For years now, presentation gurus like Garr Reynolds and Nancy Duarte have been telling us that slides with lots of information, particularly lots of text, just don’t work.

That’s certainly true for slides that are meant to help speakers communicate with their audience. People can’t listen and read at the same time. They’ll do one or the other or worse, neither. Presentation slides should be short, simple, legible, and engaging.

So, why do we still see so many presentations with slides cluttered with information? It seems that in many cases the slide deck is intended to not only support a presentation, but also to be a document: something Reynolds calls a “slideument.”

This kill-two-birds-with-one-stone approach is an attempt to be more efficient, but as Reynolds tells us with another old proverb, it ends up being more like chasing two rabbits and getting neither.

Create Infodecks, not Slideuments

Slide decks with lots of information, however, can be effective for a reading audience. For this kind of deck, I like the term “infodeck” to avoid the negative meaning that Reynolds gave to the term “slideument.”

Many people don’t have time to read white papers but need more information than they can get from a sparse presentation. They need a “Cliffs Notes” version of white paper material.

With PowerPoint, you can do a very nice job of laying out text and graphics in slides to create an infodeck. While a page layout tool like Adobe InDesign is more powerful than PowerPoint for this purpose, PowerPoint is more accessible to most people and makes it easy for anyone to edit the slides.

So, there’s nothing wrong with PowerPoint slides containing lots of information as long as they are for a reading audience and not for a presentation. But they should not be a white paper in a slide format.

If you want to provide more detail together with the slides, the PowerPoint notes area beneath the slide is great for this.

Create a Presentation Deck and an Infodeck

What should you do if you need a slide deck for a reading audience, but you also need to make an oral presentation? The best solution is to have two different decks.

I like to create an infodeck for the reading audience, then modify the infodeck to create a separate presentation deck. Many of your infodeck slides might be easily converted to presentation slides by cutting out most of the text or changing it to be more effective for the presentation. You can use the PowerPoint notes area beneath the slide to provide details for the speaker.

Depending on the material you are covering, and how you want to cover it in the oral presentation, you may need to create completely new slides to make a good presentation. Garr Reynolds’ “Presentation Zen” and Nancy Duarte’s “Slide:ology” can guide you to creating outstanding presentations including simple slides that help make the presentations successful.

Help Clients Shine Twice

When we create slide content for clients, we carefully map out the differences between slides intended for reading and those intended for use by a presenter. Then we create content accordingly.

If they need to make a presentation and have a document for readers, we help them shine twice. Steer them away from the kill-two-birds-with-one-stone approach that leads to a chase-two-rabbits-and-get-neither result (slideuments).

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