Presentation: Slides vs Speech

One of my students whom I’m mentoring right now gave me an idea of new web service today.

According to him this new web service can enhance look of existing presentation slides by applying fancy visual effects so that the result slides will look more appealing to the audience.

There are already such web services in this field and the companies like Prezi does exactly that. To be honest, I’m not a big fan of these services, or rather say I don’t rely on the slide materials when I give my presentation.

While people might argue with impact of visually rich slides, my theory is that as the slides become more dynamic, fancy and eye catching, then people start to lose their focus on your speech. In other words, people’s attention goes to your beautiful slides instead of messages you are trying to deliver. As a result, you become sort of invisible.

If you look at my presentation (starting from 1:10 onward) during Startup Weekend event, you will notice that I’m using fewer slides than any other teams that participated the event. A reality is that I wasn’t even using the slides at all. They were just a bunch of web pages displayed in my browser.

Other teams prepared visually rich slides. Some came up with more than 10 pages of slides. A few of them even produced a nice looking movie clip explaining their product, which I’m totally amazed. But I still won the grand prize and I only used 3 to 4 web pages (not slides) during my presentation. How come?

This reminds me of a Speech & Communication class at the University where I received my degree. This class taught me how to speak in front of relatively large number of audiences about various topics given by the professor. But it did not teach me how to create visually attractive presentation materials, not even once. A whole class was just about speech (and lots of American jokes, of course.)

So if I were to give one advise to those aspiring entrepreneurs, I would say one thing. Don’t pay too much attention on your slides or other materials because you will be the most important material during your presentation. Use your materials as a complement but not as a requisite.

Whether your presentation will be successful or not depends on your ability to tell the story to your audience, which I will discuss some other time.