Slides are for SEEing, reports are for READing
Are your presentation slides really suitable for presentations? Or are they more of a report/document? It is easy to get trapped into adding too much content in our slides, especially if we rely on PowerPoint templates to create those slides. How do we then escape from Death by PowerPoint?
It is not always true that when we use PowerPoint to build slides, they will be suitable for presentations. If those slides contain too much information (lengthy sentences, plenty of numbers, complex charts, busy diagrams, etc.), they might not be suitable for use as presentation slides. To escape, we should show less and show only what is necessary.
Reports and documents are for READing. So, when we load a slide with plenty of information, it becomes reading material. Full complete sentences, detailed numbers in a spreadsheet-like format, small texts, and complex diagrams, they are contents meant for documents and reports. Reports need to be detailed, however, detailed reading materials are really not suitable for use as presentation slides.
During a presentation, we don't want the audience to read our slides. We want them to hear what we have to say. Because when they start to read the content of the slides, they will not be listening to what we are saying.
Slides are for SEEing. When we present, we want the attention of the audience. We what our audience to listen to us and remember key information that they see. So, it is utmost important that we design our presentation slides with content for the audience to SEE, not to READ.
The example in Fig.1 above shows two slides, both created on PowerPoint. The one on the left is a document (report) —it has too much content, very detail and difficult for the audience to understand. It requires one to spend time reading to digest.
On the other hand, the one on the right is better suited for presentation. The information is shown clearly, very focused, and easy to understand. It is suitable for use as a presentation slide.
5 steps to getting from the complex READing format to a simpler SEEing format
- Think about your purpose for sharing the complex information.
- Divide the complex information into a number of key categories.
- Remove any categories that doesn't meet your purpose.
- Decide (for each of the remaining category) on the key message and/or related keywords that will represent the category, and make each category a slide on its own.
- Arrange texts/numbers in blocks, then connect related message/keywords together with lines and arrows.
Put yourself in the shoes of the audience. Would you prefer to see or read?