Should Your Slides Work Without You?

A key presentation question.

December 11, 2014
Should your presentations slides make sense without you as their presenter

A question that is often asked is whether or not your presentation slides should be useful without you as their presenter. It's one of those areas within the realm of presentations, facilitations, and keynotes that requires nuance and a bit of grey area logic.

In my experience as a professional speaker, where I'm getting paid to speak, my slides serve more as a graphical introduction to a point that I'm trying to make. A photograph or a word make a brief appearance as I provide a narrative that accompanies the visual on the screen. For my slide decks, there is almost no way that they can "work" without me being present. Although, sometimes I'll share my decks with participants who wish to use them to remember a resource or concept.

However, for some bits of information, slides that more-closely resemble novels or handbooks may be useful. A flipped classroom instructor might use a word-heavy slide deck as reading material for a course. The deck sparks a meaningful conversation in the classroom. In that sense, it totally makes sense for a slide deck to "work" without its creator. Note that this can work in either a brick-and-mortar space or via an online-learning environment.

An interesting venue for slide decks is the conference presentation. I've seen a lot of slide decks at conferences that try to jam six hours worth of content into a 45 minute session. In those cases, slide decks should be crafted that fit the constraints of your time limit. And, if your session materials are better served as light reading after your presentation, maybe you shouldn't show your slides and consider having a more conversational facilitation. You can always share your slides via some sort of digital means.

Thanks to Rikki Dale for asking the question that pushed this post into my mental queue.


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