Banish background noise: tips for clear PowerPoint slides

How much can you squeeze onto a slide? You’ve collated so much information and material, that it’s difficult to decide. In the process, you can easily overlook the fact that it’s not about cramming as much information onto the slide as possible, but about making a clear statement. An audience generally needs less rather than more information in order to grasp the point you’re making. So, although it may be hard, cut out everything that’s not completely necessary to understanding the message.  This may include surplus graphical elements as well as surplus text.

Using the presentation of a regional bicycle retailer as a model, we have compiled some examples of elements that can cause needless background noise.

Slide 1

There is a lot of information on this slide, and not all of it is relevant to the message. In fact some of it is distracting and reduces the persuasive power of the slide:

The bicycle in the background: It’s clear from the context and the title that the slide is about bicycles. The graphic therefore provides no new information. Moreover, the positioning and colouring of the graphic makes the diagram difficult to read.

Slide 2

3D effect: The 3D effect reduces readability, making it very difficult to see the exact height of the columns. Apart from this, the 3D effect is technically pointless, as the third axis is meaningless with data of this type.

Slide 3

Y-axis labelling and gridlines: With only four columns, it makes more sense to label the data points individually. This allows everyone to absorb and process the figures, instead of having to read each one off the y-axis individually.

Slide 4

Marking the 20% increase underlines the actual message regarding increased sales.

By deliberately removing all elements that are not essential to your message, you can create an understandable and convincing slide. Review your own slides critically for any background noise. Can you find ways of reducing it?


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