It goes without saying that a compelling investor presentation deck can be a resourceful tool for providing a company’s value proposition. The visual content of the deck, in particular, plays an impactful role in the process of delivering this messaging. As Scott Berinato, a Senior Editor at Harvard Business Review, previously indicated, “A good visualization can communicate the nature and potential impact of information and ideas more powerfully than any other form of communication.”
Content should be essentially focused on messaging in a simple and concise way, without extraneous material, to avoid overloading sensory processing that could lead to incorrect understanding. According to Richard Mayer’s research on multimedia learning, information processing is in part based on the assumption of limited capacity, which suggests that we have a limit on the amount of information that can be processed at one time. In considering this assumption, along with other cognitive principles, researchers from Stanford, the University of Amsterdam and Harvard found that many presentations could benefit from these psychological foundations. The following is a snapshot of this research, including certain cognitive principles to consider in reviewing slide content, such as limited capacity, discriminability, perceptual organization and compatibility.
Beginning with limited capacity, our working memory can hold about four elements of information at a given time, and an overflow of information beyond four units can overwhelm processing of that information. As a result, it is good practice to avoid presenting more than four concepts in a slide. If including bullets with these main points, brevity is important, and organizational ordering of some sort can also help the audience in better retaining the information. Also, in reviewing slide content, consider questions like the following:
1) If using bullets, are there more than four introduced?
2) Is there more than one line being used for any of the bullets?
3) Is there direct labeling on concepts?
4) Is there a key being used to identify elements when they could be labeled directly?
5) Are complicated concepts organized and separated in parts?
To achieve ease in distinguishing between two properties, e.g., with colors or with the font size between labels and descriptions, the contrast between the two properties should be sufficient to clearly show delineation. In reviewing slides, ask the following:
1) Is the text contrasted sufficiently from the background, e.g., black font on white space or white font on darker backgrounds?
2) Are the entries in a table large enough to be read easily?
3) Are the slide titles and logo of the company distinctly reflected from the main content of each slide?
4) Do adjacent colors have clear separation in the color spectrum?
5) Are font sizes appropriately applied and easily readable?
The principle of perceptual organization assumes that people segregate perceivable elements into groups in some cases through proximity or similarity. To aid in this natural tendency, grouped elements can be separated by distinct lines, colors, shapes or other forms. On spacing and placement of content in slides, consider asking:
1) Are labels simply applied near the corresponding elements, and is there appropriate spacing present for labels in keys, charts, graphs, etc.?
2) If there are grouped conceptual elements, are related graphics, common colors, text and lines proportionately laid out?
3) Are elements in the foreground and background appropriately separated?
4) Is independence achieved between different groups of concepts?
5) Are groups uniformly organized, e.g., bullets that follow an icon?
The properties of visual content should be consistent with the actual content for ease in interpretation and understanding. The researchers in this study pointed to the “Stroop Effect” as an example where people were found to have more difficulty naming the color of the ink used when the words were in a different colored ink from the color named (e.g., blue ink used for the word red). For compatibility within slides, consider asking the following:
1) Are the graphics, background patterns, text, etc. coordinated for compatibility?
2) Are line graphs used to describe trends and mixed bar/line displays used for interactions?
3) Is the right font used in relation to the type of presentation (i.e., modern fonts rather than traditional fonts)?
4) Are the right layouts of charts and tables used for the subject matter?
5) Is a map used for geographical representation?
Improving the visual content of an investor presentation will improve the delivery of a company’s messaging. When creating an investor presentation, be sure to consider the questions mentioned here to ensure your slides are simple and concise. For help reviewing your investor presentation and determining whether any updates are needed, please contact us today.
Ji-Yon Yi, Associate
 Kosslyn, S, Kievit, R., Russell, A., Shephard, J., 2012, ’PowerPoint presentation flaws and failures: a psychological analysis’, Frontiers in Psychology, vol. 3, no. 230.