In our two decades working with people who use presentations, we at Duarte have seen that people tend to use them basically in one of three ways: as a document, a teleprompter, or a presentation.
We’ve seen that a lot of people use presentation software to create what we would call documents. This is where all the information is on the slide. If somehow the speaker had to leave quickly, people could still just read it all and get the same information. What I’m not saying is the presentation software itself is bad, it’s actually great for creating documents, often better than the word processing software. Presentation software is good, you can move things around. It’s great to use it to create documents (we call effective visual document slidedocs). The problem is when we present it where everything I need to say is already up there and I read it, all of a sudden we’ve lost a connection with our audience. You would never do this in a conversation. You’ve never been to a play and seen the script behind the actors or actresses. We need to think about that in terms of our presentations as well. We need to present something different than just a document. Here’s an example:
The next way that we see people use presentations is something more in line with a teleprompter. It’s not so much a document, it doesn’t have all the words. Maybe there are fewer bullet points. Maybe they’re using Guy Kawasaki’s rule, five words, five bullet points, or whatever. Maybe there is an image or two. The characteristic of this use of a presentation is that the things that are on the slide are really what the presenter needs to remember of the content. As such there is still not a connection to the audience.
What we would consider a presentation is something where the visuals are only what the audience needs to help understand the information, or to help clarify a point. The presenter is having a conversation and the slides just reinforce those points. Again, if we go back to the theater metaphor, if the presenter is the actor or actress then this would just be the visual scenery or the props. It’s not the play itself. It doesn’t mean there are no words on the slides; we want to change the way we think about our presentations such that the things that we project just reinforce the things we say. Like this example. The point is clear and a presenter could potentially talk to this for quite some time if needed.