Your research is the book, your presentation is the film adaptation

Recently, I re-read the first part of The Lord of The Rings. Did you know that about a third of the book is not in the movie? And thank goodness for that: if director Peter Jackson had attempted to cram the entire book into the movie, we’d have ended up with one dreadfully long movie.

Everyone understands that a film differs from a book and that decisions must be made about what should and should not be included. After all, you can’t copy all the nuances of the book.

The same goes for your research and the coupled presentation. Your research is the book: complex, nuanced, full of information. Your presentation is the film version: entertaining, thought-provoking and with just enough relevant information. If you don’t see that finesse, things will go wrong.

A tell-tale sign that the film adaptation of your research will flop at the box office? Slides as handouts.

Slides as handouts

Many researchers will cram everything they present onto their slides, without making a single selection. The result being large blocks of text. Forget interaction, performance or an engaging presentation. All you and the presenter will be doing over the next half hour is read.

In this case, the label ‘presentation’ is simply a disguise for what you actually see on stage, being ‘a poorly read book’.

Let me rephrase that : many researchers read aloud a book on stage, so to speak, while pretending it is an engaging presentation with slides.

Do not fall for this. A slide that you read off pretty much in its entirety is a handout. It is a written document, made to be read. Just like a book. It is not a presentation that is to be watched. Handouts and slides are two different things.

Make your presentation compelling to watch. Yes, this takes work. But the impact is immense.

Quick Tip

Do you want slides as well as handouts? That’s more work, because you have to make both the book and the film. An intermediate solution is to put the additional explanations in the notes section of your slides. You can then export them to have them appear alongside your slides in the PDF.

A good approach and a wonderful golden mean: people who are interested will find a way to dig out those additional notes. The rest will sinply stick to the presentation they came for in the first place.

Translation: Leslie Van Ael