If I could make just ONE change to improve, what should it be?

It’s clear that when a speaker steps off stage having giving an excellent presentation that a lot of work has gone into the finished article. Whether that is a business case to 5 people or oration to thousands, it takes time. And time is precious. So what one thing could you do that would quickly and dramatically improve your presentation skills? Simple. Stop using slideuments.

A slideument is the bastard child of your script and your handout all neatly rolled out as the evil that passes as your slide deck. Three, very separate things horribly morphed into one ill purposed presentation.

I asked friends on twitter if they could think of a tool that does three separate jobs. They struggled. Some were “innovative” using cutlery for eating and cooking purposes and “stabbing people who steal my chips”. Others, clearly students of bricolage, suggested utilising a book for reading, propping up the bed and “hitting people”. Some were just plain satirical. Aside from the casually violent however there was one voice of reason, @biking_becky who suggested that a smartphone was a single tool used for 3 jobs.

I had hoped that my search would fail to bring up any useful metaphors making this blog post easier, but work with me a while. The reason there are so few individual tools that do three separate tasks is that to best perform an individual task we construct or buy something that specifically and perfectly fits the purpose. It is exceptionally unlikely that a completely different purpose would be matched by the same, specialised tool unless that purpose was very simple. A knife can be used to cut, to spread peanut butter and as a screwdriver. A £1 coin can buy things, prop up a wonky table leg and be used to decide which end your football team play to first. None of these tasks are complex. Giving a presentation is a complex task. 


There are many reasons that we attempt to multi-purpose our presentation and include: time, efficiency, laziness, conformity, instruction and ignorance but does it work? Of course it does. A knife can be used to drive screws or a book as a weapon. It isn’t elegant and it isn’t as effective as it could be, but it works. Is that what you’d like your presentation to be? Is that how much you value the information you are dealing with? Is that what you think of your audience?

The astute reader may then return to the metaphor of a smartphone. It seamlessly and elegantly can perform many functions from telecommunication to media player to photography and all within one aesthetically pleasing package. None of these tasks are simple and the device wasn’t cobbled together in 20 minutes the night before its release.

If you want to make a dramatic and immediate improvement in your presentations don’t put everything you want to say and everything you want remembered into everything that is seen. Stop using slideuments. No really! Your audience will thank you.

edited image from my friend Phil over at http://philpresents.wordpress.com/

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