Gratuitous repost here, from Forbes – Vinod Khosla’s Five-Second Rule:
A Sanity Check for Every Presentation
By any measure, Vinod Khosla is one of the most influential people in business today. In his long and distinguished career, Mr. Khosla has contributed to the growth of hundreds of companies, primarily in his role as a venture capitalist; first at the renowned KPCB, and then, since 2004, at his own firm, Khosla Ventures. Among his notable successes are Sun Microsystems, Nexgen/AMD, Excite, and Juniper.
On their way to maturity, each of the many companies Mr. Khosla touched came under the scrutiny of his expert eye, assessing their business plans, balance sheets, strategic relationships, marketing materials, and especially their presentations. During his 25 years in venture capital, Mr. Khosla has seen as many—if not more—presentations than a presentation coach. Most of them were on Mondays, the day Silicon Valley venture firms traditionally allocate to screening pitches from new companies. Then, once the companies make it into the portfolio, Mr. Khosla continues to monitor and critique the presentations they develop to pitch to their potential customers and partners.
For each of them, he applies his five-second rule: 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.
By applying his simple rule, Mr. Khosla is addressing two of the most important elements in 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. At that very moment, they stop listening to the presenter. Nevertheless, most presenters continue speaking, further compounding the processing task. As a result, the audience shuts down. Game over.
The simple solution to this pervasive problem is one that readers of my books will recognize: use television news programs as a role model. With vast high-tech graphics resources at their disposal, all the broadcasters show is a simple image composed of a picture and one or two words to serve as a headline for the story that the anchor person tells. In presentations, consider yourself as the anchor person, and design slides that pass Mr. Khosla’s five-second test to serve as the headline for your story.