Presenter’s Manifesto: Right Size Your Fonts

In Tip 5, we emphasized the need to minimize the number of words used in our slides. For the words that we do use, their visual styling is important to both imparting the message and avoiding boredom. Tip 9, Right Size Your Fonts, provides simple guidelines to ensure our words are easily read.

Eye Chart

Here are several approaches to selecting font size suggested by presentation experts, sorted from easiest to more complex.

  • Stand in the back of the room where the presentation will be held and flip through the slides. If you can’t see it well from the back row, the font is too small. (Nancy Duarte)
  • Divide the oldest attendee’s age by two and make that the minimum font size. (This is my favorite, from Guy Kawasaki.)
  • View your presentation at a zoom level such that the slides are about 1″ wide. For Powerpoint, use the Slide Sorter view at 66% zoom. For Keynote, use Lightbox view, and slide the magnifier bar until the slides are about 1” wide. If you can still read the slides, so can your audience. (Nancy Duarte)
  • Measure the diagonal size of your screen. For example, if you have a 22″ monitor, place a piece of tape on the floor 22 feet from your screen. Then, display a slide in full screen presentation mode and stand behind the tape. Whatever you can’t see probably won’t be seen from the back of the room either. (Nancy Durate)

The key point to remember is that we are creating slides, not documents, so 28 points and larger is usually best. My previous rule of thumb was to use font sizes no smaller than 18 points, but based on experience I’ve upped it to 24. Anything smaller usually means we’re probably trying to use too many bullet levels (i.e. creating a document), and as we said in Tip 8, just one level of bullets is best.

As thoughtful presenters, we practice Tip 9, Right Size Your Fonts to ensure our content can be seen by the entire audience and have its intended effect.

This post is part of the series “The Presenter’s Manifesto”.  You can find the beginning of the series here: Presenter’s Manifesto – Prologue

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