Below are some tips for helping with projection visibility in a large, sunny room that might be helpful to speakers. Our meeting space is walled on the East by floor-to-ceiling windows, flooding the room with light from the sunrise for part of the year. This presents a challenge when using a projector. These are my own solutions for maintaining legibility of text from the back of the room through both size and contrast. There are other ways to go about this, but these worked well for me.
- High contrast is important. We have an excellent projector, but in a bright room it can only do so much. I used a solid black background and heavy white type for my 10 words or less, which seems about as legible as we’ll get in the sunshine.
- Slides should be light on words. Remember that your presentation is a visual aid, not a script. Aim for 10 words or fewer on any slide, and make them as big as you can. This should be a headline, or supporting phrase. We don’t, won’t, and can’t read your sentences, bullet points, or photo captions—especially those of us on the far side of the room. Use the slide as a headline, and use your voice for the rest. If we’re trying to read while you’re reading to us, our attention is split and we don’t capture as much. Example: I had a longish quote to share with you, and split it between two slides so it would be large enough for you all to read.
- Photos need to be big. From the back of the room, your presentation is a bit like a slightly blurred smart phone screen. If you have lots of photos to share, present them as big as you can, even if it means more slides. We don’t need white space around photos, and packing too many on one slide means we can’t see any of them. Example: I used full-screen images for most of my visuals, two to a slide for the logos.
- Photos need to be bright. Choose high-quality photos that are more bright than dark. If you’re not sure if something will work, stand far away and squint. If it’s hard to make out, don’t use it. Example: We’ve often see poorly lit interior photographs. These might read well in the dark winter months, but in the sunshine it will look like a dark, blobby rectangle.
- Test it. You may not have a projector at home or office, but you can run through your slides from 20 feet away. Better yet, have someone who doesn’t already know what the slides say run through your slides from 20 feet away. If you/they can’t clearly read or perceive something, it may be too small, too thin, or too low in contrast. And note that some of us may have less focused vision than your test subjects. Using the slide sorter (which presents small thumbnails images of your slides) is another good way to test their legibility and effectiveness from a distance.
- Read a second opinion. http://www.garrreynolds.com/preso-tips/design/
- Try Keyonte. If you’re a Mac user, Keynote may work better for you. I find it to be more intuitive than Powerpoint, and it doesn’t have quite as many useless features. So give it a spin. Prezi is another interesting option. It brings more complex motion into the presentation, which can mean a steeper learning curve.
In case it’s helpful, here is a link to my deck (http://www.slideshare.net/JoshuaHuisenga/chalkbox-creative-june-07). It’s may not make much sense without me talking alongside it—but that’s because it’s just the headlines, not a script.