I recently engaged in a lively LinkedIn Presentation group discussion about whether or not presenters should use slides. Here’s a summary of my comments, based on years of coaching executives, for you workplace presenters with similar concerns.
To slide or not to slide … ah, that’s a great question. To answer that question for your specific presentation, first ask yourself a lot more questions:
- Does your audience really need slides for them to accomplish the defined outcomes that brought you in front of them to begin with?
- Will slides help them pay attention, understand and retain your message?
- How do they feel about PowerPoint in presentations in general?
- Have they’ve endured lots of ‘Death by PowerPoint’ with previous presenters or sessions?
- If so, how will seeing a title slide up when they walk in your room impact their expectations for your presentation? Their anticipation of pain is not a great way for them to start being your audience.
- Will slides suggest that what they’re about to experience is a canned, generic slide show lecture with minimal interaction and audience engagement?
- Conversely, will the absence of slides suggest more of an interactive and engaging conversation … or an ill-prepared ad-libbed blab session?
- How will your use of slides – or not – impact your image as a competent workplace communicator, leader or resource?
Therefore, your decision to use slides should be based on the above analysis, not in the absence of it. If the answer is ‘yes’, then I advise that less is more, bigger is better, pictures trump words, animation is lame and ‘cute’ is even lamer for most messages.
A group member commented that she liked to use slides to keep her on track. I understand that reasoning but disagreed with it because it clashes with my commitment to ‘Audience-Centricity’ – everything we do is for the audience and our intended outcomes with them … not for us. When I hear that from clients, I ask them to rethink their strategy. If the primary value of the slides is as a speaker prompter, consider two alternatives:
- Create the PowerPoint, print each slide full-page landscape and add additional prompting notes as needed. Practice off these pages, but don’t drag your audience through your ‘speaker prompts’.
- The obvious simpler alternative to this is to just create large, key word prompter notes easy to see from a distance and avoid the time involved in PowerPoint layout and design.
So, the answer to the question ‘Should I use slides?’ depends on the answers to the above questions and changes based the particular details of each presentation. While a lot of thought-provoking effort each time, the results are always worth it for your outcomes, audience and image. So, do your homework and Slide Into Success!