A friend referred me to Vinod Khosla’s Five-Second Rule at Forbes.com. It’s about the slide decks we use for presenting, and its wisdom is a lot like what you get in Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink or thousands of blog posts about the importance of headlines. Here’s the Vinod’s test for slide decks:
he puts a slide on a screen, removes it after five seconds, and then asks the viewer to describe the slide. A dense slide fails the test—and fails to provide the basic function of any visual: to aid the presentation.
Post author Jerry Weissman explains how this addresses two of the most important elements of presentation graphics:
Less is More, a plea all too often sounded by helpless audiences to hapless presenters; and more important, the human perception factor. Whenever an image appears on any screen, the eyes of every member of every audience reflexively move to the screen to process the new image. The denser the image, the more processing the audiences need.
This is a good example of the underlying principle of instant rejection. It applies as well to emails, blog posts, and other content. It’s as simple as turning the page, switching the channel, or going on to the next email. As a communicator, or content provider, you get an instant to pitch your message before the attention moves on. If you don’t win the instant, you got rejected.