Thursday, November 15, 2007

What Goes Where -- The Slide, the Handout and the Spoken Word

I am often asked, "What should I put on a presentation slide?" It is a hard question to answer because it can have so many parts, but I do offer some simple advise. To me the answer is more about the overall impact of the entire presentation (what you show, what you say, and what you leave behind). Here is a my quick answer:
  • The Slide: A commonly quoted rule for building a single slide is to limit the words to four bullet points or less, and no more than seven words per bullet. My preference is to limit TOTAL words on a single slide to one bullet point of seven words or less. Even better, a single photo.

    Impossible you say? A bullet point like, "Magnifying a digitized image several times can reveal several parts of it", can be restated as, "Enlarge images to reveal its parts". Since your audience already knows you are talking about digitized images you could get even smaller by stating, "Enlarge to reveal parts." Even simpler, an image of a highly magnified digitized photo.

    The point (pun intended) is to headline what you say, not reveal everything that is important to learn.

  • The Handout: The handout is where you can write and illustrate to your hearts delight. Include what is on the slides and some of what you state, and most importantly, reveal the technical information, details, descriptions, drawings, etc. This is your chance to impart all of the fun stuff and the not so exciting stuff that needs a platform. So much of what is in the handout should NOT be on a slide or spoken in the presentation.

  • The Spoken Word: Think, "Story Teller". Anything worth talking about has a good story underneath. Using your simplified slides move your audience along with examples, case study lessons and even engage your audience by asking for their experiences. The most important thing to remember here is that between the slides and the handout your audience is getting a lot of detail -- what could you say that will bring it all to life?

    Here is your chance to connect with the audience as a personality. You are not a teacher -- you are an entertainer. Entertain!
Each of us has suffered numerous instances of being bored to tears by presenters reading from their slides, going into infinite detail, stating and restating what is already obvious or just droning on and on until we are numb. Do not be this person!

Leave the details to the handout, keep your slides as clean as possible, and learn to tell good stories that entertain your audience.