20 June 2015

One Useless Slide You'll Never Design Again

Warning: the slide you are about to see was made by a real company during a real business presentation — and it will hurt your eyes!
When I first looked at it I thought “there is something completely wrong in the way most companies make presentations. 

The problem 

The problem is we use PowerPoint too much. We make slides for anything, even for communicating where the toilet is. When looking at a slide like the one above, it’s clear that we became the tools of our tools. 

Think about it, what’s the first thing coming to you mind when you are asked to make a presentation? I bet it’s PowerPoint (or any other presentation tool for that matter). That’s exactly the problem: people associate presentations with a tool and not with a story. That’s why you have slides showing that “toilets are located just outside in the corridor”. 

People associate presentations with a tool and not with a story.[Tweet this]

The reason why most presentations suck is because we spend time creating slides rather than crafting a story. In fact, creating slides should be the last bit of the presentation process. Remember, slides are incredibly powerful when they amplify your message  but when they don’t, they are incredibly useless. In fact, they work against your message. 
Audiences would be better off if most slides were eliminated. Have you ever thought about presenting with no slides at all? Who said we need slides?

The solution 
I suggest you follow this 3-step process in order to decide whether to use slides or not. 

1. Use a message map
A message map is a simple tool that helps you structure your story. Here’s how it works. Write down the single message you want your audience to take away. Then, find three main supporting points. Your presentation will be based on those. Here’s a short video of communication coach Carmine Gallo showing how a business can use a message map to tell its story. According to Gallo, “it is one of the most powerful tools in communication. It works each and every time

2. Plan analog 
Close your laptop, get away from it and craft your story with pen and paper. I’ve learnt this from Garr Reynolds and I can tell you it’s the most valuable presentation-related piece of advice I’ve ever received. You’ll be much more creative by planning your presentation in an analog way. 
You can translate your message map into slides, but (1) on a piece of paper first, and (2) only if they help amplify your message. If not, do not use them.

3. Open PowerPoint (if you can't resist)
Only once you’ve planned your presentation “analogically” should you open PowerPoint. If you’ve decided that slides might help you get your message across, then design visuals that complement your story. But you don’t have to. In fact, when in doubt, don’t!           

The slide I showed you above is good for (almost) nothing. But it is good for showing that if we only focus on PowerPoint, we run the risk of becoming the tools of our tools. Next time you are asked to make a presentation, forget PowerPoint, get away from your laptop and think of your presentation as a story, not as a series of slides. [Tweet this]  

IMAGE: Business Television