First of all – don’t design them, first of all.
It’s a misleading title I am afraid. PowerPoint (or other packages) is great. There are many books on slide design and the well-designed slide can make a presentation stand out from all others. I’m all for using slides.
The slides are not the presentation. I’ll repeat that. The slides are not the presentation. You are the human being delivering a human message to other human beings. It’s what you are going to say and the way you are going to say it which is the presentation. And if you use slides, or indeed any other form of visual, then they are there only to support, enhance and clarify.
Slides should be almost the last thing you design. Decide what you’re going to say, how you are going to say it and then slot in the slides. You’ll use far fewer (usually) but the ones you do use will be brilliant because they are designed for a purpose.
Why don’t people get this right? There are a number of reasons:
- People think that the presentation is the slide deck. So organisers of conferences ask for slides. Senior managers sign off on the slides. Colleagues give feedback on slides. It sends the message that these are the most important and the first thing to do…
- In a way, it is easier to work on slides than it is to think about the message. People find it a more straightforward task downloading information/content in a logical bulleted (often) format rather than engaging in the creative process of ‘shaping’ and crafting a message in a way that resonates with the audience.
- Slides are an excellent way of remembering what to say. They act as a script don’t they? They are also a great way of boring people to death (Death by PowerPoint) and encouraging your voice to be dull, monotonous and predictable.
Don’t get me wrong. Slides and visual aids have their place. But make sure you know the message, you know the sequence and structure and then go design the BEST slides you can that will help you say what you have to say with impact!