“The audience will either read your slides or listen to you. They will not do both. So, ask yourself this: is it more important that they listen, or more effective if they read?”
Far too often I have the unfortunate luck of sitting in a presentation where the presenter is reading their slides word for word to the audience. Simply put, it’s brutal. If you plan on reading me your slides then just send me the information thru email or create a document (that I probably won’t read). If you want me to listen, connect and engage with you then use slides as a visual aid to complement your message or story.
One of my favorite terms coined by Garr Reynolds, author of Presentation Zen, is “slideuments”. Slideuments are the result of putting far too many words on a slide, fifteen bullet points, and text that is so small that you can’t read it anyways. As Garr so succinctly puts it, “Documents are documents. Slides are slides.” Don’t try to mix them together – it never turns out well.
Most presentations end up as slideuments because the presenter thinks that the slide deck must stand on its own without them telling their story. Wrong. Pieces of paper with words on them that stand on their own are called documents (or handouts). Your story is the most important piece of the equation. Your story and how you deliver it is what I really care about and may cause me to think, be inspired or take action.
In my opinion, slides are built correctly when you utilize very few words and a lot of visual elements (no not cheesy clip art). Slides should make almost NO sense without your story – and that’s OK. Yeah but, they will freak out if they don’t have handouts. Then create a handout (a.k.a. document) that has the proper amount of information on it for them to review or reference. A handout does not need to be your slides printed from PowerPoint as notes pages. In fact, I think it’s a bad idea to hand them out because they will read ahead to slide 20 before you even start your presentation.
Back to Nancy’s quote, ask yourself: do you want them to read your slides or listen to you? If you want them to READ then create a document or handout. If you want them to LISTEN to you then take the time to create visual slides and present it to them with your story.