Effective Presentation? Sometimes, Less is More…

“Do you have any tips for improving slide presentations?” is a question that has come up on several occasions in recent times. Powerpoint, Prezi, Haiku Deck, Pickit… there are many presentation packages out there offering great user options but we must never forget that at the business end of every great presentation tool is the presenter themselves!

A lesson from not so ancient history

Back in the days before the internet and the smart phone people had a different relationship with photographs. They weren’t so disposable. Films came with 24 or 36 exposures, and when you snapped a photo you had no idea how it would come out until you paid to have them developed at your local chemist.

Doctoring a photo required a set of negatives, a dark room set up and a considerable tool kit full of skills until Adobe released Photoshop in 1987 (the same year as Powerpoint incidentally), and even then it was the pro’s best secret until the early years of the Twenty First century.

The ‘film camera’ began to decline in the Noughties too, with the advent of digital cameras and the first camera phones arrived in 2000 too great fanfare despite the pixelated fuzziness of the photos. Amazingly, photo editing apps, so ubiquitous today only arrived in 2011.

Depending on your age, you will now either be mouthing ‘wow’ in nostalgic awe, or ‘wow’ with more than a hint of sarcasm. You may also be wondering where I am going with this…

The Curse of the Holiday Snap

The answer is, in the days before everything got so smart, a ritual existed in society that was synonymous with a sense of dread, compounded by a state of extreme boredom and masked over with a painted smile. That ritual was having to sit through somebody else’s holiday snaps – tens, sometimes hundreds of poorly executed photos, each one accompanied by an endless oral narrative

That phenomenon has been consigned to the dustbin of progress thanks to social media and the ability to bore-as-you-go with posted holiday photos.  However, the memory deserves to linger as an enduring illustration of how not to do slide based presentations.

Slide Presentation Made Simple: Less is More

Most presenters fall foul of the golden rule – LESS IS MORE. I have put it in capitals in the hope that the message will be heeded, thus saving me more pain down the line, because I have sat through countless business slide presentations over the years and very few have stayed with me after the space bar has tapped on to the next poorly executed slide.

Normally, I would roll out some tips on how to use less slides and make them really count, but this time I’m not. I’m going to pose a simple exercise. The next time you sit through a presentation that involves slides, turn your focus from the content (chances are the speaker will be repeating it anyway) and ask yourself these simple questions:

  • How could I say all this with less?
  • How could I use a slide not to explain, but to engage?
  • How could I authentically communicate this information without overloading it with endless detail?

Dare to be Sparse!

Instead of firing off slides as if they are the product of an iPhone on burst mode, treat your slides as preciously as those old camera films and try to make each shot count. Rely less on each slide as a crutch and think of it more in terms of what it can add to your presentation. Bullet point less and talk from your own experience more.

Yes it will be slightly scary. Yes it’s a leap into the unknown. Yes it could all go horribly wrong…. But it probably won’t.

If you know your stuff (and I would still recommend, as I always do, that your preparation is thorough) then have the courage to follow the path of less is more. Trust me, business slide presentations will never be the same again.