Walking decks 101: A beginner’s guide and why you need one

Phoebe Perelman

Written by

Phoebe Perelman

You’ve heard of sales decks, pitch decks, and product launch decks, but have you ever heard of a walking deck?

Well, we’ve developed many a walking deck in our day, and have come to realize that there’s nearly no information out there about what a walking deck is and why you might use one. So, allow us to fill in those gaps.

What is a walking deck?

Has one of the following thoughts ever crossed your mind?

  • “If only our colleagues understood the work we do … ”
  • “I wish our leaders were up to speed on this initiative … ”
  • “We need to align on a common language … ”
  • “If we could just help them understand our impact, we could get the budget approved … ”
  • “It would be so much easier to explain this face to face … ”

If so, then it may be time to take advantage of a walking deck.

A walking deck, sometimes referred to as a walking presentation, is a concise presentation used to convey key information to internal stakeholders.

Unlike a more formal presentation, walking decks are presented – you guessed it – when walking and talking. Similar to an elevator pitch, which is designed to be given on the spot as opportunity strikes (say, in a quick elevator ride), a walking deck is typically used on an impromptu, casual basis.

Whether you need to socialize an innovative idea, illustrate the work your team does, or share a new organizational strategy, a walking deck helps you communicate so that colleagues and leaders understand your idea, support your team, or champion your initiative. In other words, walking decks are a quick and realistic way to facilitate alignment with colleagues, executives, and teams.

Who needs a walking deck?

We’ve created walking decks for professionals and teams of all kinds. Here are just some examples of teams who may find themselves in need of a walking deck:

  • Product
  • R&D
  • Marketing
  • Human resources
  • Learning & development
  • Sustainability
  • Public relations
  • IT
  • Compliance
  • AI
  • Project management
  • Operations

This is not a comprehensive list: Almost anyone could find themselves in need of a walking deck for one reason or another.

Now that we’ve identified the who, let’s talk about why these teams may need a walking deck.

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Different use cases for walking decks

There are many use cases for walking decks. We’ll dive into a few examples that we’ve worked on in the past.

How Nike used a walking deck to demonstrate value

Not long ago, the digital innovation team at Nike came to us with the following request: “We need to catch the executive team up on the impact we make so that they will use us as a resource.” This team was historically siloed at the organization, and they weren’t being utilized to their full potential. They needed to communicate their value to leadership when they happened to cross paths. They needed a walking deck.

Walking decks are particularly useful for large organizations with many departments and teams. Because the larger the organization and the more teams there are, the more likely there will be silos and the more difficult it can be to foster alignment among teams.

How a walking deck helps orient a new leader to your department

Consider another example. Say your organization hires a new leader who has no idea what your team does. Keeping that leader in the dark won’t bode well for you and your direct reports. But the new leader is slammed – they have no time to sit down with you and your team for the full lowdown. That’s why you need a walking deck in your figurative back pocket. This way, when opportunity strikes and you get face time with the new exec, you can fill them in on the essence of the work you do and why it matters.

Here are some other use cases that call for walking decks:

  • When marketing teams are tasked with sharing and socializing new corporate messaging
  • When environmental, social, and governance teams need to inform employees about organizational sustainability commitments
  • When cross-functional teams need to illustrate responsibilities and convey how they partner with other teams across the organization
  • When compliance teams need to bring a new leader up to speed on their roles and processes
  • When IT teams need to phase out a beloved platform or tool to replace it with something more efficient

Although the scenarios listed above all have different desired goals, the overarching need is the same: to spread a key message internally so that others adopt it, apply it, or support it.

Walking decks and media training for executives

Crafting your walking deck is only the first step. Since walking decks aren’t often given in formal presentation contexts, you need the awareness, confidence, and tools to deliver this deck at the right moment. That’s where an executive speaker coach becomes a necessity.

How does a speaker coach help?

Speaker coaches are known for helping executives and other professionals prepare for formal speaking occasions and major presentations, but they can also help prepare you for more impromptu speaking opportunities (like delivering a walking deck).

Speaker coaches can equip you with strategies and tools to overcome common media challenges like:

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As mentioned, walking decks are unique because they are presented in a variety of contexts and may actually be used while walking! So, although there’s a chance you would present the deck in a conference room, there may also be scenarios where you need to pull up a single slide on an iPad and speak to it while walking back from the water cooler. But no matter the situation, a speaker coach can help you take advantage of the environment, deliver your message with enthusiasm, and expect the unexpected.

How Duarte can help

Duarte has been crafting and designing presentations (both internal and external facing) for more than 30 years. We’ve helped professionals ranging from product designers to data scientists to sustainability subject matter experts present their ideas, updates, and expertise to an array of internal audiences at some of the largest organizations in the world.

If you think you need a walking deck but want help determining what to say, when to say it, and how to say it – look no further. Reach out to our agency and we can do the heavy lifting.

Or, if you need to train your team to develop and deliver better walking presentations (and presentations in general), consider a live workshop like Slide:ology®, which teaches how to apply visual thinking and design principles to convert ideas into effective slides.

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