Recently, I and 20 other speakers presented 10-minute talks at an event. The night before, my colleagues and I met for dinner and the conversation turned to our presentations. Two friends were working out how they would manage to hook up their computers to show their slides since there was no time in between speakers.
I said, “Ten minutes is not enough for slides. It’s too much of a hassle since there’s no turn time.”
One pal said, “I only have 6 slides and they are hilarious. I want to show them for the humor.”
The other said, “My 30 slides really reinforce my points.”
Both slide decks were created in Keynote, so the authors told me how beautiful the backgrounds and transitions were. Unfortunately, most audiences don’t want to just see pretty backgrounds and transitions — they want slides that are meaningful to advance their understanding of key points.
It was more stress than I’d like to be under, but if these speakers feel their slides are critical to their presentations, I can understand how they would work out the challenges. However, I think nowadays with so many people using slides, it actually makes a speaker stand out when they don’t.
So I watched my friends’ presentation anxiously awaiting these “must-have” visuals.
They weren’t. The “funny” ones barely got a titter from the audience of 200. The longer deck was some words and a few images that helped the speaker track where he was, but didn’t really help the audience have a much better experience than no slides.
In fact, one speaker’s body blocked part of the slides much of the time. And because of the staging, the projector table was in the middle of the platform so both presenters had to maneuver around it, making it more awkward for them.
Both presenters thought their slides were killer and that the audience would be deprived without them. But the result was that the slides didn’t much matter and the presenters — both good speakers — would have delivered a much stronger 10-minute presentation without them.
Is slideless always the way to go? No. Depending on your topic, well-designed slides can greatly enhance the audience’s understanding of key points. But 95% of the time the slides are poorly designed or not needed. They end up being a distraction, not an enhancement.
The next time you’re prepping for a presentation, ask yourself if you really need slides, and if you do, see if you can reduce the number significantly. And if you’re telling a story that doesn’t rely on the slide’s visuals, insert a black slide or make your screen go black. You’ll be perceived as a much more powerful speaker.