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For Awesome Presentation Graphics: KISS BETR FAST!

You, too, can learn to KISS BETR FAST. Remembering this acronym phrase will help you create powerful, effective presentation graphics.

by Quentin Steele



  • KISS, of course, is "Keep It Simple, Speakers!". Get rid of those busy, comprehensive slides that cause sensory overload.
  • BETR means "Big Enough To Read." With a little planning, you can make every word on your slides readable to the entire audience.
  • FAST stands for "First-class Art, Spelling, & Typography". Add a professional touch with upscale clip-art, spell-checking, and typographer’s punctuation.


KISS ("Keep it Simple, Speakers!")

Simplify, simplify, simplify! We’ve all seen slides with too many words, too many pictures, and too busy a background. A complex slide without focus steals the audience’s attention from you, the speaker. Start with a compelling, high-quality graphic and use just enough words to support your point, usually no more than six bullets with six words per bullet. Plan video and audio segments carefully, so they complement, instead of compete with your message. A good slide will give your audience a brief visual break from you (attractive though you are!), reinforce your message, then get their eyes back on you.


BETR ("Big Enough to Read")

If you’ve been telling audiences, "I know you can’t read this in the back!," it’s time to retire your favorite apology! You can make all your slides readable by enlarging the projection size and by choosing readable fonts, sizes, and colors.


Begin by checking the dimensions of the room and the size of the screen. Otherwise, you may end up with a tiny six-foot screen in a 150-foot room, which makes any slide quite unreadable! Before your program starts, enhance readability by ensuring that the projected image fills the entire screen. Ask to move the projector stand to maximize the image size, even if that means rearranging chairs.


When selecting fonts, remember that the most legible fonts are also the most basic. Plainer fonts like Times New Roman and Arial are actually quite striking on a well-designed slide. If you opt for a decorative font (the "fancy" fonts we love so much), take extra steps to ensure readability. The font size you choose depends on font style and projection size. Generally, Roman (serif) fonts (like Times New Roman) should be bigger than sans-serif fonts (like Arial), and decorative fonts need to be larger still. A strict rule of thumb is therefore impossible, but avoid font sizes less than 18 points in a large conference room, and less than 36 points in a ballroom or auditorium. Also, try using bold type for everything on the slide. Individual words can still be highlighted with a different color.


Choose text colors carefully, based on background color. Yellow, for example, is striking on a black background, but worthless on white. Red can be strong or weak, depending on the intensity. Dark backgrounds work best for 35mm slides or computer projections, while light backgrounds are typical for overhead transparencies. The templates that come with your software give you a head start on color selection, but be careful: some of them are too busy and gaudy for professional use.

Once you’ve selected font, size, and color, make one sample slide and project it in a large room. Check readability and color. If you don’t like it, "take a sad slide and make it BETR!"


FAST ("First-class Art, Spelling & Typography")

Meticulous attention to art, spelling, and typography whisper the message, "I am a professional!" First, consider your clip art. That time-honored art that ships with PowerPoint has become familiar and repetitive to experienced audiences. Consider buying new, high-quality clip art that adds style and wakes people up.

A misspelling on a slide takes your audience on a mental detour. Misspelled words are so easy to avoid! Invest five minutes to spell-check your presentation.


Your slides will stand as a proud companion to your presentation when you simplify, ensure readability, and add professional touches. Learn to KISS BETR FAST, and see what a difference it makes!

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