Part of: Audiences, devices, channels
Last updated: 6 January, 2020
Following this helps people with:
visual impairments: minimal text in a large font is easier to see
no vision: describing slide content gives access aurally
hearing impairments: live captioning can make speech accessible
cognitive impairments: clear language reduces cognitive load
anxiety: clear information and a slow pace is easier to take in
non-fluency: simple language is more comprehensible
Minimal, clear content and alternative formats will make your presentation more inclusive.
1 sentence summarising each point you make. Maximum 7 words for each line. This will increase readability. And keeping the text to a minimum allows audience to follow the speaker, not the slide.
Consider people who photograph slides to digest later: make sure points make sense out of context of the spoken content.
Too many slides are distracting. And on average we only remember around 20% of what we are presented with. Why make it harder?
Bullet points are not universally agreed to be user-friendly for presentations.
Make sure they at least follow the same rules as your other slide content: no more than 7 words on each line and large font. Consider presenting 1 concept on each slide.
Pause, ask questions, walk around. Consider including an interactive element or activity in your presentation or talk. This helps your audience stay attentive, as they will be changing between different learning methods.
Your presentation text needs to be easily read from the back of the room. Never use a smaller font size than 36pt and choose non-serif.
Choose a size larger than you might think, then sit far away from the screen and squint to test. At Content Design London we use a font size of minimum 60pt. This makes it very easy to read.
Various online tools are available to check this, and Powerpoint has built in tools.
WCAG 2.1 recommends 3:1 for large-scale text and images of large-scale text. This applies to text on presentation slides.
Make sure any graphic content in your presentation can be seen from the back of the room. It may need to be larger than you think. Check that labels are in clear language and large font.
Avoid 3D graphs and pie charts, these are hard to read.
Avoid including complex graphs to convey information. Explain information about the data simply, introducing 1 piece of information at a time. This reduces cognitive load for your audience.
These can be distracting, especially if they loop. Always explain what is happening.
This allows deaf attendees to access the information provided through video, if they are able to read.
Having explanations of video content ready also helps you as a presenter, if they do not load or play properly.
If people will access your slide deck out of context of the talk:
include alt text on images and GIFs
caption video content
Allow for the time it takes to translate spoken content. Auto captioning by Google or Powerpoint requires a good internet connection and is not as accurate as a dedicated live caption service.
Some audience members may have communicated through sign language from birth. English will be a second language for them if they speak it at all.
Including sign language access to your presentation will open your presentation or talk up to another audience segment. However Content Design London was advised that currently there are not enough sign language translators. So be aware of that too, as there may be a greater need for sign language translation at another event happening at the same time.
Make sure these are working as you expect:
presentation display contrast – you may have to adjust light levels in the space
amplification, speakers and microphones – check these are functioning
Check the space is accessible for blind participants who may be using canes to navigate.
Make sure bags and equipment are not a trip hazard. Ask participants to put their bags under their desk or seat.
Your delivery will seem slower than it is if you are nervous: slow down.
This will allow participants using sign language interpretation to focus on 1 thing at a time: presenter, interpreter, or slide. Translation to sign or live captioning takes time, so allow for this, especially when referring to slides.
Speaking slowly and clearly also makes your spoken content clearer for:
people with cognitive impairments
audience members not fluent in the presentation language
Explain all images. Include context and reference the source material. You do not need to describe purely decorative images.
Describe graphics, videos and other visuals to the extent needed to understand your presentation. For example explain the important points a graph demonstrates. This will also help participants who find graphs hard to interpret.
Text is also a visual element of your slide. Make sure what you have as written content on your slide is covered by what you say while you are showing that slide.
If, for example, you say something is “the height of that table” add that the table is about 1 metre high, or however high it is.
If 1 of the participants has a reaction during a group discussion that sighted participants can notice, describe this, for example “Louisa is nodding.”
This allows deaf people and people without full hearing to read it, before lip-reading or reading the live captions of what you say.
Similarly, it allows people who can read to read what is on the slide in full and not miss the first thing you say because they are still reading.
This is particularly helpful for people with cognitive impairments who may find it very difficult to understand 2 different things at the same time.
This gives people time to process the information.
This especially helps participants who are lip-reading, but we all have less cognitive load when we can see the face of the person speaking.
Try to stand as close to the audience as possible. Move around the space if you can so that people have as equal as possible an experience.
They are distracting. Let audience members absorb the material you present at their own pace.
Some assistive tech requires it. For example: ALDs/hearing loops and remote CART writers.
Avoid "Can you hear me OK?" This is not a question everyone will be comfortable replying to.
Take audience questions using a microphone, so that everyone can hear.
Even with a microphone, it’s possible not everyone will hear or understand the question. This could be because the question is phrased in a complex way. Or the person has a strong accent, or is not speaking loudly and clearly enough for everyone to understand, even with the microphone.
When asking for people to raise their hands, describe the reaction. For example, “Ahh, we have about 5 people with their hands up. Let’s start with the person at the back in the green jumper.”
Asking questions in a crowd can be intimidating. It can be an access challenge. Be respectful of this. Be patient: do not rush or pressurise anyone. Allow them to ask their question in their own style.
Consider alternatives like Slido, an application that allows people to type and post their questions to the presenter.
Give everyone a chance, try not to let 1 audience member dominate the question and answer session.
If there are no questions, politely thank your audience and finish.
Accessible Writing Guide Anna Cavender, Shari Trewin, Vicki Hanson, Sig Access: Special Interest Group on Accessible Computing, 2015
How to make your presentations accessible to all, W3.org, World Wide Web Consortium, May 2018
PowerPoint Accessibility, WebAIM, 2019
Running Accessible Meetings and Events, Sheri Byrne-Haber, CPACC Certified Accessibility professional, March 2019. We acknowledge Medium.com is not wholly accessible and will update this link if we find the article available in an alternative format.
The Use of Visualization in the Communication of Business Strategies: An Experimental Evaluation, Sebastian Kernbach, Martin J. Eppler, Sabrina Bresciani, 2014. Paywall: need account or pay download cost to access.
Guidelines to PowerPoint Presentations: online PDF, World Blind Union, 2017, hosted on RNIB website
Guidelines to PowerPoint Presentations: download PDF, World Blind Union, 2017, International Disability Alliance website
5 Strategies for Presenting UX RemotelySarah Gibbons, NNg Nielson Norman Group, 2017. Tips on making remote presentations more human and usable: some apply to on-site presentations too and reinforce other evidence we’ve collected.
Doing the hard work to make talks readable, Giles Turnbull, Government Digital Service blog, 2016