Follow these rules to create presentation slides that your audience will “get” in under three seconds:

Start with a clean surface: Instead of using the default “click to add title” and “click to add text” slide master in your presentation software, turn off all the master prompts and start with a blank slide. And when you add elements, make sure they serve a purpose. Does the audience need to see your logo on every slide to remember who you work for? Does that blue ornamental swoosh add meaning? If not, leave it off.

Limit your text: Keep the text short and easy to skim. Scale the type as large as possible so the people in the back of the room can see it.

Coordinate visual elements: Select one typeface, two at most, for the entire slide deck. Use a consistent color palette throughout (limit yourself to 3 complementary colors, plus a couple of neutral shades, like gray or pale blue). Photos should be taken by the same photographer or look as if they were. Illustrations should be done in the same style. Working within a visual system of restraint, limits the amount of information the audience has to process.

Arrange elements with care: When presentation slides are projected, they are at least 20 times larger than they are on your laptop screen—so they need to be tidy. (Unkempt slides look downright chaotic.) Align your graphics and text blocks to each other. Size objects appropriately. If one element is larger than another, the audience will interpret that to mean the larger object is more important. How you arrange elements creates meaning.

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