How Word is your PowerPoint?

Question: how essential are you for your own presentation? Chances are you are of much less value to your presentation than you would hope.

The problem: the presentation as a document

You may not realize it, but the remark: “I am unable to attend. Would you please forward me the slides to your presentation?’ is an utter insult.

The person making this request is probably very kind and without bad intentions, but what he is really saying, is: “I don’t need you to understand your presentation.”

… and if that is truly the case, then something is off with you or your presentation. You being the speaker, the grand specialist on this research topic, should after all be providing plenty of meaningful additions to the presentation.

Knowing that, you are well justified to give the next person uttering a similar request a prompt piece of your mind. That will teach them.

You can be certain someone will ask you this in the near future. ‘Forward-me-your-slides’ is a common phrase uttered by the general public and all too many employers and organizers in the world of research.

But how often have you yourself attended a presentation that you could have simply read through without the speaker’s presence? Be honest.

The reason behind this is that research presentations are often drawn up as documents, slides are packed with every detail the researcher could bring to mind. Useful for people who can’t attend the presentation, as this will practically read as any publication, but terribly mind-numbing for anyone having put in the effort to attend.

You, the researcher-presenter, can’t fully be blamed.
You want to keep everyone (read: bosses, financers, colleagues, the general public, etc.) content, so your main aim is to create a presentation that will suit any occasion. Right?

As a result, in an effort to provide everyone with the needed information, you have drawn up a text document in PowerPoint. All this while Microsoft has devised Word especially to create documents and PowerPoint for presentations.

The solution: Hand-outs

There is another way: instead of packing your slides with plenty of information to soothe everyone’s mind, you could just as well drop most of your content and adapt your talk to your audience at the time. One presentation will still suffice, but you will have a series of different talks up your sleeve. Those presentations will be less packed with information and will require you for clarification (best case scenario!). Your audience will thank you.

But how will you now please all those other people interested, your bosses and investors who cannot attend your presentation? You can hardly go from door to door repeatedly delivering your presentation to all absentees. Yet, it is vital that they too get to see your presentation (they are your bosses and investors, after all).

Option 1: Use the notes section in PowerPoint

An ideal way to provide each slide with extra information. If you print or forward the presentation, these extra notes will show up on the slides, but they will not be visible during your presentation. This also comes in handy whenever the organizers of an event want to add your slides to their visitors’ folder. This way, your slides are comprehensible without you. That would not be the case with your presentation.

Option 2: Create a Word document

Instead of a notes section in PowerPoint, you can also create a full-sentence text explaining your presentation. A document that can be understood without the PowerPoint slides. You could even distribute this text to any attendees at your presentation wanting more information. And why not add some more references and extra information, seizing this opportunity to showcase your expertise.

Make sure you forward one of the above-mentioned options to any organization, management or colleagues enquiring about your slides.

Conclusion: avoid a data dump

Avoid creating slides containing a mental data dump. These will make you superfluous on stage. Instead, provide a separate hand-out containing any extra information you would like to share. Allow the speaker in you to outrank your slides.