Do your slides help?

Two weeks ago I did an educational session at my Toastmasters meeting on using presentation aids for effective presentations. I used slides that I originally prepared for a Speechcraft course and provided a handout (get it here). This is a summary of what I said with some further links on the topics.

What’s the gist of what I said?

  • Good presentation skills and aids cannot “fix” an inherently flawed message. Make sure you have your message clear way before you worry about the presentation aids. I did not mention it in the talk, but I find that working analogue, i.e. working with pen and paper, to get the message and the flow clear quite beneficial. [See Duarte’s blog post on advanced stickynoting for more on this idea)
  • Think about why you show the audience what you are showing them. Does the aids: speak to the emotions? provide credible evidence? assist with clarifying the logic? [Read Andrew Dlugan’s excellent series of posts on ethos, pathos and logos if that idea resonate with you.] I showed a snippet from Jamie Oliver’s TED talk on “Teach every child about food” to show the point (and yet another presentation aid)
  • I prefer a minimalist approach to slides. Few words, images that speak for themselves. Obviously sometimes detail is necessary but when faced with, for example, including diagrams ask yourself whether it is helping and whether projecting it is the first choice.
  • Stay away as far as possible from bullets on slides – your audience will read them and not listen to you. Oh yes, and they don’t want to listen to you reading it either! Death by Powerpoint is nobody’s preferred way to go.
  • Keep your eyes open… widely… there are plenty of good (and bad!) design round you. Most of use can intuitively tell the extremes at least. Ask yourself questions about why you liked (or disliked)something, what caught your eye… Learn from it!  [Learn here, for example, from IKEA billboards]
In the spirit of reflective learning I have also learned (or re-learned, actually):
  • Sort the technology out way before the time!
  • It is rather difficult to cut 3 minutes off a prepared 15 minute talk. Good, on-time presentations takes time, lots of preparation time. My apologies to the audience for overrunning my brief, maybe it says something about me.
Tom Peters, in his book “The little BIG things – 163 ways to pursue excellence” at #44 points out that one should “work on your presentation skills” and I agree. This implies, among many other aspects of presenting, that we should also work on how we support our presentations.
I have a long, long way to go. Why don’t you join me?

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