Slides during a speech are a huge pet peeve of mine. They are almost always misused, unneeded, and/or distracting. Slides should be used to enhance the message of the speech, but they are usually just a crutch for the speaker.
Before using a slide, ask yourself this question:
Does this slide tell my message better than I can?
If it does, use the slide. If it doesn't, get rid of the slide. It's as simple as that. Every single slide should make the speech better in some way. If it doesn't, it should be eliminated.
Slides should not be used as notes for the speaker. That's a crutch, and those slides don't add anything useful to the speech. Tech glitches occasionally occur, and if you're relying on those slides to get you through your speech you will be up a creek without a paddle.
Slides should not be full of text, especially in tiny font. That's annoying and unnecessary. Your audience should not spend all their time reading while you're talking. When slides become overwhelming, and when there are far too many, that's called Death By PowerPoint. Don't do that.
The focus, as a speaker, should be you and your message.
The focus should not be the slides.
If you must use slides, be sure to ask yourself the question above. If you determine you need slides, follow these guidelines:
Less is more. Keep slides to a minimum. Every moment of your speech does not need its own slide. Allow your audience to determine what's important from your speech and take their own notes without the distraction of endless slides.
Consider hand-outs as an alternative. If you have a lot of worksheet-style content that you're tempted to put on slides, hand-outs may be a better option. You can give them out after your talk, which allows your audience to simply listen and learn while you're talking. Audience members can review your information later.
Bigger is better. If you must use text, make it super huge. Everyone in the room needs to see it. Use few words in large font. Don't clog up your slides with book-length paragraphs in tiny font.
Tell a story. Use your slides to help illustrate your message. Images are preferable to text. Use meaningful images rather than stock photos. If an image doesn't have special meaning, don't use it.
Stay on target. Only use slides that don't distract from you and your message. If your audience is looking up at the screen behind you more than they're looking at you, that's a problem.
The best slides I've ever seen showed important statistics in a huge graph for effect, screenshots that illustrate how to implement what's being taught, or personal photos of the speaker's topic. They told the message better than the speakers could, so they made sense and actually enhanced the speeches. Use your slides in similar ways, and your speeches will be powerful and make an impact as well.
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