An oldie-but-goodie post from entrepreneur Guy Kawasaki directly addresses the kind of problems the military has with complex PowerPoint decks—boring read-throughs stuffed with too much on-screen text. His parameters for preventing audience paralysis is dubbed the 10/20/30 rule.
Photo by alice_c.
Kawasaki, who we have no doubt has sat through his share of boring pitches, suggests that most people can only appreciate about 10 explanatory slides at most, and that's only if each slide speaks directly to solving a problem or a key aspect of something to learn. The 20 is a time limit—you may have an hour, but between setup, late-coming viewers, and the very important Q&A section, you'll want to limit yourself to 20 minutes.
The 30 means 30-point fonts—a smart creative constraint, and one that directly speaks to the US military's nightmare slides.
The reason people use a small font is twofold: first, that they don't know their material well enough; second, they think that more text is more convincing. Total bozosity. Force yourself to use no font smaller than thirty points. I guarantee it will make your presentations better because it requires you to find the most salient points and to know how to explain them well. If "thirty points" is too dogmatic, the I offer you an algorithm: find out the age of the oldest person in your audience and divide it by two. That's your optimal font size.
ReadWriteWeb also points to Alexei Kapterev's manifesto Death by PowerPoint, itself a very good presentation. What constraints do you put on yourself to ensure your own presentations don't turn your audience into very, very diligent email checkers?