Fading into Sameness: How Too Many Slides Can Ruin Your Presentation
"I have a love/hate relationship with PowerPoint. In the right hands, it's a great presentation tool. In the wrong hands (and unfortunately, most usage falls into this category) we are cloning generations of boring slide shows narrated by speakers we barely notice." - Debbie Bailey
Ah, the good old days. For me, those were the days before
PowerPoint slide shows became the norm for virtually every
business presentation given in corporate America. I fondly
remember the days when presenters spoke passionately about
a subject near and dear to their heart without having to
display every single thought on a slide. I often reminisce
back to the time when 80 slides for a 20 minute
presentation was NOT the standard, when presenters weren't
just slide narrators, when preparing for a presentation
meant more than putting together your slide show.
Now don't get me wrong, I know the advantages of using
a few good slides, however, I also know that too much of a
good thing is, well, BAD. I subscribe to Bill Wheless'
philosophy about PowerPoint "It's like alcohol in the hands
of a drunk. What we need is moderation." Somehow, we must
learn to use, but not abuse, slides. If we don't, we risk
looking and sounding like every other boring business
presenter. Worst of all, we become forgettable.
Think about the last presenter who strongly affected you.
More than likely that presenter used very few, if any,
slides. The most memorable presenters rely on their
delivery style to make their point, rather than a well
designed slide deck.
When I first began teaching presentation skills more than
20 years ago, I struggled to convince presenters to
incorporate the use of visual aids. My how the world has
Today, convincing presenters to rely less on their slides
and more on their dynamic communication skills is even
harder. It's almost as if presenters believe that all it
takes to deliver a successful presentation is a good slide
deck. Unfortunately, when asked to prepare a presentation,
presenters spend the vast majority of their time working
on their slides, rather than on perfecting their delivery
Consider for a moment why political candidates and
presidents DON'T use slides. My guess is, they don't want
to divert any attention away from themselves. They
understand what Roger Ailes, author of the famous book "You
Are the Message" has known for quite some time. "For those
who want to succeed, there is only one secret. YOU ARE
Generally, here's what happens when you overuse slides:
1. Your slides lose their ability to make an impact-
Essentially, slides become the white noise in the
presentation, so constant that they are no longer
2. The audience focuses on your slides, rather than on
you. If 55% of your communication power comes from your
body and face (based on the universally accepted research
by Albert Mehrabian), than NOT having the audience focused
on you diminishes about half of your POWER as a presenter.
Can you really afford to cut your personal power in half?
3. You are demoted to the position of slide narrator. The
slides take center stage and like the narrator of a play,
you are the anonymous voice coming from somewhere in the
Just as too many slides can detract from your success as
a presenter, having a few well designed slides can
strengthen your impact. Consider these quick tips designed
to help improve your use of slides:
1. Develop your presentation first, then determine where a
visual might help the audience better understand your
message. This is a much safer approach than developing
your slides first.
2. Try to boil your presentation down to six or fewer
important slides that speak to the heart of your message.
Make sure that each slide you chose complies with the
6 x 6 rule-no more than six lines of text with six words
on each line.
3. Better yet, make the impact of your slides visual,
rather than verbal (words written on slides). The best
slides arouse the audience visually so take a creative
approach to translating words into meaningful pictures.
Rest assured that it's not that I am anti slides-I am
pro YOU! While slides do serve an important function, even
the best designed slide can't compete with the power of
YOU. YOU are the greatest visual aid of all! Take the
focus OFF the slides and put it back where it belongs-
squarely on YOU! Invest the time you might have spent on
your slides on your delivery practice and rather than fading
into sameness, you will STAND APART from the rest!
(c) Debbie Bailey, 2004
Debbie Bailey is a well-regarded Presentation Skills
Training Consultant and founder of Trainer2go Inc.
For more information about Debbie go to
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