The big bad wolf called … Slideshows!

During my trainings I often get questions about PowerPoint or Keynote . “How should we use it? Is it good? Should we use Prezi?  How many slides should we show?”

Instinctively my first answer would be “Get rid of it!”

When I think a little bit further, I would say: “No, don’t get rid of it. Just use it differently.“

Today a lot of people use a Slideshow as THE presentation. Basically they are the voice-over of their Slideshow-presentation. That is where it goes wrong. PowerPoint is meant to support your message. It adds ‘power’ to your ‘point’. It’s a visual to make your speech stronger.

It means that it is only support material, never a standalone thing.  It’s not:  “Hey, I missed your presentation, can you please send me the slide deck?“.  A strong slide cannot live by itself. Sending a slide deck would be useless, because the slides are just the supporting visual of the things you have said.

I no longer say, ‘get rid of it’, instead I would like to share these golden rules with you:

  • “People can’t read and listen at the same time”. If people have to choose, they tend to start reading first, and then they listen to what you have to say. Therefore be careful when using words on slides. Don’t put any full sentences on a slide. A simple word or maximum a couple of bullet points.
  • “A picture says it all”.  When people can visualise what you are talking about, it will be easier for them to remember what you said. Using pictures can help you paint the scene and it will trigger the emotions of the listener.
  • “It’s never about the numbers”. If you talk about numbers, it’s never about the numbers as such, it is about the interpretation of the numbers. Don’t show a table with numbers, instead show how you want your audience to interpret those numbers. For instance by using a rising or declining line. Know that your audience will never remember the figures, however they will take note of the interpretation you explain to them.
  • “Keep it simple”. A slide that cannot be understood in three seconds is garbage. It’s like a billboard: if you drive in your car and you see a billboard along the road, you don’t look at it for more than two to three seconds: it’s a ‘glance’ medium. If you have more than 3 seconds of information on it, work with build ups. You project one thing, explain it, make it very clear and simple to understand, and click for the next thing to appear. This way you build up a story that can be shown on one slide, e.g. an organisational diagram, a flowchart, etc.

In a presentation it is never about what YOU have add to the SLIDE presentation, it’s about what the slides add to YOU. Because YOU are the star of your presentation. Next time you prepare a slide show, ask yourself: “do I need this slide to make my speech more understandable?” If the answer is no, then just get rid of it!

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