Some speakers have a slide for everything: the funny metaphor they’ve just used, the next subject heading. You name it, there’s an accompanying visual. Why? Because they think that’s what you do. Unfortunately, it’s mildly tedious for the audience, but a great source of comfort to the speaker because it’s a support, plus they think that ‘the more slides the better’.
Wrong, wrong, wrong!
A support that’s relied upon indefinitely will ultimately weaken whatever it’s there to help. This is true for your muscles and it’s also true for people. In the case of a presentation, it’s actually a hindrance because it restricts the speaker by preventing any deviation from the stock image-laden banality of the PowerPoint they’ve laboured over.
Try delivering the presentation without showing any slides at all. Tricky, right? It shouldn’t be; all you need is a simple list of prompts for each section. Then try five slides, each filled with one original image. No text, no bullet points, nothing. Reduce the slides this way and you’ll be forced to get to the essential themes of your talk. Look at the chap in the picture as a good example (Waleed Abdalati, former Chief Scientist at NASA).
What’s So Clever About That, Then?
- It prevents the slides taking the audience’s attention from you entirely. You might not want to be the focus of attention, but this a presentation – the clue’s in the name. It’s not a passive slideshow; put in some work or your audience won’t participate in the way that’s required for the whole thing to work.
- The slides become a backdrop, illustrating your points, instead of being the presentation in its entirety.
- It takes the pressure off you to deliver a specific script. Relax, have a conversation, have some fun with it.
- It makes you look more like an expert when you can speak for longer over a single slide.
Write your presentation and then create the slides (no more than five) to accompany the key points only. Or choose five images and build the presentation around that.