Your Questions: How Can I Declare Independence from Slides?

We were talking in a recent workshop about how much better some people present when they are NOT using slides. They are more focused, more intense, and far more expressive in their delivery. I often refer them to Garr Reynold’s books, Presentation Zen and The Naked Presenter, in which he encourages us to streamline and simplify our slides so the message is clearer and more memorable. Doing this puts the focus on you, not on the screen.  

It takes courage and commitment to move away from slides, especially in organizations where it is the norm to always have slides when you present. But courageous speakers are beginning to do so. Here are some ways to get started moving away from being so dependent on slides.

1.  Use fewer slides. Maybe you just create one slide for each section rather than having slides for everything you plan to say. This minimalist approach keeps you on track, and allows you to be more spontaneous in telling your story. If you are feeling brave, try having just a title slide to add color in the room.

2.  Hide some of your slides. You may want to create a full slide deck, but then go back and hide some of the slides that are less essential. Some people stack these at the end of their presentation, but if you hide them in place, you will be able to reveal them with a single click.

3.  Take away anything extraneous. Go back over each slide and reduce the number of words on each one. If you have paragraphs, turn them into key words or bullets. If you have any cute but unessential elements, eliminate them. For example, if you have bumper stickers at the end of each slide, consider leaving them off and simply articulating the key takeaways.

4.  Use fewer bullets. When we have bullets on our slides we tend to read them. I do it myself. Try to reduce the number of words, and bullets. If you do have a list of bullets, try pulling out roughly 1/3 of the points to discuss. Let the audience read the rest.  Or, let the audience read the bullets and tell you which ones they would like to dig into deeper.

5.  Use more photos and graphics. They will be more visually appealing, and you will be less likely to read anything. Instead of reading, describe and explain. Tell a story. Attractive, relevant photos will provide human interest while you describe what is happening. For example, show a picture of the assembly line while you describe what is going on and how you might improve it. Or show a workspace before and after a Kaizen event.

6.  Ditch the slides entirely. For informal presentations or meetings, use a flip chart or a one-page handout. Or just have a discussion with an agenda to stay on track.

7.  Turn the slides off sometimes. Simply by pressing the B key (while in Slide Show) you will blacken your screen, sending a completely unexpected message. It will turn the audience’s attention straight to you and what you are saying. Turn your screen back on by clicking any key.

8.  Go gradually. Instead of changing drastically, start small and see how minor changes go over. If your leadership isn’t on board with your minimalist approach you may have to go even slower. The good news is some of our top leaders are beginning to move away from heavy-duty slides, leading the way for all of us.

I hope you feel encouraged to give it a try. Declare independence from slides. Tell your story, make your case. Appeal to your listeners instead of putting them to sleep. Make better gestures and better eye contact. Now you’re talking!

Please let me know what other ideas you have for minimizing overreliance on slides.