What is the 7 by 7 Rule for PowerPoint Presentations?


what is the 7 by 7 rule for PowerPoint

PowerPoint presentations are a powerful way of conveying a message to your colleagues, clients, and peers. The problem is if you do not know how to use PowerPoint in a way that grabs the attention of your audience, you might lose them by the second slide. This is where the 7 by 7 rule comes in handy. But, what exactly is it?

The 7 by 7 rule is a method used where each line has no more than 7 words and a slide has no more than 7 lines. This is a way of keeping your presentations easily readable and understandable to the audience. If your lines and slides are too “wordy” you run the risk of turning your audience away.

It is easy to forget the role of the audience in a presentation’s success. It does not matter how much time and energy you put into a presentation if your audience finds it a drab. If your presentation does not grab the attention of your audience, all the other qualities become meaningless.

The 7 by 7 rule lets you overcome this challenge with ease even if you are a beginner. So, let’s talk about this rule for PowerPoint.

What is the 7 by 7 Rule for PowerPoint?

I want you to think of how much effort you are putting into your presentations. Imagine all that work only for your audience to lose interest within the first few minutes. This happens more than most people think.

Using the 7 by 7 rule is the best way to keep your audience interested in the presentation. All it means is, there must be no more than 7 lines per slide and no more than 7 words per line.

The 7 by 7 rule is for presentations that have a lot of information in them. You get different rules such as the “5 by 5”, the “6 by 6”, and of course the 7 by 7. The last one being the bigger of the 3 and the focus of this article, it is used for presentations that are jam-packed with information.

While this rule helps, it is important to note that you still need to create a great presentation. The 7 by 7 rule should be used as a guideline to improve the presentation. Unfortunately, there is no secret method that can be a substitute for a well researched and well put together the presentation.

Why 7 Lines Per Slide?

When someone has a lot on their mind regarding their work and personal life, sitting in for a presentation can be a little tiring. It is easy for people to wander off into the abyss of their minds. This does not have to be the case for your presentations.

The 7 line rule is a guideline to help you keep your slides as clean and easily readable as possible. It is to reduce clutter in each of your slides so that when your audience scans the slide, they can easily navigate each point you are trying to make.

Use the guideline to help you stay on the topic through each slide. It is best to use each line as a bullet point and when you combine this with the 7-word rule below, your audience will mostly stay focused.

Another aspect that you need to keep in mind is that these 7 lines are merely points for you to elaborate on. Think of them as trigger points that will help you remember the overall discussion that you want to have for a particular slide.

You don’t want the audience to just read what is written on the slides. This will become boring pretty quickly. Keeping the points short and succinct, and directly related to the topic of your presentation is key to keeping the audience engaged. This way, the audience will also be able to absorb all the information a lot easier than if your slide was cluttered.

Why 7 Words Per Line?

When I see a presentation that has too much stuff on it, it is a big turn off for me.

A common mistake we make is to make the slide look too text-heavy, and we sound too verbose when we are trying to explain something. This is especially true when we are passionate about something. Being passionate about something is great but being too verbose is a sure-fire way to lose your audience in the clutter of words.

Using the 7-word guideline will help you be specific. You do not even have to structure your sentences, in fact, why not just get rid of sentences altogether? With the 7 word rule, you can make short statements.

Try to structure each line with small bullet points instead of long drawn-out sentences. This will help your presentation be more factual and less boring.

Remember, you want to use the slides only as visual reference to the points that you want to make during the presentation. Thus, it doesn’t make sense to stuff it with words when you are anyway going to talk about it.

How to Create the 7 by 7 Rule in PowerPoint

Great, so you are considering implementing this into your next presentation and want to know how to do it!

Making a presentation using the 7 by 7 rule is as easy as the name sounds. There is no specific option or a flip-switch that will help you create your presentation using the 7 by 7 rule in PowerPoint.

It is all about structuring the presentation according to the rule. Use the rule to structure the content on the slides in a clean a clutterless fashion. Use each line as a bullet point and the words per line should be mini statements instead of sentences.

That said, there are a few tips that can help you master this technique of presentation creation.

Tip 1 – Treat Each Line as a Reference for the Overall Point

It can not be highlighted enough that you ought to use the slides with text only as a reference to the whole story that you want to share using that slide.

Think of it this way – the slides that you are creating are like your personal short-hand notes. Only you can make a complete sense of what is written and connect the dots from one bullet point to another.

Likewise, when writing the text on the slides, make it more like short-hand personal notes that you can look at and elaborate in detail during the presentation. Keep it brief and succinct such that each line triggers the memory in your brain about what you want to convey on that specific slide.

This does 2 things –

  • It makes sure that merely by reading what is written on the slide, your audience is not completely able to understand the point. Thus, they have to actively listen to your brief explanation of the point on the slide. This keeps them engaged and involved during the presentation.
  • It also ensures that the audience is looking at you rather than the screen. That way, you can keep them engaged with your expressions and gestures.

Tip 2 – Don’t make it Obvious, use the Text for a Brain-tease

This one is a pro-tip!

Instead of using the text on the slides to merely laying out what point of a research study, you can perhaps pose a question or an interesting fact!

So, for instance, if you are giving a presentation about the fastest car on the earth and you want to talk about the speed of the car on a particular slide –

Instead of stating that the car is fast, and it goes at 305 mph, you could write the text a bit differently as follows –

  • Bugatti Chiron – A Rocket on Road!

This clearly highlights that you will be talking about a fast car, but they still need to hear you out completely to fully understand the speed of the car and how it feels while driving the car.

As you can see, this example also kind of ties in with the first tip.

Remember, you don’t have to be conventional with the text on the slides. It is a presentation and not a word document.

What Is The Goal Of The 7 By 7 Rule

When it comes to the goal of the 7 by 7 rule, there are 3 main goals that it is designed to help you achieve. If you stick with the guideline, your presentation will have a greater chance of selling your product. Even if you are not selling anything, it will help your audience better understand the presentation.

Below is a list of the 3 main goals of the 7 by 7 rule, we will go into more detail for each one:

  • Keep your presentation on topic.
  • Reduces clutter and improves readability.
  • Captivate your audience from start to finish.

Now, let us take a quick look at each of these goals a little bit closer and find out how it all fits together.

1. Keeps your Presentation on Topic

Sometimes it is hard to stay on topic throughout an entire presentation. It becomes even harder if your presentation is full of non-important words.

This is especially true when we are passionate about what we are talking about or selling. So, use the 7 by 7 rule to help you stay on topic.

2. Readability

A good portion of your audience will scan a slide before you even start talking. You want them to finish their scan as soon as possible and you want them to understand as much as possible. This is so that they can turn their attention back to you.

You don’t want your presentations to be cluttered or your sentences to be drawn out. This will make it harder for the audience to scan the slide. This might lead to them feeling lost as they will have missed most of your points.

3. Captivate your Audience

This pretty much stems from the readability goal. If you lose an audience member, even just through one slide, it is hard to draw them back in. The minute they feel lost, their mind starts wandering to all the important things they could be doing.

The 7 by 7 rule, if followed and implemented in an already good presentation, is designed to not only assist you but also assist your audience. It is a great way to grab and hold their attention.

Different Variations of the 7 by 7 Rule

There are a few different variations of this rule but the concept stays the same. If you have mastered how to convey your messages with as little wording as possible you could use fewer lines and fewer words per line. Let’s take a quick look at these rules.

  • 5 by 5: 5 lines per slide and 5 words per line.
  • 6 by 6: 6 lines per slide and 6 words per line.
  • 7 by 7: 7 lines per slide and 7 words per line.
  • 8 by 8: 8 lines per slide and 8 words per line.

As you can see, the concept stays the same for each of these rules.

Rule of 7 vs 7 by 7 Rule: What’s the Difference?

Sometimes people, especially in sales, might mistake the 7 by 7 rule with the rule of 7. There is a big difference between the two and in fact, they are not related at all. We have discussed, in detail, the 7 by 7 rule so lets just briefly explain what the rule of 7 is.

The rule of 7 is a simple but old marketing concept that is tried and tested to work. It suggests that if a customer sees your product or service 7 times, they are likely to become a customer or client.

I guess you can add the rule of 7 to your presentations if you are trying to sell something, perhaps in the form of pictures of your brand. That said, it should not be mistaken for the 7 by 7 rule.

Final Thoughts

Creating presentations, especially if you are the speaker, can be a little bit daunting. I could also use the word intimidating, because, let’s be honest, it is, especially for new professionals.

Luckily, there are experts who have developed techniques that make everything easier. These techniques, like the 7 by 7 rule can alleviate a lot of the stress of potentially losing your audience.

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