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I argue in all my lectures and classes that a slide presentation needs to be built "up" from a core narrative. That is, define a simple narrative and add slides consistent with the time you have and the ability of the audience to understand complexity. Try developing a 3 minute presentation, a 5 minute presentation, etc. In other words think about what you can add, not what you can cut.

But the process of defining that core narrative works the other way. The first attempt at a narrative is likely to contain a lot of jargon and complexity. Try it out on a close colleague (person at the next lab bench) and he/she will tell you parts that they don't understand. Then try it out on a colleague with a little less specific knowledge (person in the next lab) of your research. Keep moving "down" the ladder of expertise until you can explain the narrative to what I call the least knowledgeable target listener. Not everyone, but the least knowledgeable person you hope to engage.

This two way flow is illustrated on the following slide. Narrative development is in blue, slide development in orange.

The title of this "tip" comes from a question I received at a recent lecture. After arguing that slide presentations have significant limitations in the amount of data that can be transmitted, a somewhat distraught audience member asked the above question.

My first answer is that if you try to convey all three points rapidly, you will probably convey none of them. Talking faster or cramming in additional content does not work in a slide presentation.

A second response is to ask if the three points are related and whether they can be synthesized into a single overarching argument. The process of presentation creation is all about synthesis, so ask yourself if you've fully integrated these three points.

Finally the last resort is to explain one of the three points and offer a teaser, "if I had more time I would give you two additional reasons..." The interested audience member will track you down after the talk.

I can't tell you how many presentations I've seen where a speaker will describe a product (often a new web application) and then show multiple slides giving a detailed explanation of how to use the related website. Presentation slides are not a good way to tell the audience to "click" at the top vs. the bottom of a web page, or for that matter to walk through any type of detailed "how to" instructions.

A presentation might motivate your audience to go to you website, but it is not a good tool for teaching them how to use it. Use your time to inspire your audience about the product and get them to open the relevant webpage, but don't try to give them detailed user instructions. It simply doesn't work.

If your goal is really to teach people how to use your website, then be sure they bring their laptops to the meeting and have them "click" through things in an active mode. Give them a problem to negotiate rather than blathering on with slides.

I attend a lot of presentations where an administrator describes a new web tool (HR, finance, facilities management, that kind of thing). It's usually a 25 slide presentation with lots of detail about the associated website. They would be much better giving a 3 slide presentation, having the audience turn to the website, and then have the audience use the website to solve a hypothetical problem while the speaker can answer questions.

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