What is Glance Media?

old sign with message

Billboards are the perfect example of what we call “Glance Media”. You’re meant to be able to glance at a billboard, get the pertinent information, and glance away. Above is an actual billboard in Mountain View, which we love. When billboards first came out, people were very afraid that there would be an increase in car accidents because people would be driving and get too distracted. They said, “It’s visual pollution.” It’s amazing how all these things apply to presentation slides. Slides can have visual pollution. When you design billboards, you don’t see paragraphs of text on billboards. They are quick, to the point, and you can look up, get the information, and return to driving. Billboards are a form of glance media, and we want to think of our presentation slides in the same way.

For glance media to be successful it should have a high signal to noise ratio. There is an art and science to creating presentations. Have you heard of the signal to noise ratio? If you were in electrical engineering, or you were really into stereos, you might encounter this. Signal to noise ratio is the measure of clarity. Say you have a signal, which could be a song you want to hear on the radio. You want to hear this song, that’s the signal, that’s the message you want to be receiving.  Noise is anything that prohibits you from hearing that signal clearly. The noise could be the noise outside the car, people talking in the car, another station close to the frequency, any thing that keeps that signal from being clear. What we want is a high signal to noise ratio. The strength of the signal is very high, and the strength of the noise is low, hence the signal to noise ration is high.  If there is a ton of noise coming in, it’s going to take us longer to hear that signal. In glance media we want a high signal to noise ratio and that’s true about our slides.

Typically when we build our presentations, we start out with a great message. Then we discover that we need this, we need that, and all of a sudden it’s hard to get that signal in a clear way.

example of slide design that does not work

What presentation attributes contribute to noise?

What are things that you would say contribute to noise in a presentation? Have you ever found yourself more focused on the color than what the person is saying?

Typical responses are:

  • Too much information on the chart

  • Too many words.

  • Crazy animation.

  • Too many colors

On the other hand, what are some things that help a message in a presentation come through very clearly? White space. It’s the opposite of the things we said. Instead of crazy colors, think of colors that help the message. Probably not crazy fonts. Hopefully you can see there are things we can do to either increase the noise or decrease the noise and increase the signal for our slides.

Turn it up or turn it off!

A way that we like to think about it is to say turn it up or turn it off. If it’s going to help the message come through more clearly, turn it up. If it’s extra stuff and it really doesn’t need to be there, it might be distracting, we want to tone it down and turn it off.

If you have your signal, and you have potential noise, get rid of the noise, so that your signal comes through loud and clear.

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