Today's post concerns a pet peeve… A phrase that presenters say to signal their audience that they have poorly designed presentation materials and couldn't be bothered to fix them for the benefit of the listeners.
"I know you can't read this, but…"
That's one big but! As an audience member, I don't really care what comes next. Whatever self-justification you have created is secondary to the fact that you just showed me something you KNEW wouldn't work within the context in which you were showing it.
Hey, I get it. I really do. Sometimes you have a complex architectural diagram that needs to be shown in its entirety to establish an overall context. Sometimes you need to show a citation exactly as written, for legal purposes. Sometimes you want to show a chart or table as it appears in a cited reference source so people will know what to look for when they do their own research later.
The solution is to change your conjunction. The word that comes after the comma is not "but"… it's "so."
"I know you can't read this, so I fixed it for you."
Now you immediately switch from the unreadable source to a modified version that works on the displayed screen.
Are you starting with a complex image? Use PowerPoint to copy and paste the entire image. Then crop the duplicate down to one small section you want to focus on. Drag the corner of the cropped portion to expand it to fill the screen. You can do this as many times as necessary to focus on successive portions of the picture.
If you're a PowerPoint wiz, you can use animation effects to zoom the expanded portions out from the full overview picture. Or use Morph transitions, or other fancy techniques (like setting the source image to a transparency emphasis effect). But if you are not comfortable with these manipulations, just shove the expanded piece onto its own slide.
You might want to copy the slide with the large, unreadable image and redisplay it between each expanded section. That lets you re-establish the context and which piece you are highlighting at each step of your explanation. You could even add an empty rectangle with a thick border as a highlight indicator to show which piece of the big picture you are about to expand and display.
Are you starting with a long text citation? Insert a nice, big text box on your slide that overlays the original source. Use a big, bold font and display one sentence from the original, or just some keywords that explain the one concept you want to highlight. As with images, you can do this as many times as necessary to move through concept points one at a time until you have covered everything you wanted to talk about.
This technique holds true when you are presenting in an auditorium setting to an audience looking at a big screen in front of the room. It holds true when you are presenting to individuals watching your webinar (perhaps on small mobile devices). It holds true when you are presenting to a few people gathered around your laptop in a conference room. There is never a justification for leaving something unreadable in your presentation. Fix it.