You probably don’t put a lot of thought into the fonts you choose for your presentations. If the font is legible – no Comic Sans in neon green, please – you move on to other things. While Microsoft Word gives you more than 100 options for fonts, most people only use a select handful – Arial, Times New Roman, or Calibri being some of the popular choices. There are thousands more available for download on the Web, even bespoke fonts that can be created just for you. What’s so important about finding the right font?
Think of fonts as a personality that you assign to your words. It might be a little bit quirky if you’re making a point in a humorous way, or sophisticated when introducing your company. As visual creatures, human subconsciously associate the shapes they see with the meaning of the information that they read. The brain takes input from the eyes not just about what the text is communicating, but also about the associations correlated to the image of the letters. That’s why it’s hard to take something written in Comic Sans seriously; why something in Lucida looks fancy and important; and why Times New Roman is the everyman’s font.
When considering what font to use in your presentation – one that speaks to your message and represents you and your product – it’s also important to make sure that the font is still legible. However beautiful a font might be, the content that it communicates is still the most important aspect. Also, how you display your font will impact how well your audience pays attention to and absorbs the information on the screen. You’ll want to take into account the following features when choosing a font for a digital presentation:
Size and line length
Your audience’s experience reading your presentation is greatly impacted by the size and layout of the text. It’s tiring to the eyes and the mind to read too-small font for the duration of a webinar. Assuming that most of them will be viewing your webinar from a desktop computer, set the font at 16 point or higher and limit the text to 30-40 characters per line. For mobile devices, even fewer lines are desirable, but this should work interchangeably between different types of viewing screens.
However stylish and legible your font is, that won’t matter if it’s in a shade that makes the eyes bleary. Readability is required to make the design of your presentation flow and deliver effective content. Black text on white background is the standard; grey text on a lighter grey background is trendy. What makes these combinations work is a good degree of contrast between the text and background. You can use other combinations of colors, playing with the contrast to make the content accessible. It’s an art form to get it just right. Test it out by asking coworkers how easily they can read with your settings applied.
Serif or Sans
Have you ever wondered what the difference is between serif and sans serif fonts? The word “serif” means “line” or “stroke of the pen.” By that logic, serif fonts have fine lines at the ends of the letters, while sans serif fonts don’t. The common wisdom is that serif fonts have better readability – it’s easier and faster to parse through. However, the research to back that up isn’t conclusive. For some readers, the thickness of the serif fonts may actually make them harder to read. As with color, it’s best to test out what is most readable by having others read it before your presentation.
Consider the Purpose
Every font has a purpose – yes, even Comic Sans! There is a font for birthday banners, wedding invitations, business cards, and your own online presentation. Consider the tone that you want to set and how you want people to take in the content. While the information you present is the more important thing to pay attention to, the way it is represented in the font also influences how people absorb the information. When you choose a font, stick with it, or at most use two or three. Too much change in one presentation can be distracting. Goofy or elegant, flowy or block letters, take into account the sentiment you want to convey along with your message and choose a font accordingly.