Space, the final frontier

 “Without space, you’re dead”
– Garr Reynolds in Presentation Zen Design

As a professional storyteller, you should never overload your audience with visual or auditory information. Therefore, space is a key design element for shaping your presentations.

  • Space on your slides. White space, also known as negative space, helps you to enhance the look and feel of your slides. As a rule of thumb, never fill more than 50% of a PowerPoint slide with text and images. Let space take up the remaining half of your screen estate.
  • Space between your words. Silence sometimes says more than words. Did you realize that 20-30% of a stand-up comedian’s time on the microphone is spent in silence? Short pauses add emphasis to your key points (and allow the speaker to take a breath…)
  • Space at the end of your talk.  Always reserve around 20% of your time budget for questions and discussion. Tell the audience before you start presenting that there will be a Q&A at the end. This will save you from unwanted interruptions and allow you to plan your presentation properly.

Following these simple rules will help you deliver a clearer message in less time, with less words, consuming less slide real estate.

Less is more. Space is a design element. Emptiness is an art.



6 thoughts on “Space, the final frontier

  1. Marc, I really like your rule of thumb about only covering ½ the slide. (Of course, sadly most speakers enjoy just cramming in as much content as they can!)

    Your rule’s another way of expressing a limit that can be stated in different ways:

    1: I think a speaker should be able to sum up every slide in just 1 sentence each. That helps to control how much content goes on the slide, and helps the audience work out the meaning, too!

    2: I like to use at most about 15 words on any slide, based on the advice of experts like Jerry Weissman, Garr Reynolds and Nancy Duarte:

    I agree about silence as well. Do you have a source for the stats about comedians? I should think the same must be true of great speakers like Obama and Clinton, too.

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