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Slides are not documents!

PowerPoint presentation slides are not documents!

Chances are that you have spent many an hour sitting through presentations in which presenters have crammed  huge amounts of text, data and images into each PowerPoint slide. There is nothing more frustrating than having to squint to read text during a presentation.

When used for a presentation, slides should merely be a visual aid for your talk rather than a document to be explained.

But… what often happens is that slides are expected to function both as visual aides as well as documents to be delivered to the client. So as the scope of a PowerPoint slide’s role has crept upwards, we now have the phenomena of the ‘slideument’ (as coined by Garr Reynolds in his fantastic blog post).  A slideument is a document that has happened to have been created using Microsoft PowerPoint.

Here’s an example of a typical slideument:

This is a terrible slide for use in a presentation!

It is not possible for an audience to both listen to a presenter with their full attention as well as read the detailed text on this slide. Despite contrary popular opinion, regardless of gender, no audience members  can multi-task to the point that they can pay full attention to both a presenter as well as read lines of text.

Presentation slides should be treated as though they are merely chapter headings, leaving the presenter to fill-in the page-by-page level of detail with their talk.

Better… convert the slideument into a slide:

 

Even better… follow some aesthetic principles:

This slide would ideally be presented with the bullet points animated to display one at a time, in order to ensure that the audience’s attention is properly maintained.

 

The Consultant’s slide dilemma:

“My slide deck is also the deliverable to my client, so it has to also function as a document that can be read independent of me presenting it.”

Consultants often use PowerPoint slides as documents. Whilst there is nothing wrong with this in itself, giving a presentation using such slides lends itself to a poor performance. What ends up happening is that a presenter is merely guiding the audience through a document, rather than showing the depth of their knowledge by the presenter remaining the focus of the presentation with slides acting only as visual aides for reference.

It is better practice to only display high-level points or headings whilst presenting the details that could otherwise be read in the slide-document

But I don’t have time to create two versions of the same slide deck!

Although it sounds like it is a lot of work to create another slide deck, it is often as easy as duplicating slides and removing the content under each heading, as above in the nanotechnology example.

Alternatively, you can use the ‘hide slides’ option:

This way, you can include the slides with more granular information, whilst having only the section headings displayed on the screen during your presentation.

 

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