Tuesday, January 22, 2008


The problem with slides

Yesterday afternoon, I gave a presentation with minimal slides. In fact, I used just one slide. I might as well have used too many.

Let me qualify.

I'm a fan of eliminating copy-heavy slides from presentations. Too many words, and they're reading - not listening. You might as well hand out a transcript and give them their 20 minutes back.

I've even started wondering just how important PowerPoint is to a presentation in the first place. Why not have great content, delivered in a dynamic way, without any slides, to get the point across? Isn't that what happened before PowerPoint? Didn't people simply orate in a fantastic, memorable way?

That can work. But so can good slides. Not word-filled slides, but example-filled slides.

I gave several examples of work in progress in my presentation yesterday. I talked about them, anyway.

I should have showed samples of this work in the presentation. Not words describing it on the slide, but screen grabs and snapshots of the work itself. Something to bring my words to life, make it pop for the audio and visual learners in the room.

I discussed several anecdotes and metaphorical case study examples from across the Web to prove several points. I used my words to paint a picture, when dynamic visuals of what I was describing could have been more compelling, more attention-grabbing.

I think the presentation went well, but it didn't go great. I went too far in my attempt to avoid the PowerPoint pitfalls that are all to common in corporate presentations these days.

What I learned, ironically, is essentially the same lesson - just from the other end.

Slides with too many words are a distraction. They don't help you tell a story. Presentations with no visuals can sometimes work, but visuals that augment the story, and really bring it to life, can make a good presentation great.

I'm addressing this same group again on tomorrow, and am making significant changes to my visual presentation. We'll see how it goes.


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