Just Give Me The Slides And Save Me $2,100

As I took a seat at the gate in the Las Vegas airport, I noticed another passenger making a PowerPoint presentation.  It had a lot of text.  A lot.  I came very close to asking her if I could give her a little feedback.

The next day, I found myself needing some slides from a presentation I had missed.  I hoped the slides would have a lot of text so I could figure out what the presentation was about.  Could I be a hypocrite on this issue?  It made me do some soul-searching.

The slides from the presentation I missed were quite helpful.  There were statistics and formulas to calculate various metrics.  It was like the CliffsNotes version of the presentation.  I got the jist of it without needing to attend the session.

Without needing to attend the session.

I didn’t have to attend the session.  I didn’t have to spend 75 minutes of my life in that session.  I didn’t have to pay $1500 to attend the conference (plus $600 in airfare and hotel costs, plus meals).

These slides were a great resource.  Since I didn’t attend this particular session, I can’t comment on the delivery.  But in instances like this, when the slides seem to become the presentation, I do wonder what value the presenter adds. What value do I get from attending in person?  It’s almost like the slides in presentations like this serve as the annoying little sibling, mimicking everything the presenter has to say. (And in some cases, the presenter seems more like the annoying sibling, mimicking the slides!)

The best presentations I’ve ever seen are the ones where the slides complement the presentation, like back-up singers providing harmony to an amazing vocalist.  These presentations have slides that include one mindblowing statistic, or a funny image (and no text).

What do you think?  What role should slides play?  How much text is too much?

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2 thoughts on “Just Give Me The Slides And Save Me $2,100

  1. Interesting point, but surely that’s where the difference between handouts and the presentation should lie. If you had to sit through the presentation with a lot of text on it, the chances are you’d be criticising it. Of course, I’ve not seen the slides and I wasn’t there, so I cannot be sure, but… There is a reason most people are saying don’t use bullet points; there is a reason you instinctively hated the presentation you saw at the airport with the large amount of text.
    I’m a trainer. I create training presentations that are often delivered by me, though sometimes they are eLearning and have to contain text that the trainee will digest and hopefully retain. The formats for the two are very different as a result. However, if I want people to remember something it has to be visual, or it doesn’t work. Even with the eLearning powerpoint, which does contain more text than your average powerpoint should, I try to keep it to a minimum and use exercises and games to keep it lively. I know from experience that less is definitely more.
    In fact IMHO, what you have been reading should have been a handout. A presentation is not a word document, or a synopsis of the presentation for those that missed the live version. However, it is just my opinion!

    • …and a very valid humble opinion you have. Thanks for the thoughts and the comment. I agree 100% with your point – in-presentation visual aids and post-presentations handouts/take-aways *should* be two different things. Over the past 10 years or so, as PPT has proliferated and has become the tool of choice for presenters, the line between visual aid and handout seems to have blurred. Or perhaps not – I recall 10+ years ago when overhead projector slides had lots of text and were also used as handouts.

      In any case, I think PPT is a great tool – whether as a live presentation tool or as an elearning tool. What I’ve come to really despise is how it’s used. I really wish more presenters (and elearning developers) would approach things from the learner’s perspective. The slides on your own blog are spectacular examples of well-developed, engaging slides that inform AND make me curious to learn more.

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