Rule 12/24


293 words.

The slide shown below, used during the keynote address at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, consists of 293 words.

CES slide_bad.png

It was displayed en mass as the speaker continued to talk.

It would take an average audience member 70.3 seconds to read this information during a presentation.  Add in time spent considering what was read, comparing it to pre-existing knowledge, entertaining associated thoughts, analyzing how it contributes to the speaker’s larger point, and wondering what to make for dinner, and the audience could be distracted for over 2 minutes.

Audiences confronted with a slide like this have two choices--either read the text at the expense of listening to the speaker, or listen to the speaker at the expense of reading information that was purposefully presented to them.  In either case, one of the information streams is neglected.  In either case, the result is terrible.

At their core, effective slides must augment the presenter’s message, not introduce a distraction.  

To ensure your  slide design isn’t stealing your spotlight or upstaging you as the expert, we devised Rule 12/24.

Our 12/24 Rule says that the best slides have 12 or fewer words , but no slide should ever have more than 24 words.  Ever.  

Following this simple rule keeps you, not your slides, at the forefront of the presentation, preserves your role as the subject-matter expert, and ensures that your audience isn’t tuning you out to read for more than 5 seconds (not perfect, but salvageable).

Ideally, slides should contain reinforcing imagery, emotive pictures, and clarifying illustrations.  Slides without words are preferred, but if you must include some text, always adhere to Rule 12/24.  No exceptions.