Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
November 7, 2009 1:42 PM

Don't Give Out Your Slides When Speaking

"Can I have your slides?" is probably the most common question a presenter gets asked. Here's why you should never give them out...

If there is one rule of presenting that I constantly see broken, it's the one where a presenter gives out their slides whenever they are asked. There are two very valid reasons why this is a bad idea:

  1. It means your slides had too much content on them. Lots and lots of headings, sub-headings and way too many bullet-points. This can only mean one thing: you wrote a document in PowerPoint and were reading your slides. Your slides aren't really slides at this point: it's a document. Your "slides" had so much content on them, that people would like a copy for future reference - the same way they refer back to a good white paper or article from a magazine.
  2. It means that people will misinterpret what you meant. If your slides follow more of the Presentation Zen and Slide:ology model - great images and beautiful design - then odds are that people want it, but will have a very difficult time being able to recall the true context of your slides.

Here's one way to make everybody happy:

Never give out your slides. It's not socially acceptable to do this, but - in the end - you are doing your audience a favour. What you should do is prepare and be comfortable handing out Speaking Notes. Speaking Notes is a document that walks people through your presentation (it can be done as a written document or in note form), and it has all of the content that you presented (the quotes, the stats, links to websites, Blogs, books mentioned, etc...). Speaking Notes can be as extensive or brief as you see fit. It should include the presentation name, date of presentation, your contact information and everything that you spoke about. It's a document that will add value to your presentation, and it's a document that frees you from presenting everything in bullet-point form or having to respond to emails weeks after your presentation about what you meant when you used a cute dog eating flowers to explain the power of Twitter.

Personally, creating Speaking Notes prior to even building the PowerPoint deck has always been a great way to organize my thoughts, play with the flow and figure out if the content I am presenting is worth the slide, or is best left to just being said live. Finally, it also allows to me structure the content and define a style.

Never give out your slides. Always give out robust and complete speaking notes.

By Mitch Joel