Powerpoint presentations continue to be a key communications tool. Platforms like Slideshare, Brainshark, and others are increasing the potential value of presentation decks by offering other ways to deliver the story.
A great presentation is memorable, but bad ones tend to stick out even more, like and unpleasant odor. To combat this, many organizations create rules for presentations, particularly around the number of slides you can include. Or, reviewers look at the number of slides (without even glancing at the content), and immediately say “its too long.”
To my eye, these approaches are gut reactions to horrible presentation experiences, but may not be the best advice. I’ve seen a 50 slide deck deliver a story more effectively, in less time, than a “15 slider.” This is particularly true when people cram information that used to be on 5 or 6 slides onto 1, making it look like the departures and arrivals board at a major airport.
So what should guide your decisions on your presentations? I’d suggest considering these three things:
- Tell your story - This is the number one consideration. Use the right number of slides to tell your story most effectively. Don’t tell 10 stories, tell one and make it compelling. And make sure that it can be told in the time alloted.
- Know your venue - If you are going to be presenting this live, you can use more slides (with a lot less words on the slides) and vary the time spent on each slide to tell your story. If you aren’t going to deliver it live, you may want more words on the slides (so that someone viewing them understands the story without you telling it) and to consolidate some of the slides. This is particularly true for posting on Slideshare (I’d even suggest you don’t simply post decks that you present live on SlideShare–create a specific deck for that venue.)
- Know your audience – While I don’t think slide counts matter, if your sending a presentation to an executive, they might do the slide count check before viewing. Don’t make it so long they won’t even open it. On the other hand, more slides with less information on each is more easily scannable. If you take this approach, encourage them to “quickly scan through the slides.” They are likely to get more out of it than if they have to try to focus on figuring out what matters on a collection of overloaded slides.
Don’t let yourself fall into the slide count trap that could diminish the value of the story you need to tell. Designing the right presentation for the audience and venue will help you deliver more successful presentations, regardless of the number of slides in them.
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