Slideshows are a contentious issue. I often hear people complaining about PowerPoints. I also hear them talking excitedly about the latest presentation software that will make any slideshow a work of art. When Prezi came along, it was like the annunciation of Slideshow Christ.
But the Prezi presentations were no better than the PowerPoint presentations – which, incidentally are no better (or worse) than the Keynote presentations.
It isn’t the presentation software that makes or breaks the slideshow. It is the design of the slideshow itself. It was the people creating slideshows not having a clue what the actual purpose of a slideshow is, or what a slideshow should and shouldn’t do. If you don’t know that, you will design a lousy slideshow.
So here it is – the thing you must have top of your mind if you are going to design a good slidehow:
Slideshows serve one purpose: to visually enhance the stuff we’re saying.
What is an enhancement? It could be an image that provide emotional impact or humour or unspoken subtext. It could be a clear and simple graph or chart that illustrates the gist of your facts and figures.
A slideshow is not is a script, or a teleprompter, or a substitute for handouts. It is not a dumping ground for words that should be written on a piece of paper.
Your audience really, really doesn’t want to see your script. They will read it, and it will distract them from listening to you.
You really, really don’t want to be able to see your script on a slide either. It is an irresistible temptation – you will start reading from it instead of speaking naturally. Don’t make things harder for you than they already are by adding the additional stress of having to ignore those words on your own slides.
Slideshows can do wonderful things for your presentations when they are used judiciously. If you are going to use one, take the time to find or make images and illustrations that add depth of meaning to the things you say. Believe me, the result is worth the effort!