Master the arts of creating and performing talks

Never make a slide like this.

Never make a slide like this.

This came up on my Twitter feed after someone took a screenshot of a presentation slide and tweeted it. I’m sure the intent was to share what the tweeter thought was a great idea. What jumped out at me wasn’t the idea but that the slide was terrible. Too harsh? Maybe. Especially rough because the presenter is a well-meaning person with great ideas to share. But this slide is terrible. There is no nice way to say it.

Never use bullet points. Why bullet points? Totally unnecessary. THERE IS NO LAW THAT SAYS ALL SLIDES MUST HAVE BULLET POINTS! This is a paragraph. If you want to show the first paragraph of a book you intend to write, then make this slide:

In no way was the slide improved because of the bullets points. In no way is it diminished because the bullet points have been removed.

Never read at your audience. Why are you there? If every word is on a slide, you are unnecessary. You made yourself redundant. Write an article and hand it out. If for some reason you want your article in PowerPoint form, make slides like this one and send us the PowerPoint. No one wants to sit in a room and have presenters read at us. We know how to read. Plus, it is difficult to read text while listening. If you want the audience to read your article, shut up and let them read without distraction.

But let’s say you want key points presented visually. Your theory is that some people are visual learners and need to see something. Maybe, but they don’t need to see fluff and filler. They need key words. You are there to speak. You can embellish as you talk. Look at the fluff on the slide:

Cut the fat. Make it easier on the audience. At least they won’t have to work as hard. They won’t have to read your whole book while they are trying to listen.

Never have many words on a slide. Where did we get the idea that people come to presentations to read? Shouldn’t presentations be about presenting? About oral communication? Many people have made this point and fought to change the wordy/bullet point mindset, yet the message hasn’t caught on as the slide at the top of this article demonstrates. The core message of that slide is still buried in unnecessary words.

Isn’t this what attendees are supposed to get? Isn’t the essence on this slide?

We are making progress. No bullet points, lots of fat gone, easier to read. But why should reading being involved at all?

Never have complete sentences on a slide. Key words only! You are there for a reason. You are there to present, to talk, to explain. Don’t have slides doing your job.

Six words. Easy to see. Easy to remember. And it conveys everything in the slide we began with. The presenter will fill in the rest. Orally add the story about how you came to believe this. Orally add the details about what to teach first. Orally explain how technical skills follow if the first parts are taught. In other words, do your job! Be a presenter, not a reading supervisor.