The content in your presentation should support your overall message, not be a substitute for it. That said, it’s important to make sure your audience is listening to you rather than using all of their focus to read the text displayed on the screen. When you add text to your presentations, take care to make sure it’s big enough to read, but doesn’t steal the show; informative, but not dense; and placed with intention rather than just slapped up there any old way.
The story of typography
Simply put, typography is the arrangement and design of typeface. Designers use typography to create a mood, establish a brand and invoke an emotional response in the viewer. For example, think of Apple’s logo and how it reflects their brand: simple and clean. Or Coca Cola’s recognizable font, which instantly makes us feel a tinge of nostalgia. Similarly, a presenter should use typography to ensure their message is received loud and clear.
While it might be tempting to use the default options that come with software programs, experimenting with shape and color within the context of your presentation can make all the difference when it comes to creating interest and a connection between your content and your audience.
When deciding on typography for your presentations, there are three main things you should consider:
Find the right font
Fonts in presentations are not to be taken lightly. A font that’s easy to read can help get your point across quickly, while decorative fonts can be so distracting they take away from your message. Next time you’re putting together a presentation, choose a font that’s clear and easy to skim so your audience can register your point with as little effort as possible.
Sans serif fonts (like Arial or Helvetica) are more legible, so they’re the best option when visibility is an issue. Serif fonts (the ones with the extra strokes at the end of the letters, like Times) are better for large blocks of copy, such as a paragraph in a book.
Presentations will generally be better with a sans serif since you should have limited text and it needs to be legible from far away. A few extra pointers:
- Classic styles such as Helvetica, Garamond, Futura, Gill Sans and Rockwell are some of the best sans serif options for body copy in presentations.
- Helvetica and Futura are legible at most font sizes.
- Rockwell is bold, suitable for a headline or point you want to hammer home to your audience.
Choose the right size
Your typography should be legible to everyone in the room, so keep the size of the venue in mind when you’re creating your text. Some rules we live by here at 99Designs include:
- Opt for 24-point text at a minimum, with 36 to 44 for headlines. Fonts with serifs or those whose letters might run together at smaller sizes should be made larger.
- Test out the slides in your presentation room. Your font will appear differently projected onto a screen than it looks on your laptop.
- Larger text will draw the eye. Consider making the most important thing the largest. This runs contrary to our general way of thinking about things, which says the headline has to be the biggest thing on the screen. It doesn’t. What do you want your audience to remember? THAT should be the biggest text.
Limit the amount of text
Bullet points seem audience-friendly, but few people remember what they say. Instead of several points per slide or frame, focus on displaying only a single message at a time.
Six is the magical number: If there are more than 6 objects (like bullet points) displayed at once, the human brain will take 500% longer to process it… which basically means viewers are going to zone out as your presentation takes too much mental energy to process.The fewer things you have to look at at a time, the better. And often, a visual representation that supports your point is more effective at conveying the message than more text.
Bits and bobs
It may seem a bit daunting, but at the end of the day good typography isn’t hard to figure out. Just ask yourself if you were attending this presentation, would you get the message? Being clear and concise will start you off on the right foot, and once you’ve got that momentum going, check our advice on using color in presentations to add some extra emphasis.