"F" is for Focus
A presentation without focus, is full of distraction. If you want your audience to understand your presentation - you must provide clarity in your slides and throughout your presentation.
To create focus - you need to firstly figure out WHAT your key content is, then HIGHLIGHT this content by drawing both the eye and mind of your audience to it.
Focusing your Content
I often find it very helpful to go back to basics when it comes to finding the focal points in your talk. Take some time before you even touch a computer to sit with a pen and paper and brainstorm your ideas and develop connections which will help you to create an overarching thread through your talk.
Hold your own mental inquisition to get to the heart of the matter:
- What is the purpose of your presentation?
- What are the 1-3 key messages you would like your audience to take home?
- Why these messages? What is important about them?
- How should this be best delivered? Can you use analogies or examples, problems or repetition to reinforce the ideas?
Don't forget to factor yourself in it - ask yourself why you have been asked to speak and what unique experiences or knowledge you can bring to enrich the learning of your audience.
Focusing your Visuals
The rule of thirds, white space and vectors are all helpful tools to build visual focus into your slides.
The rule of thirds
The rule of thirds involves imagining your powerpoint slide as a three by three grid. Aligning your images and texts to fall along or within the rectangles created by the grid can help create a sense of proportion and balance.
Vectors are all about the path your eyes will travel when looking at visual information. In physics, vectors have quantity and direction and are commonly represented by an arrow. When you look at your slides, you can imagine an invisible arrow between the objects on it. Where path do your eyes take?
In the western world left to right, top to bottom is the most common 'default' due to the formatting of the written word. You can use this to your advantage by ordering your text and graphics to follow this pattern from the top left corner of the slide down to the bottom right corner.
Compare and contrast these two slides:
You can also flip this pattern on it's head by introducing other elements to create alternative viewing pathways. Examples include using a staircase to climb from the bottom left corner to the top right corner or shifting the text to form a shape such as a circle.
White S p a c e
The little prince once wisely said "What is essential is invisible to the eye" - now I'm sure he didn't have PowerPoint at the forefront in his mind when he said it - however the adage holds true. 'White space' -or 'Negative space' refers to the areas on your slide which are unmarked by texts or graphics.
Just like pauses or silences in speech can be used for emphasis of key points and allowing your audience to digest information - white space can free up the visual memory bank. Ask whether the text, pictures or animations on your slide add value to your talk - and if they don't - discard!
There you have it! A focused talk will have a clear purpose and communicate more using less clutter. You can use design concepts like the 'rule of thirds', vectors and 'white space' to create visual focus for your audience.
This post is written as part of the series on Alphabetical Adventures in slide design! Stay tuned for the next part - "G" is for Graphs!