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Presentation content isn’t (just) the Powerpoint slides

March 30, 2010

Typically the first thing that someone thinks about as soon as we start talking about doing a presentation are the slides. That’s even true when they don’t make the mistake of launching PowerPoint as their first step. In a much earlier post I explained that I start with a piece of paper with three columns: audience, purpose and content.

Content doesn’t equal slides.
Getting started, it’s everything that might get put in the presentation. That content column is about the message I want to convey and what I’ll need to say, show or have them read to communicate it.

In that sense, my content will find it’s way into three basic buckets:

My words the verbal part of the message
Visual aids the visual content to support my words or convey parts that would be too difficult or take too long with words alone.
Printed words the read-ahead, handouts and/or leave behind material that supplements my words and visuals

All too often I see presenters who put all of that on the slides!  It’s a script for what they’ll say, they put them on the screen, and they hand them out afterward.  Not good–that’s a recipe for audience naps and no impact.

Spread the content across several media
Instead, you need to think it through and allocate your the content into the buckets very carefully.  The key is to decide which bucket each bit of your content best fits into.  And it’s possible that none of it will end up as slides–even if that’s an option, projected slides aren’t always the best option. Visual aids can be many things including slides, props, pictures or diagrams you print and hand out.

Bottom line
If you want or need slides as visual aids, that’s fine. Just remember that they are just visual aids, they’re not the presentation and they shouldn’t be forced to carry all of the message content.

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