Written by Roger Jackson,
September 20th, 2018 | Views

Balance between simplicity and depth in PowerPoint slides

A presentation inspired me by Madhumita Chakraborty from Pepsico who explained their “One thought per chart” philosophy for insights into their business. I liked the idea that the presenter has to have the discipline to know (and stick to) what the single “take out” has to be from any ppt slide. At least that sets the bar.

But thinking more broadly, here are the polarised perspectives for any chart:

  1. Without knowing the facts, the audience has no reason to buy into your conclusion. You can summarise the findings subsequently so that the main points are taken away. First, you have to gain from you the knowledge required.
  2. The audience doesn’t care about the detail they want to know the “so what”. They can ask for supporting facts if they need to. Stick to the absolute “must know” data points.

Of course, first of all, it depends on the audience. How much you know they care about detail, how much they already trust you etc.

We know that the brain can’t absorb a lot of information quickly. If you show lots of information (which might be graphical, data or anything else (even logos) then the brain (particularly the subconscious mind) has to start to process it all (also if only to conclude it’s not relevant). Your audience may not even focus in on the most pertinent things, at least to be able to do so in a short space of time.

My approach is:

  1. Show enough information to provide the context but use highlighting and annotation to take the ready directly to the most relevant part
  2. Use the headline to tell the reader what you are aiming to get across (what the critical point is)
  3. Prune your charts of extraneous information. Graphics that add nothing: clutter, logos, icons, the lot. It’s all “Noise”.
  4. Then when you have made your (4, 6, 8?) points, summarise then all including the single key data point for each one. Ideally, your points will build sequentially up to a nice Aha! E.g. “because of this, and this being the case, then this and this happens, which means Ta – Da – we need to do this!”

What do you think?