Living large: "Takahashi Method" uses king-sized text as a visual
September 13, 2005
In the Japanese language Nikkei newspaper yesterday I stumbled upon an interesting article featuring stories on people who have started small grassroots movements — however unintentional — by doing something in a unique way. One such person is Mr. Masayoshi Takahashi who has gotten a lot of people interested in his unique way of presenting, now labeled the "Takahashi Method."
Takahashi uses only text in his slides. But not just any text — really big text. Huge text. Characters of impressive proportion which rarely number more than ten, usually fewer. The goal, he says, is to use short words rather than long, complicated words and phrases. Last year Takahashi gave a presentation at a conference using the method or style that he created. People were deeply impressed by his presentation — not the content, but his slides. Over the past year, blogs across Japan have been buzzing about Takahashi and his presentation style and people began calling it the "Takahashi Method."
Why this method?
About four years ago Takahashi had to give a 5-minute presentation at a conference. He wanted a way to get his message clear and powerful in such a short time and found that his method was excellent for having people understand and remember his presentation.
Takahashi is a computer programmer who did not have software like PowerPoint (the slide above says "I don't have PowerPoint"). He says he did not have access to photos or drawing programs either. So he was stuck with text. Still, he wanted to be different. He wanted to be effective. So he started thinking very hard about how to use the best word for each slide as he took the audience through his presentation. The words or phrases resemble Japanese newspaper headlines rather than sentences which must be read. His slides, though they are all text, are visual, visual in the sense that (if you read Japanese) they are instantly understood and support his talk. As he says, if you have bullets or sentences, the audience will read those and may miss what you are saying.
Is the method applicable?
I really like aspects of Takahashi's approach (in terms of slides). Takahashi says that the method is really designed for people who are not good at presentations and who are quite nervous about the idea of presenting. This method, then, is easy to do, helps the presenter get organized during planning and keeps the presenter on track while presenting. The method provides clear visual support for the audience and helps make the content more memorable. While it may not be a perfect method or applicable in all situations, it is still far better than the method used by most business people in Japan. Most slide presentations in Japan consists of boring reams of bulleted text (used later or simultaneously as "handouts") which many people can not read since the text on screen is too small (though that rarely keeps people from trying to read the slides anyway).
The slides used in my presentations are usually a mix of full-screen, high-quality photos, some charts/graphs, and slides with single words, short phrases, or short quotations. The idea of using very, very large type on screen is a good one. And though I think photos and graphics can be most effective, when we do use text on a slide, we would be well advised to keep it large and concise.
You can see all the slides here used by Takahashi in his recent presentation on "The Takahashi Method." The sample slides I feature below were taken from his presentation slides available on-line. In Photoshop I added a background screen to give the slides context.
(Left) "The Takahashi Method" title slide. (Right) "Huge characters" — He stresses using large letters on slides.
(Left) "Easy to see." He states that small text is impossible for people in the back to see, so keep it "big." (Right) "History." Takahashi begins to talk about the background of his method.
(Left) "Four" main points he'd like to discuss. (Right) The "first" point is....