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Never show a slide like this!

This slide below is typical of what we see in biomedical research presentations. Too much data and nothing to help the audience focus on the essential message.

What happens when a slide like this appears on the screen? The audience spends 30 seconds staring at the figure trying to focus in on the essential point and doesn't listen to the speaker. After some time the audience gives up and turns their attention to the speaker, who probably isn't explaining the slide anyway because there is way too much data on it. The visual and oral narratives work against each other, destroying any rationale for a slide presentation.

Why would anyone show this kind of slide? I have heard several explanations: 1) the speaker is comforted by having all the data in front of them, 2) it's easy to do because it is lifted from a journal article, or 3) it's not necessary to think through the oral presentation of this slide because it's a pretty useless slide. All of these answers involve helping the speaker. However a presentation is about helping the audience!

Before showing this kind of slide the presenter needs to ask him/herself the message he/she is trying to convey. Perhaps it is the growth in industry screen failures shown in the bottom of the 3 tables. Perhaps it is a comparison of this with another trend. Whatever it is, the slide should be designed around this message. One overarching message for each slide! The only message of the slide below is, "I gathered a lot of data." If that is your message, then tell the audience they don't need to read the details and move onto the next slide quickly.

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