Why do so many business presenters continue to fill their slides with words and not images?  We all complain when we are bombarded by such slides, usually read monotonously, by the presenter. Ring any bells?    Now ask yourself, how often are you guilty of repeating this annoying behaviour?

I think that there are two main reasons why people put so many words on their slides.  The first is that they are scared that they will forget what they are going to say, so they just create a script in slide form.   The second is because many presenters have been taught the quotation by Confucius who said  “I hear I forget, I see I remember, I do I understand.”

The problem is that “seeing words” is not the same as “seeing pictures”. When we read words on a screen we tend to say them silently to ourselves as we read them, meaning that we are processing the words using the auditory centres of the brain and not the visual centres.  This doesn’t pose much of a problem if you it’s just you on your own reading the slides from your PC screen, but in a “live” presentation, it’s a whole different ball game.

When you listen to a live presenter who is also using wordy slides  tow things are happening simultaneously.  You are hearing the presenter speak, and at the same time you are  “listening” to your own internal commentary as you read the words on the slides. The result is “cognitive dissonance” or mental stress,  Imagine the effect of listening to a recording of a speech through headphones, where the speed of the recording coming into your right ear was slower than the speed of the words in your left ear! Isn’t that guaranteed to fry your brain!

Thankfully, the solution to  this damaging problem is simple. As a presenter all you need to do is replace most. if not all, of the words in your slides with images or simple charts that support your verbal messages.   Not only will this help the audience remember more ( you can get up to a 30% increase my removing text from slides), but you create more flexible slides t act as a memory jogger but prevent you from reading the words off the screen and boring your audience to death!

I hope you found this simple PowerPoint design tip useful.  I’d love to hear your thoughts, or experiences. Please leave a comment below and, if you enjoyed this post, please share it with others using the social sharing buttons below.


  1. Chris on 01/04/2014 at 20:34

    FEWER WORDS!! Please don’t perpetutate the incorrect use of English. If you can count them, it is “fewer” whereas if you can’t count or you can pour the item, then use “less.” SImple!

    • Gavin Meikle on 05/04/2014 at 15:37

      Hi Chris. Thanks for the feedback. You are quite right, and I have now corrected this irritating faux pas.

  2. Lisa Braithwaite on 10/10/2007 at 17:43

    Here are a couple of my PowerPoints; the first one is my generic public speaking presentation and the others I made for one of my clients. I’m a big fan of Cliff Atkinson’s approach:


  3. tim.russell on 19/09/2007 at 11:01

    Wise words Gavin! My thoughts on this can be found here:


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