blog post on the atomic method of creating slides. He put into words what many of us have felt about the overuse of bullet points. But more than talk about it, he detailed a method for actually moving from a typically bullet-pointed slidedeck to one that better supports audience attention and comprehension.

I demonstrated this process at a recent conference, like this:

So, one starts with the typical slide, full of typical bullet points, looking something like the one below

Then, in the next step, one would separate the bullets such that there is only one per slide. It’s a simple copy and paste – no extra content, just more slides. Below, we’ve got just the first bullet point.

I deviate from Godin’s method here and suggest that one reviews the slide to see how many words can be taken out while still holding on to the meaning. There’s a redundancy above we could remove. Also, one might choose to highlight what one finds to be the most important part of the message. See below.

We can probably still remove some text from the example above. And add a few elements that will help drive the message home, like this:

Since the original idea of the first slide was to compare definitions of evaluation as given by different scholars, it is probably pretty important to link those definitions with the authors in a visual way. Hence the need for Michael’s photo, which I borrowed from the Genuine Evaluation blog.

And depending on what one wanted to explore in this fake talk on evaluation, one could probably break this slide down into its atomical parts even more. An example is shown below:

This way one could better explore what Michael means by merit, worth, and significance – and help the audience better retain the information along the way.

So atomic development is one idea per slide. We break a slideshow down to its most basic particles by removing the nonessential text and simplifying the slide content to what will make the biggest impact on memory.