How to present better: Do your slides last

How To Make Better Slide Decks

Personally hate PowerPoint and think it’s mostly totally worthless for presentations — and also think we get a lot of things wrong about presentations in general, including but not limited to:

One thing I always think is funny about presentations is that people automatically assume — without even asking or thinking, really — that there must be a slide deck. That’s kind of insane because slide decks aren’t even that optimal; most human brains can’t pay attention to something and read some bullet points at the same time. But humans get comfortable with ideas — you see slide decks in every meeting, everywhere, for the most part — and they roll with them. So I suppose I understand that part.

But this part I almost never understand: a lot of people I know, when planning a presentation, they do their slides first. They build out everything from their slides. That always seemed backward to me. Shouldn’t you figure out your audience, your message, your key points, what you want your audience to take away, etc… shouldn’t you do that first, and then build the slides around those elements? I always figured that was the best idea, although oftentimes in American business people rush headlong into things with no context and just hope they’ll work out for the best, or because “that’s how things are done.”

But here’s a master slide-deck guy from TED giving advice on building slide decks, and … BOOM:

Think about your slides last. Building your slides should be the tail end of developing your presentation. Think about your main message, structure its supporting points, practice it and time it—and then start thinking about your slides. The presentation needs to stand on its own; the slides are just something you layer over it to enhance the listener experience. Too often, I see slide decks that feel more like presenter notes, but I think it’s far more effective when the slides are for the audience to give them a visual experience that adds to the words.

I like it when logical things I think get vetted in a broader sense.

Ted Bauer