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  • Making your Slides All Things to All People

    Posted on November 25th, 2008 Marieke Guy No comments

    I’ve just run a presentation ‘Think Tank’ at work. This was a very informal brainstorming session where we could talk about how my organisation, UKOLN, can progress with its approach to presentations.

    We discussed our current thoughts on UKOLN presentations, what we liked about other presentations and how this could be applied to our own presentations bearing in mind things like layout, content, colour, animation, branding, fonts, images etc.

    The session went well and there was lots of useful discussion.

    One predicament that came up was how much information should you put in a presentation? (Should you fill it with data or keep it minimalist? What exactly should a presentation do? Should it stand alone as a resource or only work when presented by a presenter?)

    Today, especially in academia where sharing of knowledge is the goal, presentations are increasingly being made available and used after an event has taken place. There is a fashion for ‘amplified conferences’, whereby the outputs (such as plenary talks) can be amplified through use of a variety of network tools and collateral communications and services like Slideshare have made this ‘sharing’ even easier. Even if slides aren’t going online they often end up in conference proceedings.

    Remote workers frequently come to slides after they’ve already been presented. For example here at UKOLN this happens a lot with our internal staff seminars.

    So what do you do? Your slides now need to be all things to all people.

    Having given it some thought there are a number of options:

    • One approach might be to add extra information to the ‘notes’ section in PowerPoint. This could then help those coming to the slides after the event. This information can also be captured by Slideshare.
    • Another might be to create a document to accompany any presentation. In his book Presentation Zen Garr Reynolds feels that most people currently produce what he calls a slideument (slides + document) which in reality doesn’t work. He suggests it would be better to create two separate documents: a slide presentation and a written document that sits alongside it. This is an approach that my team leader and I have been experimenting with through the use of introbytes or briefing papers that we hand out at events (instead of print outs of slides!)
    • You could also try creating two sets of slides. One for use on the stage and another for uploading to a Web site before or after the conference. This will allow you have simpler slides and possibly more of them for on stage and less ‘more information based’ slides for other use. These could be in a more controllable format like PDF. You’ll also feel better about editing your live slides at the very last minute as they are a ‘different set’.

    Are there any other ways we could deal with this catch 22 situation?