Delivery

Interacting with Slides

Nancy Duarte’s slide:ology is five months old and still, deservedly, going strong. Long may it wave.

Although Nancy and I have worked together for many years, I still keep going back to slide:ology for her wonderful creative ideas. I’m particularly taken with the structure of her Chapter 11, “Interacting with Slides.” One of the basic rules of any well-told story is to have a clear progression of its main ideas. Professional playwrights and screenwriters call this the “story arc.”

Nancy begins this particular chapter with a section called, “The Power of Constraints,” in which she makes a plea–a call–to exercise constraint in slides, and then concludes the chapter with a section called, “A Call to Relate.” That’s not only a very clear arc, but a symmetrical one that culminates the progression. The constraints she recommends are many: in the use of text on a slide, the amount of text on a slide, the number of slides in a presentation, and the length of a presentation.

Brava, Nancy! I–and legions of victimized audiences who have suffered through excessive presentations–wholeheartedly concur. As Nancy puts it so aptly, “Have you ever finished a presentation and had folks flock to you, begging you to make it longer next time?”

However, there is one other important constraint that all presenters must observe–even when they design slides according to the letter of the precepts in slide:ology–and that is in the presenter’s delivery. Most presenters, driven by the pressures of time, barrel through their slideshows as if they are trying to win the Indy 500, and never stop talking. This unbroken stream of verbiage creates a negative impact on the audience–and makes it very difficult for the presenter to relate to them. The arc is broken.

Here’s why the break occurs: The instant a new image appears on the projection screen, the audience suddenly shifts their attention to the screen and away from the presenter, and they do so involuntarily–driven by the reflex actions of their eyes. So focused is the audience on the slide, they do not hear anything the presenter says.

There is a simple solution to all of this: pause.

stop wait a minute... by Baby Skinz
stop wait a minute... by Baby Skinz

How will the pause feel to the presenter?
Awful. An eternity.

How will that discomfort appear to the audience?
They won’t see it, because they will be focused on the screen.

Therefore, whenever you introduce a new slide, stop talking, turn to the screen and look at it. If the slide is animated, allow the animation to complete its full course of action. (For more about PowerPoint animation, please see my blog, “Animation and the Presenter.”) During your pause, look at the image as if you have never seen it, giving your audience time to see it, because they most certainly never have. At that moment, you and your audience fall into lock step.

Then, and only then, can you turn back to them–and relate.
Like that red octagonal stop sign, come to a full stop before proceeding.

Jerry Weisman Jerry Weissman is a wonderful friend of Duarte and is today’s guest blogger. He is the founder of Power Presentations and also publishes a blog about communication.

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  • I like the idea of stopping…sometimes speakers are talking too fast as it is and I try to get them to slow down and this is a great way for them to take a breath and slow down. Great suggestion!

  • I like the idea of stopping…sometimes speakers are talking too fast as it is and I try to get them to slow down and this is a great way for them to take a breath and slow down. Great suggestion!

  • While I agree 100% that many people speak far too fast when presenting, and using more pauses, breathing properly, relaxing and speaking in a conversational tone (see Ken Robinson’s TED presentation) makes the world of difference, I am not so sure about the stopping and looking at the slide with a pause every time you change a slide. Reynolds and Godin both suggest that you shouldn’t even look at your slides. I agree that if it is a technical slide that needs time to sink in… maybe your suggestion helps.

    Maybe as a technique for people who genuinely struggle to slow down, it can force them… but once you learn to control your speed I am not so sure.

    And you are right, it is a great book.

  • While I agree 100% that many people speak far too fast when presenting, and using more pauses, breathing properly, relaxing and speaking in a conversational tone (see Ken Robinson’s TED presentation) makes the world of difference, I am not so sure about the stopping and looking at the slide with a pause every time you change a slide. Reynolds and Godin both suggest that you shouldn’t even look at your slides. I agree that if it is a technical slide that needs time to sink in… maybe your suggestion helps.

    Maybe as a technique for people who genuinely struggle to slow down, it can force them… but once you learn to control your speed I am not so sure.

    And you are right, it is a great book.

  • I agree with pausing when you click onto a new slide to allow the audience to take it in. But if you keep looking at the slide – then you’ll miss important visual cues to guide you when to start talking again. So I would suggest that you look at the slide momentarily (this is a visual cue to the audience to indicate that they should look at it) and then look back at the audience and monitor where they’re looking. When they’ve stopped processing the slide, they’ll return their gaze to you. When about 50-70% of the audience is looking back at you, that’s the best time to start talking again. Olivia

  • I agree with pausing when you click onto a new slide to allow the audience to take it in. But if you keep looking at the slide – then you’ll miss important visual cues to guide you when to start talking again. So I would suggest that you look at the slide momentarily (this is a visual cue to the audience to indicate that they should look at it) and then look back at the audience and monitor where they’re looking. When they’ve stopped processing the slide, they’ll return their gaze to you. When about 50-70% of the audience is looking back at you, that’s the best time to start talking again. Olivia

  • Slide:ology is a great resource. I pulled the book out yesterday to look for ideas on visual models. It has some great examples. Thanks for calling out the power of the pause.

  • Slide:ology is a great resource. I pulled the book out yesterday to look for ideas on visual models. It has some great examples. Thanks for calling out the power of the pause.

  • denise cox

    hi, just want to mention that I went to jerry’s blog to sign up for it.. and neither the subscribe by email or by rss feed is working – in case anyone from duarte design reads this.

    • Hi Denise,

      Thanks for letting us know. We’ll get the right info from Jerry and make the correction soon.

      -Doug

  • denise cox

    hi, just want to mention that I went to jerry’s blog to sign up for it.. and neither the subscribe by email or by rss feed is working – in case anyone from duarte design reads this.

    • Hi Denise,

      Thanks for letting us know. We’ll get the right info from Jerry and make the correction soon.

      -Doug

  • For those of you who have clicked through to our site and been unable to subscribe to our feedburner feed… we apologize. The glitch is fixed, and you can now subscribe.

    And, from all of us at Power Presentations, thank you Nancy for your support and continued friendship.

  • For those of you who have clicked through to our site and been unable to subscribe to our feedburner feed… we apologize. The glitch is fixed, and you can now subscribe.

    And, from all of us at Power Presentations, thank you Nancy for your support and continued friendship.

  • signed up.. thanks.

  • signed up.. thanks.

  • ade

    How I wish a lot more presenters can learn and implement all the techniques being presented on this blog. It’ll really make a lot of meeting, seminar etc worth the time and effort we make to attend.

  • ade

    How I wish a lot more presenters can learn and implement all the techniques being presented on this blog. It’ll really make a lot of meeting, seminar etc worth the time and effort we make to attend.

  • This is not a comment on just this post, rather a more general note. This blog is awesome!

  • This is not a comment on just this post, rather a more general note. This blog is awesome!

  • mona
  • mona
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