When you’re preparing a presentation, figuring out how much detail to include is one of the toughest parts.
Too few details can mean a skeletal presentation that lacks depth and leaves your audience lost and struggling to understand.
But loading up on excessive details means running the risk of clouding the main message. This can turn your presentation into a labyrinth where key points get lost.
Striking a Goldilocks balance for information (not too much, and not too little) helps your audience navigate through your ideas smoothly, so they can understand and retain key points without getting overwhelmed.
Following a few simple rules can help you effortlessly cherry-pick the choicest details for your presentations so you can maximize engagement and inspire your audience to take action.
Here’s how to choose the porridge — er, level of detail — that’s juuuuust right…
The 4 Cornerstones of Choosing the Right Detail Level
1. Understand your audience
Getting the scoop on your audience is like gathering the ingredients to the perfect presentation recipe.
Before you create your outline or spin up a single slide, think about the people you’ll be speaking to. Assess their knowledge level, expertise, and familiarity with your presentation topic.
Are your audience members neophytes who just got introduced to your subject, or are they experienced veterans who have been swimming in these waters for a while? Plan to customize your presentation to suit their needs.
2. Decide on your goal for the presentation
What’s the key message you want your audience to remember?
Are you informing them about a new product or service? Building brand awareness? Establishing your authority and building trust? Or are you trying to motivate them to take action?
Your level of detail should line up with your overall goal. If you’re trying to educate your audience about a complex subject matter, for instance, you may need to dig into the details to make sure they understand. But if you’re trying to inspire action, then a less detailed, more emotional approach might be more successful.
Remember that the details should serve the goal, not distract from it. Overburdening your audience with too much information can take away from your main message and keep you from reaching your objective. But on the flip side, withholding critical information could leave people in the dark.
The points you include should support your goal, but the information shouldn’t be so dense that it creates a roadblock.
3. Identify your key points
Once you know your goal, prioritize the most relevant and important information, and cut non-essential details that may distract or overwhelm your listeners.
Think of non-essential points like theatrical props — they may add an element of interest, but the play can proceed without them. Simplicity is the key to audience retention, so err on the side of caution when you’re tempted to pack tons of information onto every slide. Concentrate on the critical elements so your audience can grasp the core message without feeling swamped.
An efficient communicator understands that sometimes, less truly is more. Your goal is to pique interest, not to inundate.
4. Consider your time constraints
Keep a close eye on that ticking clock — if you've only got a short slot, you'll need to trim the fat and stick to the prime cuts of your content. Trying to cram a marathon's worth of info into a sprint is like trying to stuff a holiday turkey into a hotdog bun — not a pretty sight.
Tailor the details to fit your allotted time and create a relaxed, well-paced presentation that'll have your audience nodding along (not checking their watches).
Beware These Warning Signs That You’re Including Too Much Detail
When you’re prepping for your presentation — or when you’re actually in front of your audience — watch out for these signs that you’re going into too much detail:
If your listeners start to resemble sleepy kittens or restless kangaroos, you might be drowning them in detail. Watch for the classic signs — the smartphone gazers, the fidgeters, and the drowsy guy in the back who can’t make eye contact. When you’re dishing out too many details, you risk dimming the lights of people’s understanding.
If your presentation has more numbers, technical talk, and head-spinning concepts than a NASA briefing, you might be tipping into data overload. Your audience could end up dazed and struggling to process the information avalanche. Aim for a balanced blend of information served up in bite-sized, easily digestible chunks.
Avoid the slide swamp
Densely-packed slides are also a big red flag that you’re overdoing the details. Remember, slides are the backup singers to your lead vocal, not an echo.
Whip your message into shape with crisp bullet points, snappy visuals, and just enough text to keep the show on the road. You can also use the 7 by 7 rule: Use a maximum of 7 lines of text on any single slide, and include no more than 7 words on each line.
Stay the course
If your presentation is meandering and you're dishing out side information like a trivia night host, you might be on a detail detour. A focused presentation should have the logical flow of a well-planned journey and have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Keep your audience on the main road and spare them confusing, unnecessary scenic routes.
Including the right amount of information in your presentation can mean the difference between a standing ovation and a restless audience. Mastering the art of detail management isn't rocket science — it just requires a clear understanding of your audience, your goals, and your content. And remember, less is often more.
Eager to put these tips into action? With Showcase Workshop, you can customize your presentations to fit your audience’s needs with just a few clicks. Get started with a free trial and bring your presentations to life with just the right amount of detail.