Which kind of speaker are you? The kind who develops your slides first or the speaker who develops your message first and then adds slides to illustrate it?
Last night, at a networking event, I talked with an executive who shared that he had just finished the slide deck for his new presentation. I asked if his script was done, too, and he answered, “No, I don’t use a script.” Then he smiled and added proudly, “I talk from my slides and don’t use any notes.”
As a speaking coach, I work with many speakers who, like this executive, create slides instead of scripts. Once their slides are done, they believe their presentations are done. I also work with speakers who develop their message first and their slides second. They write a script with three to six points that support the main message. Then they develop slides to illustrate those points.
Speeches that are developed as slides are slide-driven. Speeches that are written around a message (a script) are message-driven.
As you can imagine, my work with these opposing types of presenters is very different. But for both types, the initial focus is developing or clarifying the overarching message and supporting messages. The slides are developed or reworked to illustrate those messages.
So, have you figured out which type of speaker you are? Below are some things to watch out for if you are a fan of the slide-driven approach.
Obstacles to Overcome with the Slide-driven Approach
Obstacle #1: The rhythm of the slide-driven presentation doesn’t vary much. It’s Show slide…Talk about slide…Repeat. Repetition without variation is big no-no in speaking because it bores the heck out of audiences.
Obstacle #2: Speakers who “write” their talks by developing slides tend to over-depend on them during their presentations. We have all seen slides with bullet points that are really the speaker’s notes. Worse yet is when the speaker reads the bullet points to us even though we can read them ourselves. (I know you never do that, but I had to include it for my general readership).
Obstacle #3: Slide-driven presentations often have too many slides with too much detail. This happens when the slides (rather than the script) carry the bulk of the presentation. I recommend eliminating slides that don’t link back to your main message and turning data dumps into strong visual images that audiences can grasp quickly. Save highly detailed information for your handout or make it available to your audience on your website.
Obstacle #4: Slide-driven presenters tend to look at the screen too much, which results in them repeatedly breaking their connection with the audience. Turning away from the audience is a signal that the speaker is uncomfortable or not well-prepared and should be addressed in coaching.
Why the Message-driven Presentation is More Effective
The message-driven presentation overcomes most of the obstacles I mentioned above.
- The speaker varies the pace and order of the slides: Talk, show slide at key moment OR show slide at key moment and talk OR show several slides and then make a point, etc.
- All slides flow from and link back to the same main message.
- The slides are designed to be visual vs. verbal and are instantly accessible.
- The audience’s experience is satisfying because the speaker is fully engaged and the slides don’t rule the presentation.
Which came first? The chicken or the egg? I don’t know. I just liked using the metaphor. (If you know the answer, e-mail me.)
Which should come first in developing a speech? The message.
What types of slides should you use? Only those that can visually enhance the audience’s understanding in a matter of seconds.
What is the trick to using slides well? Showing them for the right reason at the perfect moment. I’ll share an illustration with you from my speaking career. This outrageous photo of my husband and me on Halloween was the perfect image to use in the opening of my presentation “Life on a Balance Beam”. I began with the question, “How many of you think becoming a parent changes you? (Up go the hands). I would say, “Me, too,” and then show the slide of the two of us dressed as punk parents.
The slide always prompted laughter. But even more than that it accomplished what my Opening set out to do: build instant rapport, show empathy and understanding, and signal that the next hour would be lively and interesting.
Need help developing a more message-driven approach to writing or delivering your speeches? Call or e-mail me to discuss how we can improve your presentation.