If You’re a Presenter, It’s Time to De-Clutter!

The goal of all communication—verbal, written or visual—is the same: We want the recipients, as quickly as possible, to get it! They may not agree with everything we say. They may not agree with anything we say. But if they don’t get it, we can’t have a conversation going forward.

Decluttering everything in your presentation will help reach that goal.

Clutter in a presentation:

• Confuses the audience

• Complicates the message

• Conflicts with the presentation

The Guidelines for DeCluttering: Clean, simple, zen-like—less is more

Keep these in mind for all the components, parts and elements of your presentation. Let’s look at some of them:


• The words you use should be plain, simple and easily understood.

• The audience is not impressed by words they don’t understand and you’ll quickly lose them. No one wants to feel stupid!

• Do not use buzz words, acronyms and techno-speak. You may think everyone understands them—they don’t, and they’ll quickly tune you out.

Structure of Your Presentation

• Title—this lets potential attendees clearly know the main topic.

• Introduction—this is the emcee introducing the speaker. It is not the speaker’s bio and does answer three questions:

     • Why this subject.

     • Why this speaker.

     • Why now?

• Opening

     • A strong opening grabs the attention of the audience.

     • Inform the audience what you’ll be telling them.

• Body—make a point, tell a personal story (have three to five points per presentation).

• Conclusion

     • Tell attendees what you told them.

     • Have a strong closing: a challenge or call to action, etc.

An analogy: Memento, a movie released in 2000, tells the story of a man who suffers from amnesia and is trying to track down a criminal. With that malady, a plot would be hard to follow. The director made it worse by telling the story out of chronological order. Audiences were totally confused!

Speakers who ‘wing it’ in their presentations confuse the audience, also. Not giving their audience an easy-to-follow talk will never help them get it.


Props can help your audience get it. The most common prop speakers use are visual.

Example: If I were talking about coffee, I might hold up a coffee mug, a bag of coffee beans, or show a slide of a coffee brewer. Another important note about using props: When finished using a prop, put it out of sight, or else it becomes a distraction to the audience.


Slides in PowerPoint and Keynote are most effective when:

• They use high-quality, universally understood images.

• Simple build-ins, build-outs and transitions are used.

• Templates are clean and simple, and are without clutter.

• Don’t use:

     • Fancy or crazy-colored fonts.

     • Bullet Points

          • Bullet points do not reinforce your message. Instead, they:

               • Confuse your audience, complicate your message, conflict with your presentation.

               • Study after study confirms: We cannot multitask.

               • When you have bullet points on your slide, the audience is reading a different line than you are speaking. This makes for a disconnect!

• Get a good wireless remote control

     • It is distracting, as we’ve all seen many times, to watch a speaker walk to the presentation laptop to push the ‘Forward’ key.

     • Your Wireless Remote should allow you to:

          • Advance slides and go in reverse.

          • Control the volume of audio in your presentation.

          • Blank the screen to take the attention of the audience off the screen and place it on you.

• Have a laser pointer.

Your Appearance

The way you present yourself should not be a distraction to your message.

Don’t Wear:

• A name tag, ribbons, etc.

• Your cell phone, pedometer or pager where it will be noticed.

• A wild and distracting: tie, shirt, sport coat, eyeglass frame, dress, hat, shoes, etc.

• Jewelry that catches light and shines.

All the above is clutter and distracts the audience. Think about Steve Jobs’ clean and simple ‘uniform’: plain black turtleneck sweater, jeans and sneakers.


Don’t—unless you are conducting a workshop.

• In that case, try to ensure people don’t look ahead in the material.

• Handouts are distraction and have the same negative effect bullet points have in slide presentations.

• The audience will be reading a different section or sentence than you are presenting, and there will be an extreme disconnection.

If you must have handouts:

• Distribute them after your talk.

• Email them after your presentation (this also is a great way to build your database).

Follow the ‘clean and simple’ rule when developing, practicing and delivering your next presentation. Do that—and I guarantee it will be - NO SWEAT!

Fred Miller is the author of NO SWEAT Public Speaking! For more information, email him at Fred@NoSweatPublicSpeaking.com or visit NoSweatPublicSpeaking.com.

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