Saturday, December 10, 2011

Do Speeches, Go Without Slides.

This week I had to present our latest features to a group of IBMers from tech sales and services divisions. Those are the guys working with clients to get the stuff to work - in form of demos or production systems with a defined, often customized, architecture.

They asked clearly to get as few charts as possible, so quickly I had my decision - I would make this presentation without slides. I would make it a speech. And discussion. Not a slide-based presentation, in any case.

So I just stood in front those people, and at the beginning that was a bit unusual, but as I came into the topic, two things struck me:
- People were looking at me, not the charts. They were actually listening, and I could clearly see that they weren't struggling understanding the charts - there were none. Instead, I got a bunch of questions, and we got in a deep discussion about the topic. Which was very useful for them to understand well the new features and their impact.
- You avoid the usual question: "Can I get those charts?", "what does this chart means?". Instead, the whole discussion was based on what I spoke about. Much better.

Looking backward, I see other fantastic advantages to not use any charts at all:
- It is much more flexible. If a question comes in that may influence further points, just go to those directly. You are not a slave of the chart ordering anymore. Because a presentation rarely runs as intended.
- It saves a lot of time! How many hours did you spend in your last presentation? Was it really worth it? Think about it. Getting this cool picture from a colleague, and then adapting the whole style, readapting the template. Should I mention the colleague in chart 12? etc etc, you know what I mean. Without slides, you just have to prepare yourself an outline on a few post-it. 15-20 min of work max. Mastering the topic is quite more work - but you'd have to master it as well if you use slides, wouldn't you?
- It is so much reliable! You don't need to care anymore if there is a VGA cable, or if the resolution is fine, if you have backups, etc. You only need to care not to faint, but that is also the case if you use a
slideshow ;)

Of course I am not arguing that you should never use charts. They are sometimes useful. But do you need slides for all your presentation, or are they oy needed for that for showing some particular point at one or two moments in the presentation? Try it!

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