Your slides = Your mind

It’s been said that your desk is a reflection of your mind.

Clear desk, clear mind.  Messy desk, messy mind.

If that’s the case, then most people’s presentation slides must be a reflection of their stomach after eating warm tofu.

It you look closely enough you can see the the worm...

This is the equivalent of you taking a 200 page printout of your presentation and hurling it at your audience while yelling “Here!  Figure it out yourself!”

I’ve sat through these.  I’ve sat through them at Sony.  I have sat through them at LG.  I’ve sat through them during million dollar financings.  And the funny thing is, for all the snickering that goes on about the presenter being awful, when the same people from the audience presents later, it’s exactly the same thing.

Oh, but that’s clearly exaggerated.  I wouldn’t do this.

No.  You wouldn’t.  But you’d pull this instead:

Because senior executives love taking time out of their day to play read-along


“Ha ha!  I sell software, not fruit.  Clearly you’re not talking about me!”

Software you say?  You guys are the worst!

Your marketing people are crying in the corner somewhere...


Unless you’re a savant, you won’t remember most of what is going on on these slides.  So you’re either reading the slide to them or you’re reading your notes.  In both cases, you look like a goof.

Here are 3 ways to use your slides as they are meant to be used; a quick 3 second glance to support the words that are coming out of your mouth.

1.  Use hand-outs.  There is NEVER a good reason to cut and paste a table onto a Power Point slide.  If you do, there should be no more than 4 or 5 numbers tops, each at 32 point font.  Charts that show trends and comparisons are far more effective.  SAY the numbers and put them in context.  But there is absolutely no point putting massive flow charts and tables on the screen unless you are doing it as a joke to show them how complex the thing is.  Move this to a handout they can reference later.

2.  A single image that can create an emotional tie-in with the words you’re saying.  This takes time to find but it’s worth it.  Your listener will remember the message far better if they can tie it to simple imagery.  When Steve Jobs introduced the Macbook Air, he pulled it out of a manilla envelope.  The Macbook Air is forever associated with that imagery.  So much so that lazy bloggers like me will automatically turn to it to make a point…

3.  Make it bullet proof.  By not using bullets.  We all use bullets as crutches instead of knowing the material cold.  Bullets, in theory are great, because they provide structure.  But in practice, they are awful.  Your audience glances at it and wonders when the heck you’re going to get to the last point.  It’s like being on a plane ride and discovering you had four more hours to go instead of one.  Tell them what you’re going to tell them.

Here’s an example of a nice slide.

Everything you need to know in one small bite.

Design your slides like you don’t need them.  Design them to support your message, not be the message.  They should look like they’re nice to have around but you’re the reason why people are here.