Mar 24, 2008

"50 Slides or Less" or "Why I Cut 100 Slides From My Presentation"

Last year I was asked to give a presentation to the graduating design students at Sowela Technical College. I had never given a presentation before, but I thought "I have a lot to say," and I really wanted to share some of my inside knowledge with the students. I thought that it would be really useful for them to get a peak at the way things really work in our small market.

My presentation ended up being around 144 slides (I am now ashamed to admit that) and it was bloated with information (check out the sample). There was a handful of students that managed to stay awake through the entire presentation. Of that number several of them came up and thanked me for sharing and you could tell that they got something out of it. On the other hand, once the lights came on, I noticed a few that had actually went to sleep.

I'd messed up.

I fell into the trap that most presenters fall into; I was depending on the slides to do the job for me, instead of supporting me. I had created a really detailed "slideument." This is a term that I'm hearing more and more these days. A slideument is basically your handout (all details included) up on the screen...and you read from it (I'm putting myself to sleep just thinking about it).

I revisited the whole concept of presenting and discovered a wonderful blog (and now book) titled Presentation Zen. My eyes were definitely opened.

The key thing that I learned is that the slides are simply there to support YOU as the presenter, to help YOU emphasize your point. They need to be simple and striking, but ultimately it is YOU who must do the work. Your audience is there to hear what you have to say and your slide deck is there as an extension of you.

The deck can look nice. It can have style. But ultimately the point is to get your high-concept across without putting your audience asleep.

So, with my newfound knowledge, I made another attempt at boiling back my presentation. I ended up with 44 slides. It was a major improvement. Now the deck doesn't stand alone. It needs me as much as I need it, but I believe that when you view the deck alone the high-concepts still manage to get through.

You are a creative being.
You are not alone.

Take a peek at my new slide deck below. Let me know what you think. -O

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