Why slides (not presentations) are the answer to better communication, especially during these times
To be completely honest from the get-go, I have always been a strong believer in the power of a great PowerPoint (or Keynote, Prezi, etc.) presentation. As we work more remotely, I only see the role of a presentation increasing as video conferencing tools take the center stage and room dynamics change — presenters are often sitting at home in their underwear :).
When I first started producing presentations professionally, I noticed that the majority of training, workshops, and seminars are focused on what is called “presentation skills.” Oddly enough presentation skills are 99% focused on the delivery of the presentation, the speech. Even clubs such as Toastmasters International teach their members how to be excellent public speakers. But rarely do we see a focus on the slides themselves; in fact, they are often treated as an afterthought. Something that is created purely so that the speaker can deliver the speech, but not crafted with planning and care.
I, however, strongly believe that the slides themselves can play a role that is even greater than the speech itself. The reasons are threefold and let me explain why.
Slides structure & clarify thinking
Slides tell the story all on their own putting less pressure on the speaker
A slide deck can easily be shared and distributed
Slides structure and clarify thinking
I believe this is the most important role of a slide presentation in that it is not just a place to dump information, but a tool to help you clearly outline your thinking in a logical and structured fashion. The slides themselves become a synthesis of your thoughts and actions.
Experienced executives know this and therefore often read a lot more into a slide deck than you might think. When they see a clear, concise, and structured presentation, they often use that as a proxy for the person behind the slides, i.e. when they trust the presentation, they trust the person behind the slides.
A second benefit behind clarifying your thinking through slides is that holes and gaps in your plan come out at this stage instead of in front of an audience. You then have time to fix potential issues before sharing.
Slides tell the story on their own
A great slide presentation can tell a powerful story all by itself. Slides are especially important in times when we have less personal contact as a video call does not carry the same weight as a speech in person.
It is often the case, that a great communicator, a great speaker, can carry a presentation to success even without great slides. Now, this has advantages and disadvantages that I will not cover at this moment. What is interesting about the times we are living in now, is that the great communicator may take less of a prominent role.
Video calls are great, but they are not the same as being in the room — the dynamics are simply different. This is a great environment for someone with a great slide presentation to make an impact. Even for shy individuals, it is much easier to present in the comfort of your own home. Everyone else sees the slides and their focus goes to the content, not some hiccups in your speech. This is your time to shine.
A slide deck can be easily shared and distributed
This is an easy one and more of a subpoint. A presentation can easily be shared by email or chat without the speaker present. The audience has time to digest the material before the discussion begins, or the content can be used as a preread, reference, or study material. In the case of a webinar, a nice set of slides can help the audience digest the material afterward. Recorded videos can be a nice reference, but oftentimes they are huge (hundreds of MB), and few want to sift through an hour’s worth of video to find the one point they want to remember.
In my experience and what I believe will hold true during these special times, slides will continue to play a massive role in how we communicate with each other. There are 3 main reasons why this is the case.
1. Slides structure & clarify thinking
2. Slides tell the story all on their own putting less pressure on the speaker
3. A slide deck can easily be shared and distributed
In the corporate environment, I see firsthand that to communicate ideas in a structured fashion and provide managers with the information they need to make the right decisions; PowerPoint presentations will continue to play a critical role.
While great webinars, no matter what software they are using, will continue to help audiences better comprehend concepts and ideas.