What Your Slide Deck Says About You

At the risk of sounding a bit arrogant, I’m going to make the following statement: All I need to see is your slide deck, and I will learn what I need to know about your presentation and how you’ll do as a presenter.

I told you I might come off a little boastful, but once I have those collections of slides, I don’t need to see a live delivery to get a good read on your delivery.  I don’t need to see your agenda, and I don’t need to hear you tell me how creative you are.  As a matter of fact, I don’t have to meet you face-to-face, online, or on the phone.  That collection of slides teaches me all I need to know about you.  Here’s what I mean:

“I don’t need to see a live delivery.” 

Once I have your slide deck, I immediately press play and simply look for the spots in the presentation where you’ll be doing things other than talking.  In a way, I’m looking for what makes you, you.  Perhaps it’s your sense of humor, or your comfort in facilitation.

  • I’m looking for the transitions you are using from slide to slide. A lack of transition from slide to slide tells me you either aren’t skilled in your use of PowerPoint, or you don’t have the time to perfect your presentation.  Too many different transitions can often become a distraction, and tells me you’re overcompensating.
  • I’m not looking for you to show me how much you love all the bells and whistles of a PowerPoint or Keynote program; I’m looking to see if you’ve found one or two ideas that fit your presentation and are being used effectively.
  • I’m looking to see if the text you are showing reveals itself line-by-line. This allows the presenter to direct the attention of the audience, and keeps the audience from jumping ahead.  When all the text on a slide comes up at once, I learn that once again, you either don’t know how to utilize this feature, or you don’t realize how important it is to use this feature.

“I don’t need to see your agenda.” 

Once I have your slide deck, (and know how long your presentation is,) I simply count the number of slides you are showing me.  Those slides can give me a sense of your timing and rhythm.  I’ve coached presenters who will send me 50 slides for a 60-minute presentation.  That’s an awful lot of slides, which tells me there is probably too much content.  If I listed the top 20 mistakes presenters make, 19 of them together wouldn’t equal the number one mistake; too much information.  This classic mistake:

  • Limits the number of questions you can ask your audience.
  • Limits the amount of time for spontaneous conversations with your audience.
  • Limits the number of stories, analogies, quotes, and other techniques used to allow the information to breath.

“I don’t need to hear you tell me how creative you are.”

Once I have your slide deck, I simply look for how you’ve arranged your content.  Specifically:

  • I’m looking at the template you’ve selected. Does it fit the environment you are speaking within, or is it a typical background?
  • I’m looking for artwork you’ve added to certain slides. This shows me your attention to detail and your ability to enhance the words you’ve placed on the slide.
  • I’m looking for the use of video, quotes, polls, breakouts, small group activities, and more. This shows me an enormous amount about your creativity and your ability to take risks.

For the record, I admire risktakers.  Playing it safe will mean that you will most likely miss most of what I discussed above. Taking risks will add a degree of stress, and maybe even bring out a little sweat.  The great Jerry Lewis once summed it up this way:

~ “If you’ve given a presentation, and you haven’t sweat; you’re an amateur.” ~

With more work, and the willingness to take risks in those slide decks, you will find a way to alter your performance. That additional sweat will allow you to make your presentation more than just memorable.  It has the potential to transform the way you present, and take those presentations to a whole new level!

Related: Building Sales by Having a True Conversation