The only three reasons you need a presentation slide!

Is it possible that the presentation slide has become the nail in the coffin of good presentation?  A rhetorical question, but just in case you are wondering, I think the answer is yes!  If we wound back the clock a few decades to when I was a young lad in the workplace, PowerPoint never existed, no really.  There was a time in living history when we all worked without computers and apart from the occasional telex we had to rely on getting the job done with a pen and paper (or sometimes find a typist to ‘type it up’ for us).  In those distant days, a presentation was a presentation, not a set of slides.  In fact to be blunt a presentation was you, you were the presentation!  It had been the same since time begun, you stood up and presented to your audience, engaging them, drawing them in, teasing them with hooks and stories.  You were responsible for bringing the presentation to life.  

Now at the expense of sounding like an ageing baby boomer, it was (I’m afraid to tell you), way way better!  Today, so many presentations are dull, slide ridden, disengaging monologues.  Today the slide deck is the presentation – and we so need to change that! 

So here’s a starter for you.  I’m going to suggest that there are only ever three reasons that you need to have a presentation slide.  Use this simple rule and you will begin to move the presentation away from being the slide deck, back to it being you.  They are the 3 E’s of presentation slides…

1. Slides that entertain

Look at any good presenter and they will entertain you.  No matter how dry the content of their subject.  It’s true, I’ve seen excellent presenters bring the most technical of subjects to life by entertaining and lightly amusing me.  Entertainment (according to google) is to provide someone with amusement or enjoyment.  An appropriate slide is a great way to do this.  Let’s face it, we are not all naturally witty and engaging!  So lets find a good slide that does this for us.  Entertainment is all about engagement, so find content that engages, even if it’s something really technical.  Wow us, hook us, tempt us, tickle us.  

2.  Slides that emphasis

The second good reason to have a slide in the presentation deck is to emphasis something that I’m talking about.  Sometimes it’s really useful to draw particular attention to something in the presentation.  Bingo – that’s a great use of a slide.  When I’m covering a key fact, when I’m drawing attention to a specific action, when I’m highlighting the importance of a particular step, then I want it on the screen.  Work out what needs emphasis in your presentation (a really good thing to do by the way), and build your slides around those things.  

3.  Slides that explain

The only remaining reason you will ever need a slide in the presentation deck, is to simplify and explain something that is somewhat complicated to talk about.  This is where you drop in your diagram, chart, process flow, picture – whatever.  To see something complicated laid out clearly gives the revelation needed for your content to hit home.  Imagine teaching an alien to make a cup of tea! Where do you start? Suddenly the process looks complex and bewildering, especially if our particular aliens don’t even have need of drink!  Then a slide would be useful, simply laying out the steps of the process.    

So there we have it, 3 E’s that will vastly improve your presentations; it will stop you having too many slides and make you the presentation instead of the deck.  Why not take up my challenge, pull out your last presentation deck and strip out every single slide that is not entertaining, emphasising or explaining.  Everything else you can bring to life yourself, it’s for you to deliver, for you to present that stuff.  Just you direct to your audience.  In both PowerPoint and keynote a press of the ‘B’ key while in presentation mode will turn your screen blank (black), so why not loose it from the screen and start your own personal slide deck revolution. 

Bob Bannister

Ships Captain