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Less is More

It is an accepted principle of marketing psychology that less is more. The more you say; the less people hear. The more choices you give your customers; the more likely they are to walk away without making one. It may seem to go against logic, but this is something you should be accustomed to, if you’re experienced in marketing a product or service. If you want to get your message across, all you have to do is tell people over and over and over again, in as much detail as possible, right? Well no. In fact, all this does is help drive your customers away. The more you say; the less is heard. Of course, the same applies when building your presentation.

Statistics and data can of course be a valuable part of making your case, but relying on them as a crutch, can also be your downfall. Remember, the first and most important part of your presentation is earning, and keeping the attention of your audience. Less is more. Too much information will drive them away. I have worked with many presenters who believed to their core, that in order to make their particular statement believable, they must support it with as much text and data as possible. Throw in one more line of text; one more arrow; one more label; one more graph. All we’re doing is clouding your message, giving your audience too much work, and driving away their attention. Do this on one or two slides, and you will force them to disengage. Do it more, and they will begin to resent you for wasting their time, rendering the rest of your message worthless.

Keep your message simple. When working with presenters, I am constantly asking, “What is the ONE THING you want to say on this slide?” It can only be one. If you absolutely need to convey three important ideas, then we need to break your message up into multiple slides. Remember, less is more. Your audience doesn’t want the task of having to parse 10 separate pieces of information to decipher your message. Make it simple for them. Here’s an example: A client of mine was insistent that a slide required four separate charts, legends, text, labels, and a disclaimer, in order to make a very important point. I explained that this slide would render as a negative moment. What does that mean? Well, I place a value on each and every slide. A positive moment is a slide which gets a simple message across in a simple and effective way, while keeping the audience engaged. A neutral moment may not get a message across efficiently, but keeps your audience with you. A negative moment not only fails to deliver your message, but disengages your audience, because of its lack of clarity, or poor design. Even worse, it is now twice as hard to re-engage your audience on the following slide. Imagine a stand-up comedian after telling a joke that bombed. So of course I asked this client “What is the ONE THING you want to say on this slide? His answer boiled down to the fact that stock prices had risen 8% over the previous year. My solution – scrap everything; place a nice clean EIGHT % with an upward arrow, and have the presenter tell the story. What have we accomplished? The slide delivered a quick and simple message which was easily absorbed by the audience in about two seconds, and taking their attention back to the presenter, who resumed telling his story. Message received; presenter heard; audience engaged. That’s what I call a positive moment. Of course this is a simple example, but you get the idea.

The more you say; the less is heard. Keep your audience engaged. Only show them what they need to see, and you can tell them the rest.

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