Some Tips for On-Screen Presentation

I’m running a workshop on technology and worship for a few lay leaders this coming weekend.  As a part of the gig we’ll be talking about putting together presentations for worship, in particular song lyrics, sermons and readings.  What follows is a collection of tips that I’ll be using for the gig, I’ll be putting a few images together to go with the tips and a simpler handout, when I’ve put them together I’ll upload them and add them to this post.

a) Sing the song

Sing the song or read the text through before you put it to the file. This will help you understand where to put line and paragraph breaks, notice where you pause, where you breathe and where the punctuation breaks are, allow this to guide you in putting the presentation together.

Punctuation is not always needed. When singing a song the punctuation is up to your preference, many people intuitively create line or paragraph breaks where punctuation would normally cause a pause or break.

b) Give the text breathing room

More than 5 lines per screen will make the presentation look busy, you’ll find it will be more effective if you spread out the text across several screens rather than cramming them all into one. Give the text breathing room and keep the line limit to a maximum of 4-5 lines per screen.

Break the lines manually, don’t use word wrap, try and avoid “orphan words,” words that take up a line by
themselves,
can you resize the text a little, or perhaps break the paragraph up differently to avoid the lone word?

I generally allow for a line spacing of 1.2 or 1.3 when creating on-screen presentations, this allows for some space between lines but not enough space to disconnect each of the lines as you read them.

c) Size

Keep the text to a readable font-size, experiment and decide what’s too large and too small and sit somewhere in between, try somewhere between 32 and 48 points. If you’re in doubt find the youngest and oldest members of your congregation and sit them at the rear of the venue and show them different size text until they can both read them, that should give you a good guide.

d) To Boldly Go

Avoid using CAPS LOCK. CAPS LOCK IN AN EMAIL OR ON SCREEN GIVES PEOPLE THE IMPRESSION THAT THEY ARE BEING YELLED AT, it also hinders people’s ability to read clearly on screen.

Making the text bold in songs may make reading the text easier, give it a try and see how it works with your projector in your space. Making the responsive text bold in responsive prayers and perhaps a different colour can help people distinguish between the leader’s words and the responsive section.

It’s also a helpful rule to avoid using either italic or underlining text when projecting on a screen, use italics at a last resort.

e) Align left.

There’s a lot of debate as to if you should align left or centre.

One of the theories is that if you align left it will make reading the text easier for people who have english as a second language, older people and younger people learning to read. Left aligned gives the reader the same starting point at the left of the screen for every line. As a result I suggest aligning left for reasons of literacy rather than design.

If you do choose to align centre then consistency is important, if you choose to align centre for one song during the presentation / service then stick to that as the “norm” for the presentation.

f) Fonts / Typography

There are two main kinds of font: Serif and Sans-Serif.

Serif Font – Fonts with “feet” (Times New Roman, Minion Pro, Baskerville, Georgia, Times)
Serif fonts are usually used in books and, on screen can be used for titles of songs or header titles. As they’re older fonts they carry with them (still) a more authoritative meaning, associated with being elegant, formal, confident.

San-Serif Font – Fonts without “feet” (Arial, Myriad Pro, Helvetica, Lucida Grande, Century Gothic, Gill Sans Bold, Verdana)
Sans in french means “without” so Sans-Serif fonts are fonts without the feet. San-Serif fonts are easier to read on screen and are best used for text that will be read from the screen, use these types of fonts for lyrics, bible readings or text.

While Serif fonts work really well on print, guiding the reader from one word to the next this doesn’t translate to on-screen or projected text. Practically Serif fonts weren’t used on screens due to the fonts not showing up well on computer screens or projectors with many being too thin to read and flickering on the screen, comparatively the San-Serif font was easier to read on computer screens and projector screens. It’s true that while screens and projectors are getting sharper one could argue that these rules do not apply, but I still think it’s good to stick to the old guideline.

Once again, consistency is recommended. Choose three fonts per presentation (per service) and stick with them. If you decide to be consistent in all your presentations then it makes it easier for you to create a template to which you can stick to.

Note that fonts aren’t necessarily on every computer. If you set the presentation up on your own computer using a particular font make sure that the computer you’re using at church also has that font.

*Avoid using the font “Comic Sans” seriously… if you use it you should stop.

g) Colour

It’s a good rule to use light text on dark background.

If you’re using older projectors or if there is a lot of ambient light in the room then try using dark text on a white background.

Some forms of dyslexia are apparently set off by bright backgrounds vs dark text. Be aware that your congregation may experience your presentations differently due to a variety of issues, as such many congregations tend to use bright text on a dark background.

It’s a good thing to also be aware that colours convey meaning, blue traditionally has meant cold/calm while red has meant passionate/angry/warm.

Keep people who are colourblind in mind (which means avoid combinations of reds, greens, browns, oranges and yellows).

Avoid these combinations

  • red and black
  • green and purple
  • light green and yellow
  • red and green
  • orange and blue
  • red and blue
  • orange and pink
  • brown and grey

Good combinations

  • black and white / off white
  • black and very light grey / off white
  • dark purple and white / off white
  • dark blue and white / off white
  • black and yellow
  • dark blue and yellow

h) Simple is Good – Less is more

Keep presentations simple.

Normal design principles suggest to choose three fonts per presentation, adding many different fonts can cause reading issues with some participants and distract participants. Try choosing one font for headlines, one for normal text and another for the CCLI information. Many churches have made the decision to stick with the same fonts for every song to maintain consistency.

Just because you can create different creative transitions doesn’t mean that you need to, or that you should. Transitions take time, create compatibility issues between computers/programs and cause difficulty in reading text or taking in images. If you use transitions during songs, even a quick fade some people will miss the first line of the verse/chorus because of the time the transition takes to happen.

Remember the focus point is the story, text or the image and not the transition.

i) Using Images / Motion Backgrounds

If you’re using images or motion backgrounds in your worship presentations there are a number of things to consider.

  • Images and videos may not have a colour scheme that suits showing text over, remember light over dark or dark over light, this becomes difficult when you’re using images or video.
  • Keep images to theme, if you’re talking about the different parts of the body then use images of hands, feet, faces. If your theme is on eating food together then use images of food.
  • Use one image per screen, avoid cramming 5 images onto one page of lyrics, it’ll distract people from the lyrics at hand. During one song consider using the same image for every screen.
  • If you’re using a motion background ensure it’s not too busy or fast moving as they can distract readers. Some examples of motion backgrounds can be sourced from http://faithinmotion.com.au
  • Images translate story, meaning & emotion better than text, use full screen high resolution images during sermons or talks instead of dot points and more text.

j) Copyright Information

Remember to put the appropriate copyright information on your music slides. In this case you can use a different font, colour and size so that the text doesn’t confuse people who are singing the song. Consider putting the copyright text left aligned from the centre of the page.

The information that needs to be shown includes:

The song title
Writer credit(s),
Copyright notice, and
Your church’s CCLI license number

In the case of using images/videos, use photos you have taken or sourced through legal means. You can use free stock image sources (eg http://www.freeimages.com or https://www.flickr.com/groups/2196348@N20/ ) or purchase stock images from stock image sites (eg. http://www.istockphoto.com )

k) Sit through your presentation

Sit through some of your presentations from different points in the worship space, ask yourself what makes the text easier to see, what makes the image clearer, can you read the text well from all points of view, does the light in the room affect the way that you can see the screen?

Perhaps you can sit through a few presentations with different layouts with a group of people and ask the same questions.

After sitting through your presentations go back to the computer and make alterations that may make it easier to enter into worship or into your presentation.