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How slides diminish your power

Nobody thinks it’s a good use of time to sit in a room and read slides together.

If slides are ill-conceived, if they contain too many words, if they are a sea of bullets, if they overwhelm your colleagues, then you have given up your chance to be a change-maker.  You have given power to the software and the templates, rather than claiming the power position in the room.

If you use slides, they should be backdrop, not center stage. As a content expert, people gather in a room to hear YOU talk. They never gather for a slide-reading exercise.

Christine and I talk quite a bit about retooling slide use because we know it is ubiquitous in engineering and technical fields as a tool for information sharing. There’s very little point for us to talk about eschewing slides altogether, because we know from working with our practicing engineering colleagues that slides are the expected norm.

So, let’s work with what we have and claim our voices again. If we are asked to give a talk, focus on the talk. Use the slides as backdrops, not as the center show. YOU should be the centerpiece, and all attention should be on you, not your slides. People should not be trying to read your slides rather than listening to your words.

And if your slides have to do double duty (support for the live talk + archival use for future teams), see our extensive advice on how to do this effectively (Chapter 10). There are also shorter how-to pieces on this site in Case Study 3 and Case Study 4. More can also be found at the Assertion/Evidence site, where we also contribute.

–Traci Nathans-Kelly

(crossposted at