25 October 2015

3 Essential Steps To Avoid Designing Useless Slides

Warning: this slide may seriously hurt your eyes. 

This is a real slide made by a real company in a real business meeting

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 everything, even for communicating where the toilet is. 

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. [Tweet this] That’s why you have slides for communicating that “toilets are located just outside in the corridor”. 

The reason why most presentations are poor is because we spend time making slides rather than crafting a story. In fact, making 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. Trust me, you would do your audience a favour by getting rid of most of the slides you use. Have you ever thought about presenting with no slides at all

As Garr Reynolds put it, “Presenting 100% naked may not be appropriate for every case, but stripping down as much as we can often will make a huge, refreshing difference. The result will be a presentation that is different and somehow more real, “real” like a frank conversation among friends.” 

The solution 
I suggest you follow this 3-step process when deciding whether you need 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 points that support your key message. Your presentation will be based on those three points. Here’s a short video of Communication Coach Carmine Gallo showing how to use the message map and explaining why he believes it works all the time. 

(2) Plan analog 
Close your laptop, get away from it and craft your story with pen and paper. You should translate your message map into slides on a piece of paper first. And you should do that only if you think slides can amplify your message. You’ll be much more creative by planning your presentation in an analog way. 

(3) Open PowerPoint (if you can't resist)

Only once you’ve planned your presentation “analogically” should you open PowerPoint—and only if you think slides can help you get your message across. But you don’t have to. When in doubt, don't.   

IMAGE: Sebastiaan ter Burg

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