Essential presentation tip – beware small type!

Make sure all the words in your visuals can be read easily.

Thanks to my friend Andie Hemming for this one. Now it might sound like common sense…but it isn’t common practice. Andie and I heard – and struggled to see – some very clever people give presentations recently, and that was how I tested her assertion that you can really annoy people more than you think by using too small a type size. Annoy them to the point where they won’t believe you, no matter how persuasive your (small) words are.


When we find the type on a screen hard to read, what do we do? Most of us narrow our eyes, squinting to try and decipher the words.  Now it’s not just the case that having to do this annoys us, oh no. There’s more to it than that. We all know (don’t we) that our emotions influence our non-verbal communications, or body language. So when we’re angry we might stomp about. When we’re happy we probably smile more than usual. When we’re relaxed our posture softens, and so on.

But did you know that this works both ways? So if you stomp about you will feel angrier than before you started to stomp. When you smile more than usual you will cheer up. And when you soften your posture, you will feel more relaxed and mellow. And thus it follows that if you squint and peer through narrowed eyes at a presentation, the emotions that normally accompany that expression will be what you feel. Which is how those very clever presenters left us feeling annoyed, highly sceptical, disbelieving and downright argumentative.

Don’t let it happen to you. Make sure your type can be read from the back of the room.

If you have a detailed chart to talk people through, one option is to have an accompanying handout and as it’s distributed, tell the audience that you will take them through it step by step.

Better still, think how you can simplify the salient points so that they are clearly legible, and can be amplified by you verbally, rather than referring to your squint-inducing visual. Yes, this may mean you will need to rehearse; but you do that anyway, right?

If you’re still unsure about this idea, just try reading something far enough away to force you to squint.  Keep going and notice how your mood alters.  Caution: can rapidly go viral in open plan work environments!


You may find this post useful: ’10 reasons why you need to rehearse your next presentation’

Dawn is the author of ‘The Feedback Book’ and ‘How to be Zoomly at work’.


 Image credit: @Kozzi2-Depositphotos

Comments are closed.