Understand how slides are received

Typography is a big word that can carry much larger significance in advertising and presentation slides. It’s already well known that the appearance of an ad can determine its response rate. What is less well understood is how that applies to slides.
I watched a presentation the other day in which the slides consisted of sentences like this one – only larger. No headlines. Not only that, every slide was in a framework with the company names and logo at the top. That’s what caught the eye every time because the slide content looked so feeble.
The layout of a slide has two main purposes:

1. To allow the audience to understand what the speaker is saying – in a flash
2. To convey a favourable impression of the speaker

To achieve the first, you need a Bold headline followed by short bullet points or text (preferably not full sentences) or a picture. That’s all. The slide is there to support but not supplant you, the presenter.
To achieve the latter, you need to understand the secret signals that design and layout convey.
I always think of Westerns as examples of how unspoken messages are conveyed. I remember, in particular, a Western starring Rock Hudson, in which he gave up life as a gunslinger and took up farming. As a gunslinger he wore a sexy, heavy gun belt. As a farmer he wore braces and no belt.

The absence of a belt made him look weak. You sensed that something was missing from his image. That’s the impression I got from the slides that had no headline … and of the presenter as well.
Does it matter? You bet it does! Implicit messages can enhance or diminish the power of the explicit message you are putting across.
Audi (or their ad agency) recognise this in their current TV commercial which shows an ‘ugly duckling’ from their unthinking past to the elegant swan of today. Which would you rather be?

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