Make better slides

Five practical tips to make your slides better

  1. Give your audience a map at the start. Typically a ‘Summary’ slide.
  2. One idea per slide. (Even if the ‘one’ idea is ‘There are three points we want to tell you about’.)
  3. The heading on each slide should be the point that the audience takes away from it.
  4. Words on slides are actually fine.
  5. Use visual aids to make your point easy to grasp.

The Peloton activist investor deck is a good example

An example of this done well is the deck made by Blackwells Capital criticising Peloton: https://www.blackwellscap.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/BW_Peloton_Presentation_Feb072022.pdf

  • Slide 3 gives the audience a map of the points Blackwells wants to make:
    • Peloton Is An Attractive Business
    • Peloton has underperformed
    • Peloton Has Been Grossly Mismanaged
    • Peloton’s Board and Governance Lack Accountability and Alignment
    • The Board Should Immediately Put Peloton Up For Sale
  • Slide 24 gives the audience a map of one of the sub-points. They think that ‘PELOTON’S UNDERPERFORMANCE IS DUE TO MISMANAGEMENT’ and they’re giving you five reasons to believe this.
  • Slides 25 - 42 each illustrate one idea with a clear point as the heading and visual aides to illustrate.
    • Slide 26: Damning heading ‘LACK OF QUALIFICATION: MR. FOLEY MANAGES WITH UNBRIDLED OPTIMISM RATHER THAN DISCIPLINE’.
    • Slide 34: MR. FOLEY’S WIFE RUNS ONE OF THE BUSINESSES and “[I]t’s just… the dynamic is a little awkward with Jill and John.” are illustrated by a picture of Jill and John together.

Deep dive: The heading is the takeaway

  • Give your audience the takeaway in the heading
    • Bad: ‘Strategy’
    • Good: ‘Our strategy is reduce production costs through automation’
  • This helps:
    • your audience get the point with a glance
    • you have something you can read out when you’re presenting

Bad advice for slides

I’ve falled victim to bad advice about slides. Here’s what to avoid:

  • ‘If someone found a print-out of your slides on the train they shouldn’t make sense on their own’: This advice sounds clever but actually ruins your productivity. If you’re making a worthwhile point people will read your slides before and after the presentation. To increase the chance of a successful presentation So your slides should stand on their own. The Blackwells slides wouldn’t have gone viral if they didn’t.
  • ‘Talk like TED’: At TED the audience pays to see entertaining and interesting people speak. Sure, take some inspiration. But in a work context you’re pretty much the opposite.
  • ‘Words on slides are bad’: This is a sliding scale.