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Less is more, whether it’s Playboy or your next presentation

So, Playboy has decided that less is more, at least where nudity is concerned.  In the context of my professional world (where very little nudity is involved), I couldn’t agree more.  And I’ve had some interesting examples of this in the last few weeks.

Overloaded slides are like JK Rowling’s dementors.  They suck the life force out of many a presentation and sever the connection between speaker and audience.  Leonardo da Vinci probably wasn’t a Playboy reader but he knew that ‘simplicity is the ultimate sophistication’.  Let’s all apply that principle to our visuals by avoiding full sentences or paragraphs, limiting the number of bullets, using images rather than words where possible, and remembering that the deck is for the audience, not the speaker.  It’s not your script and it shouldn’t look like a document.

In a session the other day, my ‘trainee’ actually noticed the moment when I switched off from his content.  It was at the point when he showed a highly complex visual but made no explanation of its relevance.  It was there as ‘wallpaper’.  And it overloaded my brain as I tried to make sense of it, while at the same time attempting to listen to him.  Make this your mantra – IF THEY’RE READING, THEY’RE NOT LISTENING.

On a voice-over job last week, it occurred to me that the same rules apply to the spoken word.  It was a narration for a ballet performance, set to music, and there were very few words in the script.  But those few words and the powerful pauses that went with them conveyed an intense and complex meaning.  A reminder for those in the corporate world that simply constructed sentences, single words and controlled silence can be extremely effective communication tools.

So, whether you are a Playboy bunny or a boardroom dragon, keep your slides simple, your words few and your pants on.