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Don't Include Everything You Know in Your Slides
by Gilda Bonanno

When you are preparing a presentation, an important question to consider is: Do I really need to use slides?

 

The answer, of course, is it depends. It depends on your purpose, your message, the time limit, the audience and the technology available.  Consider the question carefully before you automatically assume that you have to have a slide deck. 

 

In the days of overhead projectors, we used the term “visual aids” to refer to the projector or other things that were supposed to aid your presentation.  Unfortunately, with the prevalence of presentation software, we’ve come to the point where the slides are becoming the presentation rather than helping the presentation.

 

YOU should be the presentation. The slides are just the visual aids there to help you.

Slides can actually get in the way of your presentation, interfere with your ability to connect with the audience and distract from your message.

 

If we had a choice between you or the slides, we would choose you because you are the content expert. You’re the one who has the knowledge. The slides are just there to help -- to enhance, not to replace you.

So before you automatically start creating slides, consider these questions: Will your presentation be enhanced by slides? Will the slides really help? Is there information that needs to be communicated in a slide format?

 

If you are an interior designer presenting at an industry conference, for example, filling the slides with high-quality photos of your designs can be very helpful. They would enhance your presentation by showing people what you’re talking about in terms of color or placement of objects in a space.

On the other hand, if you’re a project manager presenting for ten minutes at an internal department meeting, will slides of bulleted text and sentences really help your presentation?

Perhaps it would be better if you handed out a project plan, or sent an Excel spreadsheet before or after the meeting, or drew something on the whiteboard.  And then you focused on speaking directly to the people in the room, engaging their attention and answering questions, rather than going through a “group read” of the slides.

 

(I understand that there are some companies where, for better or worse, the corporate culture expects you to use PowerPoint or Keynote. I would still encourage you to question whether slides will enhance your presentation and if you don't believe they will, then challenge the prevailing corporate culture. However, I realize that, unfortunately, you may not win that battle.)

So the next time you have to deliver a presentation, consider carefully whether slides will help you communicate your message more or less effectively.  And if slide will not enhance your presentation, then speak without them.

Gilda Bonanno is a speaker, trainer and coach who helps people from all walks of life improve their communication and presentation skills.

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