Saturday, May 03, 2014

Why Most Presentations Are So Bad

I've had this conversation several times.

When I try to help people with their presentations they always insist on loading up each slide with text. I always suggest one of two approaches:
  1. Use each slide to show what you are saying. And then say it. Or,
  2. Break each slide into as many slides as you need to keep the text below 5 sentences of 5-7 words each.
The push-back is always something along the lines of a burdensome hassle:
"There are too many slides in the deck, ballooning it up to much."

"I can't edit this down, because it's all important."

"I don't have time to find an image or some simple way of showing what I'm going to talk about."

"People want to download the presentation later, so I need all the text in there."

And on and on.
The problem that is often missed is that their audience doesn't process a presentation in the same way they would read a document. When people read a document they are gathering information or relating that information to what they heard.

When they are listening to a presentation they are being entertained. Reading a document is more like the proof for the presentation, which provides the emotion. They both should have good content and present the information in interesting ways. But people process each medium differently.

Therefore, people retain much more when the medium is appropriate to the message and the audience. Talking through a document doesn't help the audience as much as being a good presenter, and letting the slides move the audience into what is being presented.

Photo courtesy bang of

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