The Only Rule You’ll Ever Need Regarding Slides

At the start of my speaking journey, I was a little confused about what to do with slides.

I’d heard lots of tips about PowerPoint *slide etiquette*, but they never seemed to help.

Perhaps you’ve heard some of these before too?

For example:

  • Your font should be at least size x
  • You should only have y number of slides in total
  • You should have z number of slides per minute of your talk
  • You should only have x number of words on each slide
  • You should only cover one point per slide

The biggest problem was, there were too many floating around in my mind. I’d be preparing my slides and then trying to remember “what sized font was it meant to be again!?”, or “how do I even know how many points I’ve got on my slides at the moment!?”.

Ahh it was just all too confusing to try and meet all these different rules.

Until I came across the *mother* of all tips regarding slides.

Then I didn’t need any of those other guidelines. I threw them out because this one NEW tip superseded ALL OF THEM.

What was it you ask?

Well now I just keep this in mind …


Let’s break this rule down.

What is a Billboard like? It’s generally:

  • Highly visual / has images
  • Only contains a few well-chosen words
  • Any text is very large

The best way to think of a Billboard though, is that it only requires a 1-2 second *GLANCE* to comprehend it, in its entirety.

To really bring this to life, let’s imagine for a moment you’re driving on a highway and you go past a Billboard at speed. Except that it’s like the slides prepared in the corporate world. 😮

You glance up and see lots of bullet-points. It’s full of text and you need to read it to make sense of it.

What are you going to do!?

You only really have two choices.

  • You either ignore it and focus on what you’re doing already – driving.
  • Or, you continue to get distracted by reading it and you potentially veer off into another lane.

Now, it’s actually very similar with a presentation.

People already have a job to do when they’re in the audience. They’re listening to you, which requires a lot of concentration.

If they see text heavy slides, they’ve also only got two options.

  • Not bother with them and just keep listening to you, or
  • Opt to read them and they’ll get distracted from what they’re doing and lose track of what you’re saying.

Now, if you make your slides like a Billboard, they will only need to be glanced at and people can continue to listen to you. Voila!

You’ve helped people understand what you’re saying with another visual dimension, but you haven’t distracted people at the same time.

So, if you’ve also previously had a lot of different tips in your mind regarding slides, you can throw them away now.

When you’re next preparing your slides, remember the BILLBOARD rule. If you can adhere to that, people will continue to follow along with what you’re saying and they won’t go off track.

 🔥 Hot Tip: If you feel you need more content on a certain slide, which will break the Billboard Rule >>> Animate the content to come in as you talk to it. Don’t have multiple things come out at once, as people will be inclined to read ahead and they’ll get distracted.

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Emily Edgeley is a Public Speaking Coach for the Technology industry. Since 2017 she’s run over 100 group coaching sessions, coached more than 200 people privately, and formally supported first time and experienced speakers at 10 Conferences, covering 1000+ people across the globe. 

 She’s on a mission to help anyone in the Tech arena learn how to speak with clarity, impact, and confidence, whether that’s at work or at a Conference. So they can share their ideas, build their brand and start to enjoy ‘public speaking’!