Why do you think they call them “slides”?

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Perhaps some of you reading this are old enough to remember slideshows  or have seen an example on TV or in the movies.  40 years ago, if you wanted a sophisticated “visual aid” you put slides in a carousel tray and “clicked” through them as you talked.  This was done recreationally, “Here we are on our trip to the Grand Canyon.” Educationally; “What you’re looking at here is an amoeba.” or professionally; “As you can see from this slide, earnings have increased 22 percent since last year.” You were looking at a picture or diagram.  I’d venture to say never were you looking at bullet points. 

Fast forward to present day, where PowerPoint slides are used by presenters worldwide to display their written content to their audience. When did we come to think of this kind of visual as an aid – to the audience, I mean?  We have all been the audience and we all know how mind-numbingly boring such presentations are.  In fact, the only thing we usually remember from a presentation where the only visuals were screen after screen of lots and lots of words; is how bored we were watching it. 

Presenters are clinging to their slide decks full of words the way a terrified speaker grips the podium.  Talk to them of replacing these visuals with images, graphs, charts, great evocative photos and they respond with, “But what will I have to remind myself what to say next?”  To them (and you) I say; would you expect an actor, even in a staged reading of a play, to display the script, even an abbreviated version, for the audience?  Of course not.  What would be the point in watching the actors when you could just as easily read the script yourself? 

Why should a presentation be any different?  Why would the audience want to read what you’re about to say?  How in the world could that do anything but dampen your impact?  Isn’t the idea of a visual aid to enhance what you are saying?  At bespeak, we say that every visual aid should act as a synergistic component; it plus you should be bigger than either part could be separately.

So the next time you’re creating your slide show to accompany your presentation; think back, way way back, to when the term ‘slide show’ meant click after blissful click of images that enhanced what the speaker was saying, and made the experience for the audience a multi-dimensional one that impacted them on many levels.  You’d better believe those presenters were being heard. And so can you be.

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