The first rule of designing content-heavy slides is to do whatever possible to avoid them. Be ruthless with the volume of information in the presentation—if it’s not necessary, delete it. Spread data/content across multiple slides to make it easier to understand—rarely will one additional slide ruin a presentation. Remember you can deliver messages/ideas in words, numbers, AND design elements, use both to your advantage. If these editing efforts aren’t enough, you may have to include a complex slide (or two). Then the second rule for designing data-heavy slides applies—keep it clean and simple. Here are a few tips to help:
Use a Sans Serif font: Sans Serif fonts are easier to read even with very small sizes. Speaking of which, if you are sending a slide to a client try to avoid fonts smaller than 8-point type size (and only for non-essential information). That size is impossible to read for slides being presented but can still be legible on personal screens or printed.
Limit colors: Less is more when it comes to colors and design. If you have multiple tables (or even just one long table), you don’t want anything that pulls the eye away from the data. Use 1-2 colors and if necessary, a shade of one of them. Keep your design choices simple so you don’t contribute to the chaos of a busy slide.
Edit graph lines: Did you know that the default PowerPoint settings add lines, tick marks, and other unnecessary “chart junk” to graphs to aid with comprehension? For many graphs, these additions only complicate things. Try taking out Leader Lines, Grid Lines, and Minor Axis Lines. This should simplify your design and as a result, make it easier to understand.
Be consistent: The only thing worse than one data-heavy slide is multiple data-heavy slides. If that’s the challenge you are dealing with, consistent design across all slides is key. Use the same placement and design treatment for the same types of information throughout the presentation. For example, if you have 5-year performance data for multiple funds on different slides, make sure it is in the same location and in the same color, font, and size.
Remember, when in doubt spread your information across multiple slides to improve comprehension. If you are stuck, reach out to your creative partner for more ideas on how to ensure your messages don’t get lost in data-rich slides.