Master Your Message Blog


Screen layout is really important to getting your message across.

Our eyes go to the lightest part of the frameTake this screen. Where does your eye go? Most people would say … to the brightest part of the background.

For me, the brightest part of the frame is the back of that lady’s head. In other words, the lightest object on the screen grabs your attention.

My frame of reference for light and its affect on us is television, film, and theatre. I’ve spent decades working across those areas. What I’ve learned is that our eyes are attracted by light, so put more light on the most important elements to make them brighter. Put less light on the unimportant information.

You need to think like that when you design your slides. It’s why light Read More …

The primary objective of presentations is NOT to be pretty. The primary objective is to persuade or impart information.

Pretty but busy slideI mean, they CAN be pretty, but if pretty (or busy) gets in the way of the message, it’s a problem!

Sometimes what you think is a brilliant idea, just doesn’t make it in the implementation stage. Remember, screen real estate is dear. There’s never enough of it.

Well, in fact, the information you put on the screen should not need any more space than what’s available. And that brings us to the first of two major rules:

  1. Less is More.  Each screen should support one point and only one point. Don’t try and put everything you can think of up there. Who’s going to remember Read More …

This weekend, I received a copy of another PowerPoint presentation that consists almost entirely of black text on a white background. The bottom line? It’s a no-no.

Think about looking at the text on a light bulb. When it’s on, it’s incredibly difficult to read! It’s almost the same as trying to read a projected screen of black text on white.

You’ve got black letters surrounded by all that intense white light blasting out at you. Because the projector is shooting intense light at the screen, which reflects it back into your eyes.

The black letters themselves are affected by that beam of bright projected, light. They appear to become thinner. That’s because the bright, white light “bleeds” onto them. They aren’t actually thinner. However, Read More …

Distractions can destroy your presentation. Here’s an example.

Let’s say you make a point like … “The chicken crossed the road” and put up a visual of a person dressed as a chicken.

You’d probably hear a hush in the room. Pretty dramatic visual! OK, let’s say that you then wanted to tell a five minute story about a particular chicken you know and what happened when she crossed the road.

BUT, for the entire five minutes, you’ve still got the title and visual of the chicken crossing the road, which your audience may find distracting. You see, the audience should have their full attention on you as you tell this fabulous story about the chicken.

Now, you have a key on your keyboard that Read More …

In the corporate environment, many times the background is the thing that gets designed long before the presentation has even a defined goal. Artists can spend hours getting just the right look and feel to make sure the company gets promoted in the very best light.

Let me ask you this: Why? In fact, I want you to ask that very question next time you’re developing a presentation. Why spend all that time on the background, corporate identity and logo? That presentation isn’t even about those things.

What can happen is that the background and logo become so imposing that they actually detract from the point you’re trying to make. I’ve seen lots of examples, particularly in sales conventions. The background was so “busy” and took Read More …

Our eyes are attracted to shiny things. You know that when you take a walk in the park; the glint of the sun from a gum wrapper lying in the grass draws your attention. Or you look up at the sky on a clear, moonlit night – that big white orb is what catches your eye. Even the stars play second banana to the brilliance of the moon. Our eyes are attracted to light.

Read More …

Why It’s Important to “Paint with Light”

The lightness of the colors you use in your presentation visuals is really important in getting your message across.

screen1webTake a look at this screen on the left. Where does your eye go? Most people would say … to the brightest part of the background. That’s the back of that lady’s head. In other words, the lightest object on the screen grabs your attention.

I learned this fact in television. “Lightness” is a really important element of shot composition.

I spent ten years of my life writing, producing, and directing television. The bulk of the commercials I produced promoted one product or another. I learned early on that if you don’t light the product properly, you’ll lose sales. Read More …

I am often amazed at my capacity to miss the obvious. This is one of those cases.

It involves the use of video. Now, as a professional writer/producer/director for some 35 years, you’d think I’d be past the stage of making mistakes. But no. On the other hand, this is a great learning moment for us all.

I have been known to rant about the tremendous power of distractions to take your audience’s mind off what you’re saying. It’s one of the keys to being successful as a presenter – keeping the distractions in the room as minimal as possible.

I was in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada about a week ago speaking to an audience of the “Canadian Association of Professional Speakers” about the use of Read More …

My recent article on “White Death on the Podium” got some reaction. It’s set me out on a campaign to help people communicate more effectively “one screen at a time.” Well, it didn’t actually start me on that road, it re-confirmed the need.

It started a few people recognizing the fact that they were indeed using white backgrounds and black text – in PowerPoint particularly (as that awful program still commands the lion’s share of the visual support marketplace), and a light went on. “It makes perfect sense” was one common reply but even more prevalent was “I never really thought about it before.”

Well, think about it. It will make your visual support infinitely more readable.

And if you still doubt the validity of Read More …

I attended a professional speaking event last week and was again hit with the fact that many speakers make it really tough on the audience to read their slides.

The reason? Probably the fact that they really don’t think about it from the audience’s perspective. Or don’t know enough about the technology. In this particular case, the presenter was using dark blue letters on a yellow background – exactly the opposite of what he should have been using.

The problem with a light or white screen is in the light from the projector. A white background can be like looking into a headlight – hard on the eyes. That’s because the projector light is bouncing off the screen right back into your eyes. On top Read More …