Presentation Myth: Simple Slides are Always Better

June 10, 2014 in Author, Greg Owen-Boger, Myths Debunked

A recent workshop participant said, “I don’t want to simplify this slide. The abundance of the data is where the story is.”

Simple Slides are Always Better 6-9-14

As his coach, I cannot argue with that. This is exactly why those one-size-fits-all rules about the number of bullets or words on a slide don’t work.

Admittedly, sometimes less is more. (And we do help our clients simplify their slides and their message when necessary.) But as this workshop participant said, sometimes the message is better communicated through lots of data.

Slide Vs. Handout
The slide pictured here would be, admittedly, a lousy visual aid if it were projected onto a screen. It’s too busy and would be hard to read, so in cases such as this, be sure to include a hard copy of the slide so that people can read and study it as part of your presentation.

I encourage you to think critically about the rules you’ve heard about slide design and business presentations. As Dale Ludwig, Turpin’s founder, often says, “If a slide doesn’t help you move the conversation forward, it’s a lousy visual aid.”

What “rules” for presenting do you break?

by Greg Owen-Boger, VP at Turpin Communication and co-author of the upcoming book, “The Orderly Conversation”

Rethinking the Visual Component of Your Presentations (Part 3 of 4)

September 9, 2013 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivery, Preparation, Presentation

Part 1, Part 2, Part 4

This is the third in a series of four articles about the need to take a fresh look at the visuals you use in your presentations. In this article I’ll talk about images that you use during your presentations that exist on their own outside of it. Things like sales numbers, financial reports, marketing data, flow charts, and org charts. All of these things are essentially documents intended to be read.

When faced with the challenge of delivering this information, either you change the document to make your point clear (thereby making the document an effective visual aid in the traditional sense) or you leave the document as it is and guide the audience through it during delivery.

Whichever way you do it, you need to make sure your decision is appropriate for the audience.

If business presentations were always simple, predictable processes, involving very little interaction between you and your audience, your choice is easy. You would transform the document into a well-designed visual. You would simplify, streamline, edit, and determine precisely what the audience’s takeaway from the slide is.

But, because presentations are usually not simple or predictable, it’s not always possible to transform data into beautiful slides. Your audience may want or need more information than a well-designed slide will allow. They may want the details so they can discuss them with you. They may be stubborn or resistant and expect you to give them the information they need to be persuaded.

In these situations, you’re better off giving them the data and all of its detail to look at.

Just keep in mind that when you do this, the focus in the room changes. It shifts away from you and toward the visual. When that happens, the presentation becomes a group discussion and you become the facilitator of it. When the conversation about the data is over, you assume your role as presenter again, but for that short period of time your responsibilities are different.

Why is this an important distinction? Because you have to let the discussion take place. That requires giving up some of your control and letting the audience determine where the conversation goes. It’s important to make sure they know what they’re looking at and why. They need time to think, question, and discuss. Your job is to let the data become the subject of the conversation without derailing the presentation.

This process is another example of how your business presentations are different than formal speeches. Presentations often require an in-depth examination and discussion of the information. The visuals you use—regardless of their origin or design—should make the process as easy and productive as possible.

In the final article on this topic, I’ll discuss slides meant to bring emphasis or emotion to your presentations.

Part 1Part 2, Part 4

by Dale Ludwig, President & Founder of Turpin Communication and co-author of the upcoming book, “The Orderly Conversation”

Rethinking the Visual Component of Your Presentations (Part 2 of 4)

August 27, 2013 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivery, Preparation, Presentation

Part 1, Part 3, Part 4

This is the second in a series of four articles about the need to take a fresh look at the visuals you use in your presentations. Here’s the question I posed at the end of the last article.

As you know, we define presentations as Orderly Conversations. We need to ask how the slides you use contribute to the process. Do they bring order to or are they the subject of the conversation?

The visuals you use serve two basic functions. Some of them bring order to the conversation. Let’s call them framing slides. Other visuals are the subject of the conversation. Let’s call them content slides.

Framing Slides
These slides appear in the introduction, conclusion, and as transition slides in the body of the presentation. Slide titles are also used to reinforce the frame. The role of these slides is to make listening easier for your audience. Think of them as a road map. They tell the audience what you want to achieve, how the presentation is organized, and why it’s happening. They provide context and a sense of order.

Too often, presenters underuse these slides because they don’t contain much content. Agenda slides are flashed on the screen with a quick, “And here’s our agenda” and then they’re gone. Similar things happen with transition slides, slide titles, and conclusion slides. While you may struggle to know what to say when these slides are on the screen, just remember their function. They are there to bring order to the conversation and build the audience’s confidence in you as a presenter.

Content Slides
The slides you deliver in the body of the presentation are the subject of the conversation taking place. As such, they receive more attention than framing slides. Sometimes, when you’re delivering a lot of detail and data, the audience focuses on the visual for an extended period of time.

When this happens, the slide is much more than what we think of as “visual aids,” the simple, subordinate type of visual traditionally used by speechmakers. When content slides are delivered you and the audience need to give them the attention they deserve. That might be a lot or a little, depending on how the content fits into the presentation as a whole.

What you say about content slides will also be influenced by your audience, of course. You may need to say more than you intended or less. Just remember that your goal is to keep whatever you say within the context of the presentation’s frame.

In the next article, I’ll write about visuals that have a life outside of the presentation in which they’re being used.

Part 1, Part 3, Part 4

by Dale Ludwig, President & Founder of Turpin Communication and co-author of the upcoming book, “The Orderly Conversation”

QR Codes and Your Next Presentation

June 25, 2012 in Author, Delivery, Greg Owen-Boger, Preparation, Presentation


Last week I had the pleasure of attending a workshop on QR codes (among other social media things) at a session hosted by the Chicagoland Chapter ASTD. It was led by Larry Straining, founder of Larry’s Training, and author of the book, “ 111 Creative Ways to use QR Codes.”

I’ve used QR codes for a handful of things, but it never occurred to me that they might be useful for Turpin’s clients and their presentations.

There’s been a lot of discussion recently with some of our larger clients about trimming back the amount of information on their employees’ slides and leave-behind documents. We wholeheartedly agree, as long as the slide/handout doesn’t lose meaning or cause confusion for the presenter or listener. The problem with this approach, though, is that sometimes audience members need to be able to access back-up information later.

greg 200x300Ding. Ding. Ding.

Why not make that back-up info available and accessible through a QR code? Less paper, more easily accessible information. That seems like a win-win.

Here’s how it would work. As you prepare your presentation, collect whatever data you need to support your points. Put the detail into a separate document, then create slides that are lean and give you just enough reminder of what you want to say. Upload your support document to a service such as YouSendIt, and create a QR code to link to it. Then copy/paste the QR code onto the slide.

Viola! You have an instant appendix available to your listeners long after you’ve left the conference room. All they have to do is scan the code with their mobile device.

How have you used QR codes?

By Greg Owen-Boger, VP and Trainer at Turpin Communication

Presenting Information Persuasively (PART 2 of 2)

May 27, 2009 in Author, Delivery, Mary Clare Healy, Presentation

Last week, someone asked this question:  I know you said in class that we should think of all presentations as persuasive presentations.  And that makes sense to me most of the time.  But what do you do when you really are just presenting data?  I’m not trying to get my audience to do anything.  They just need to be informed.

In my last post, I talked about some of the things you can do to prepare informative presentations in order to make them a little more persuasive (click here for PART 1 of 2).  This week, I’ll talk about delivery.

  1. Acknowledge your listener’s state of mind.  Be in tune with your listeners when you begin to speak.  Prove to them that you understand what they’re feeling right now.  It’s often a good idea to use phrases like, “I know this is just one of the many project updates you’ll be hearing today, so I’ll keep it short.”  Or, “I know you might be dreading this presentation because you think it’s going to be long and detailed…”  This is just another way to acknowledge your listeners’ Current Situation, one that is based on what’s happening in the moment.  Acknowledging their state of mind will help listeners distinguish between the data and your delivery of it.
  2. When you deliver the data, use tiebacks and applications.  Tiebacks connect the data in the body to the benefits in the introduction.  Applications emphasize the relevance of the information you’re presenting to your listeners’ situation.  It’s up to you to point out why the information you’re delivering is important to your listeners and how they can use it.  Remember, what may seem obvious to you may not be obvious to them.
  3. You are not your data.  Never go into an informative presentation assuming that the data you’re delivering sets the tone for your presentation.  That’s your responsibility.  The data might be complex.  It might be difficult to understand.  But your delivery of it does not need to be.  By communicating your enthusiasm for the presentation process and your concern that listeners care about what you’re saying, you’ll motivate their interest.

One final note about informative presentations: remember that your perspective on the data is important.  Listeners learn a lot when they hear how you think about or prioritize the information you’re delivering.  Don’t be afraid to say things like, “What I find really interesting on this slide is…” or “The results here are unique.  We don’t see this sort of thing very often…”  Opening the door to your way of looking at the information you’re presenting invites your listeners to understand it more fully.

by Mary Clare Healy, Trainer at Turpin Communication

Presenting Information Persuasively (PART 1 of 2)

May 19, 2009 in Author, Introduction, Mary Clare Healy, Preparation, Presentation


I know you said in class that we should think of all presentations as persuasive presentations. And that makes sense to me most of the time. But what do you do when you really are just presenting data? I’m not trying to get my audience to do anything. They just need to be informed.

We get asked about this quite often.  The answer has two parts; one focuses on preparation and the other on delivery.  I’ll cover preparation this week.  Next week, I’ll follow up with delivery.

If you deliver a lot of data-heavy presentations, it’s easy to get stuck in a rut and approach each of them with the same goal, “I just need to deliver the information.”  Even if you only occasionally deliver informative presentations, you might be tempted to assume that the data speaks for itself and that its usefulness is obvious.  The problem, though, is that when you assume your presentation is solely about the data, you aren’t doing anything to make it relevant or important to your listeners.

The next time you’re putting together an informative presentation, assume that your goal is to motivate your listeners’ interest.  Getting your listeners to want the information you’re presenting will put a persuasive edge on your presentation.  Here are some ways to do that:

  1. When you set the goal for your presentation, focus on what you want your listeners to think or feel about the information when you’re finished.  Let this goal guide you.  It will help you approach the presentation with a specific audience reaction in mind.
  2. Name your audience’s Current Situation to create context for the information you’re presenting.   This can be as simple as referring to why they’re in the room, a quarterly meeting or project review, for example.  Whatever the context for the presentation, articulating it clearly up front helps put everyone on the same page and draws attention to the reason you’re delivering the data and why they should be interested in receiving it.
  3. Clarify the benefit of understanding the data you’re presenting.  How will your listeners be better off when your presentation is over?  This is very much like discussing the benefits usually associated with persuasive presentations.  Only in this situation, it’s the benefit of understanding something, not doing something.

As we recommend with most presentations, it’s usually a good idea to assume a little skepticism from your listeners.  Doing so encourages you to work a little harder to get and keep their interest.

In my next post I’ll offer some ideas about delivering data-heavy presentations.

by Mary Clare Healy, Trainer at Turpin Communication