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The Math Behind Great Presentations

Nice presentation. Too bad everyone was busy squinting, straining or otherwise contorting their bodies trying to see it. Those participating by video conference weren’t so lucky.

While many people are quick to blame such problems on their presentation equipment, often the real problem is their math. For in-room and remote meeting participants alike, comfortable, contortion-free presentation viewing is all about distance and angles.

For better or worse, most presentations are made up of bullet points and spreadsheets. Everyone in the room can probably see the monitor, but can they see the number in row 76, column J that is causing margins to drop?


When it comes to distance, there are two variables at work: monitor size and room size. Either your monitor size will determine how far away the furthest participant can be seated from the monitor…or…the furthest distance a participant will be seated determines the minimum size of the monitor you will need.

Either way, the general rule of thumb is the furthest seat from the monitor should be no more than three times the diagonal measurement of the monitor. So, if you already have a 55-inch (diagonal screen measurement) monitor, you would not want any seats to be more than 165 inches (3 x 55 inches – or about 14 feet) away.

If your company’s native language is Excel, you may want to take this one step further and establish guidelines on font type and minimum font size to be used in presentations. What is being measured is the height of the font as it is displayed on the monitor. The multiplier is 150. If the font measures two inches high on the monitor, then the maximum distance from the screen is 300 inches (2 inches x 150 – or about 25 feet). Every inch in monitor font height adds 150 inches in distance.

Of course, this begs the question – “Is there such a thing as being too close?” Go ahead. Sit in the very first row at a movie theater…and then let us know how that works for you. Or simply follow the general guideline that the closest seat to the monitor is no closer than the monitor’s diagonal measurement. For a 55-inch monitor, the closest seating to the monitor would be 55 inches (or about five feet) away.


With the size of monitor and distance all figured out, next comes placement of the monitor. For this, we use the closest seated position to the monitor. With a hypothetical seated person looking straight ahead (basically representing 0 degrees), the top of the screen should be no higher than 30 degrees above the person’s standard line of sight with the middle of the screen being at about 15 degrees.

Earlier we figured out the closest and furthest seating positions. But, invariably there are those who seem to prefer hugging the walls. Just how far can they push back from the central line of sight and still see everything you are presenting?

With the center of the screen being the axis, anyone sitting within a 45-degree angle on either side of the axis should be good. Beyond 45 degrees and they may be there for a nap rather than your presentation. Sorry.

ExhibitOne Conference Room Presentations

It should be comforting to know there is now something other than just equipment to blame when you hear complaints from meeting participants. Moreover, whether it’s an issue of technology or math ExhibitOne can help with both. Now, on the off-chance the contorted looks of participants are actually in reaction to the presentation itself…well…we’ll help where we can, but you’re pretty much on your own.


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