Stanford Passed (and Failed) the Glance Test. Would you?

By Nancy Duarte

A couple weeks ago Jennifer Aaker brought me in to speak to her “How to Tell a Story” class at the Stanford’s Graduate School of Business. By the time I showed up, the students already been through the process of identifying a personal story that has professional relevance and then they brought me in for two hours to train on transforming the stories visually.

One of the tools we used was our Glance Test. This test was co-created with Glenn Hughes over at KLA Tencor. In slide:ology I state that slides should be processed in 3 seconds or less. It’s impossible for people to process your slides and your words simultaneously. The test gives you a quantifiable way to test a slide’s viability as a glance medium by calculating a signal-to-noise ratio for individual slides.

Glance test card: Did it pass the glance test?
Click to download PDF of the Glance Test

If you have a longer presentation, try the Glance Test for 5 slides on a page.

The students each submitted a 4-slide story. Duarte filled out a glance test for each one. By using this process, most of the subjectivity is removed but here’s how they faired:

Storyboard 1:

Even though these slides are more simple than most corporate presentations, they still didn’t pass the test. The placement of images was random and the images themselves didn’t work together as a system—where they all seem related in some way. There was too much text on each slide which took longer than 3 seconds to process. What this student did do well is on the first two slides they created a sense of flow using arrows and placement to guide the eye.

Storyboard 1

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Storyboard 2:

I actually adored this presentation. It’s better to make simple crude drawings of your concept than to muddy it up with random meaningless images. I could identify the concept right away from the images. The illustrations were all uniform, there was no clutter, they have a color system (albeit a simple one), flow, low text. This one got 2 thumbs up from me.

Storyboard 2

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Ideally all your slides will have zero noise. I realize though that in organizations that can be impossible. Set a goal for your department or organization and use this tool to hold the troops accountable.

Written by

Nancy Duarte