The Answer. It depends. There is no hard and fast rule. When it comes to how much time you should spend per slide it completely depends on the nature of the presentation, the information being presented, the venue, and your audience.
But here are some questions and follow on thoughts to help get you thinking about Powerpoint and the time component, so you can ace your next presentation.
Does your presentation have a hard time limit? Many professional gatherings like seminars, conferences, and workshops that have multiple speakers have a schedule to keep and grant each speaker a fixed time limit for their presentation. TED Talks famously grants each speaker just 18 minutes.
Is the information you are presenting simple or complex? Straight forward or abstract? Will the audience easily digest what is on your slides? Or do you need to take some time explaining what the audience is seeing?
How much information or data is on the slide? Volume matters, and information overload can turn an audience off fast. Do you have to cover all of the information on the slide, or just the highlights?
Is the audience in “receive mode only” during your presentation? Or are you trying to generate discussion, conversation, and questions? This may be the single biggest factor for you to consider with “slidesmanship,” timing and overall duration. Discussion and participation indicate success, as it means the audience is actively engaged in your presentation. Many times, my own lectures cease during a presentation and I become more of a group facilitator. Seamlessly showcasing yourself as both presenter and facilitator is one of the most important skills you can develop in the art of presentations.
What kind of visuals are you using on your slides in your presentation? Sometimes you can give an entire presentation with just one slide. A detailed map, for example, often has a deep story to tell and may be the only visual prop you need to build an entire presentation. As a navigator and geographer, maps are my favorite tool to drop into a Powerpoint slide. There is usually more information presented on a map than I need and almost every academic discipline can make use of maps, as spatial representation will always be one of the five fundamental ways human beings organize information.
Also, consider your audience. Is the audience already familiar with the material being presented? If you are just providing a daily update, (as I’ve done many times in the military), then the expectation may be just to spend a few seconds on each slide. But if you are presenting something unfamiliar, be prepared to spend time on each slide. Sometimes you will go fast and slow in the same presentation. For example, military briefers are famous for crisp, concise and fast speaking styles. But even they will slow their speaking pace when they reach slides presenting new or important changes, unusual occurrences, information that affects the entire audience, or brief up a critical decision point that senior officers need to consider.
Another factor to consider is language. Is there a potential language barrier in the room? If so, then go slow, and don’t be afraid to repeat or summarize information on each slide again before moving on. Your slides may be the critical piece that bridges the language barrier.
Are there words on the slide? Are there bullet points? If so, did you limit yourself to just a few of them? Are they concise, or wordy? Many Powerpoint slideologists ascribe to the various “rules” out there when it comes to bullet points. The three most common I see are the “three and three,” “five and five,” and “seven and seven.” The idea being you limit your slides to five bullets with no more than five words per bullet if choose the “five and five.”
Hopefully, these questions have given you some good ideas for your own upcoming presentations. As always, thanks for visiting and good luck Powerpoint rangers!