Making sure that your fonts are big enough to be easily seen is a critical component of a good presentation. I have written about this problem before, but it continues to be a struggle for many presenters. Too often, in an effort to cram as much information onto a slide as possible, the fonts are too small and cannot be read easily. The result is distraction rather than communication and your message suffers and so does your audience.
So size font should you use? The answer is: it all depends. Different fonts offer different challenges. But there are ways to make sure that your audience doesn’t get eyes strain trying to follow you. Nancy Duarte, in her book Slide:ology, offers some tips on ensuring that your text is easily readable in your presentations.
- Use your monitor size as a guide. If you are working on a slide presentation on a 17″ monitor, place a mark on the floor 17 FEET away (the same for any other sizes; 15″ laptop screen = 15 feet, etc…). Start your presentation and view it from this 17 foot mark. If you struggle to read the text on your screen your audience will too. (Note – I don’t know about you, but while this tip does work, my office is no where near big enough to do this. If you have a laptop, obviously you can move to a place where this is possible. THIS DOES WORK if you can find a space big enough.)
- Use Slide Sorter View. Put your presentation in slide sorter view. Look at the slides at 66 percent size (medium if you are using Keynote on a MAC). If you struggle to read the text on the slides it is too small.
- Actually Rehearse at the Venue. Test the presentation in the actual location where you are going to give it. Stand in the back of the room as far from the screen as you can. Cycle through each slide – if you can read it clearly from here, your audience can too. (I don’t know why people don’t do this more. Yes – it takes extra effort, but it will show you more than font size – pictures that are too dark, transitions that are too slow, etc… REHEARSE!)
- Remember the Age of Your Audience. Follow the advice of Guy Kawasaki: “A good rule of thumb for font size is divide the oldest person in the room’s age by two and use that font size.” (While this is obviously a bit tongue in cheek I would suggest this may still be too small in some situations).
Run through a couple of these tips BEFORE you are live in front of your audience and your presentation will be much easier to read and much more effective in helping you deliver your message. Give them a try.