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Beyond Solid Presentation Skills: Fonts Matter

Posted by Marsha Weisleder on 12/13/12 4:00 AM
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Everyone knows that solid presentation skills are critical for a successful presentation, but who knew that a font could make or break your presentation? Well, it can.

Until recently, your biggest decision may have been whether to go with serif or sans serif font. Serif fonts are the ones with little tails attached to each letter that help your eyes move from one character to the next. Newspapers and magazines use these fonts as they are easier to read. Sans serif fonts don’t have the tails and look more like stick letters. Although the debate continues, most would agree that sans serif is best for PowerPoint presentations. But have you ever thought about how others perceive your font choice and the effect it can have on them? Here are some amazing stories about the impact of a font.

I’m sure you’re all familiar with the famous IKEA catalogue. (By the way, love their merchandise but sometimes I find that it’s impossible to put together!) Anyway, it advertises that it’s the world’s most printed book. A couple of years ago, they decided to change their font from Futura to Verdana. Now, keep in mind, they had been using Futura for 50 years. They made the change to reach more people and needed a font that worked in both digital and print media.

Well, the backlash was severe. Ikea fans were outraged and the internet exploded with negative comments. One person posted, “It’s a sad day.” Some even started a petition urging IKEA to get rid of Verdana. Others tweeted posts such as, “Words can’t describe my disgust.”

In another article, scientists announced the discovery of a new particle, the long-sought Higgs Boson. Stephen Hawking called the discovery worthy of a Nobel Prize. Now, what I haven’t mentioned is they wrote the presentation using the Comic Sans font. Again, online, everyone focused on the font and not the discovery. This is just one of the many comments: “They used Comic Sans on the Higgs Boson PowerPoint presentation…there is no hope for mankind.”

In her book, “Slide:ology,” Nancy Duarte dissects the “personality” of a font. Get ready for this one; according to Nancy, Arial (my preference, by the way) equates to being stable and a conformist. Never really saw myself this way. Century Gothic reflects happy and elegant. Times New Roman is professional and traditional and Courier is plain and nerdy. Is anyone still using Courier?

I had no idea that people put so much importance on font selection! Is this news to you?

What’s your font of choice and do you agree that it matters?

Marsha has been a course leader with Langevin since 2000. She graduated from the University of Toronto with a Bachelor of Science in Neuroscience. She went on to attend Osgoode Hall Law School and practiced civil litigation for a few years. While working for a company as their in-house legal counsel, Marsha fell into a training position and never looked back! Each day, Marsha brings passion and excitement to her workshops, always encouraging her participants to find their own passion as well. Outside of the classroom, Marsha loves to spend time with her family, travel, and stay active. Of course her main obsession is Elvis! Some people might think she’s a little over-the-top about him, but doesn’t everyone have an Elvis shrine in their home? Maybe not…

Topics: presentation skills

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Our very own world-class course leaders share their experiences, tips, best practices, and expertise on virtual training, instructional design, needs analysis, e-learning, delivery, evaluation, presentation skills, facilitation, and much more!

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