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How Google’s Keynote Speakers Keep Presentation Slides Engaging and Easy to Follow

Your audience can’t listen to you and read slides at the same time. Here’s how to solve the problem.

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BY Carmine Gallo - 10 Oct 2018

How Google's Keynote Speakers Keep Presentation Slides Engaging and Easy to Follow

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Google unveiled three new products today: Pixel 3 phone, Pixel Slate tablet, and Google Home Hub, including Google Home Hub, a version of its smart speaker with a built-in screen. The presentation was heavy on content, features and speakers. When there's a lot of content to get across, expert presentation designers follow a simple rule, and Google speakers did the same. The rule is:

Stick to one theme and one message per slide

Neuroscience tells us that the human brain cannot multitask as well as we think. We can't listen to a speaker's words and read a bunch of text on the slide at the same time. Keep your presentations clean and uncluttered instead of bombarding your audience under an avalanche of information.

Google Strikes a Visual-Verbal Balance

For example, when Google presenters introduced the new Pixel 3 smartphone today, they talked about the display size and the audio quality, among many other features. Here is a transcript of what the speakers said, followed by what the audience saw on the slides.

Speaker's words: "The new Pixel comes in two display sizes. The 5-and-a-half inch Pixel 3 and the 6-point-3-inch Pixel 3 XL. Both of them share the same features, but we know that users who want a bigger phone really want a bigger screen so we've designed Pixel's 3XL to extend all the way to the upper corners, giving viewers an edge-to-edge viewing experience.

Slide: Photos of two phones from different angles (no text)

Speaker's words: "Our front-firing stereo speakers are 40 percent louder and richer than last year. Perfect for a video call or listening to a music by a pool. The custom sound profile was developed for Pixel 3 by a Grammy award-winning music producer for stunning volume and clarity."

Slide: 40 percent louder and richer [text only].

Visual verbal balance means you'll see photos or photos balanced with short amounts of text. What you won't see are bullet points. Ever.

Another speaker, Trond Wuellner, introduced the new Pixel Slate, which leverages a new Chrome OS. Here again, we hear the speaker discussing one concept and the slide reflecting the one big idea.

Speaker's words: "With Pixel Slate, sitting back to enjoy a movie is better than ever. It has 293 pixels per inch. That's 6 million pixels for the sharpest pictures in the category.

Slide: Photo of Pixel Slate alongside text that reads: 293 ppi/6M pixels

Speaker's words: "A brilliant display doesn't mean much without great sound. With Pixel Slate we've positioned the speakers on the front of the device. So they can direct stereo sound out toward you, instead of out toward the walls or the floor. They deliver surprisingly big sound.

Slide: Image of slate with photo of musician. Text on the right reads: Dual front-firing speakers.

If you see the other slides--without listening to the speaker's words--you still know exactly what he's talking about. The text on the following slides read:

8MP rear and front cameras

Portrait mode

Wide-angle lens

In three slides, I know Trond is talking about the new camera on the Pixel slate and describing its specs. But they don't all appear in bullet form in one slide. Instead, he takes three slides to describe three features.

Your audience is bombarded by content and information all day long. Numbers, photos, and data are rushing at them in presentations and on social media. When you're delivering a live presentation, keep your content easy to follow, engaging, and visually interesting. One theme per slide will keep you and your audience focused.

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