CUTTING CLUTTER

Everyone knows what de-cluttering is: bestsellers have been written on it, pros tell you how to de-clutter your home, your brain, your life. Our question for today is a lot simpler – how does one de-clutter a PowerPoint Presentation? In our post on what can (and does) kill a presentation, we promised a specific post that dealt with some of the ways in which we can cut clutter from our presentations. And because we keep our promises, here it is!

Useful principles

Some of the principles used by de-cluttering gurus may well be useful for us. If you think of the presentation deck as a room or a series of rooms in a house that needs to be de-cluttered –  it might be easier to find the right questions to ask.

For example:

i) Think of the purpose of the room i.e. your presentation: Is it multi-purpose or single-focus? How spacious is it? How small? Size here will have to be assessed not just by the number of slides but the time you have to make your presentation – so 20 minutes will naturally feel more crowded than 40!

ii) Then look at every “object” –  words / facts / figures / graphs / gifs  – and assess whether it contributes to that stated purpose. If not – remove it. Look at each slide as if it were a room you wanted to de-clutter. Perhaps one object which is useless in one room (i.e. slide) could be useful in another? If not, out it goes, into storage – for the next time.

iii) Let go of things you are attached to – which have no value to add to your presentation. You may be in love with a beautiful graphic but if it doesn’t actually DO anything, it needs to be edited out. Ditto for fancy phrases that don’t say anything.

iv) Ownership can make it hard to let go. That’s when you need to bring in your team. They will add the much-needed objectivity to some of your subjective choices, and make it easier to be ruthless with deletions and removals.

That’s our learning from experts on re-purposing space. Now let’s look at what we can learn from marketing gurus. They all affirm that information overload has never been as huge a challenge as it is these days. There’s so much content out there, and all of it is screaming for attention. So how does one cut through the noise? By being specific, personal, direct, and sometimes – surprise-surprise – quiet (i.e. discreet).

If you step back from your presentation and look at it through the filter of how noisy it is – you will be able to cut down on the TMI (too many images, too much information) that plagues it.

For example:

i. Is every point on every slide shouting?
This question will help you identify not just what the main point of each slide is but also determine the weightage visually – some points will speak louder (by being in bigger font), others will speak softer (in smaller font), and all together they must create a harmony, not a cacophony!

ii. Is there a sound that is jarring on your nerves?
This question will help you identify an element that is irrelevant and distracting or even annoying. Repetition for example. Discordant colors. Too many fonts and/or gifs. And so on…

In other words, applying examples from real life and learnings from other disciplines can help you assess the clutter-factor of your presentation-in-progress, and help you hone it for maximum effect with minimum means.

Remember: by cutting clutter in your presentation, your presentation cuts through the clutter and stands out!