I see a lot of presentations. Between clients, and the boards I serve on, and general life, there are just a lot of presentations out there in the world. The question I am most often left with is this: what is it for?
I was recently asked to speak at a conference, and the event planner told me to print out my slide deck ahead of time and give it to the audience, so that they could follow along as I spoke. This instruction makes a couple of assumptions:
1.) there is going to be information on my slides that people can read, and
2.) the slides will be relevant to the audience when I’m not there speaking to them.
My presentations don’t follow these assumptions. My slides are few, and mostly images. My “what is it for” = connecting with this audience in this time with this content.
A lot of presentations don’t know what they want to be. There’s too much information on offer for the audience to take in, or for the presenter to remember. So it goes on the slides and gets printed out. But then…couldn’t you have emailed the deck to them? What is it for? What is the point of all these people being in the same place at the same time if the act of communication itself is delegated to the slide deck?
Unless the occasion is a multi-hour interactive training, in which the participants really need to walk away knowing something tangible, the purpose of a presentation is to connect with the audience around an idea. You want to get them excited, not to tell them everything you know about it. Tell them the important part. Tell them a story. Get them excited to learn more, not wishing you would just let them read your deck in peace.
P.S. You don’t have to use slides. I know, crazy, right?
P.P.S. Shout out to http://gratisography.com. Try their super interesting, evocative, and free images instead of text in your next deck: