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Presentations Are Not Transcripts

Why I write slides the way I do. They’re not ever going to be transcripts ever again.

After my review of SEO Slides (they’re pie, not cake), someone remarked to me that my slide decks are useless because I don’t put all the information on the slides. They pointed out, correctly, that my slides are image heavy with, at most, a couple lines of text (with one notable exception: WordCamp Chicago 2012), except my ‘Who am I?’ slide. I told them “Yes, this is true.” and then Tweeted about it.

SlidesMy belief (and this is shared by a lot of people) is that slides should accent and relate to my talk. If you just need to read the slides to get all the information, why am I there? Coming to a live presentation to just watch someone reading off slides seems counter intuitive to me. Heck. I could go pester my coworker and get the studies showing that when you have a slide with a lot of text, people read the text, then look at you. That means that they aren’t listening until they read, and if, when they’re done, they come to find you’re just reading what they read? They’re probably bored.

When I give a presentation, it’s usually on a topic I’ve written about before. Actually, that’s generally how I decide what I want to talk about! I picked “Don’t use WordPress Multisite” for WordCamp SF 2013 because it is still, to this day, the most popular post on my site. And it’s my most popular presentation. Some may ask “Why would you give a presentation on something I could read?”

BoredPeople learn in different ways. I, personally, suck at learning from videos. However I learn well from presentations in person, where someone talks to the room, pays attention to our energy, and teaches, using the slides as an emphasis. I also learn well from a written post. Finally, I learn best by doing things. So for me, if I’m blowing up a site, it means I’m learning in a speed unparalleled. There’s a converse to this, and if I hit a blocker were I can’t do something, I get really upset.

What does this have to do with slides and why mine are mostly pretty pictures with a sentence for emphasis? I don’t write my slides to be a transcript because I’m going to write a much longer blog post on the topic, with the same pictures probably, if I haven’t already. So for the person who wants to read the content, I’ll have you covered. And for the person who wants to be inspired by looking at slides? Well I have that. Finally for the person who wants to watch a video, WordCamp does that for me, thankfully.

This is not a perfect system, of course. Like I said, people learn in different ways, so there’s probably someone out there who loves slideshows of text on pictures who is grumpy. They probably also like infographics. Which I don’t. You see a trend here? I don’t like getting my information from pictures. Because of that I suck at writing them, so I just don’t.

4 replies on “Presentations Are Not Transcripts”

Mika, you totally nailed this, and there is not a presentation coach worth their own salt that recommends more than a few words on any given slide if you are actually planning to land your point with the audience. Text is what notes are for. Heck, seoslides even makes those notes SEO friendly, encouraging you to place them off-slide.

If there is a concern about notes needing to be “on screen,” my wife, in her HR capacity, will do one of two things: (1) offer two sets of a given presentation – one she presents from that is image-driven and one she distributes that is text-driven or (2) after the image slide, she’ll place her notes on a hidden slide, matching one-for-one throughout the presentation.

@Daniel James Scott: Sadly, my one lingering complaint about SEOSlides (Which I love and now use) is that I can’t see my notes easily if I use them to present.

What I do with PowerPoint is have the slide with pictures, and then a massive amount of notes, or even exactly WHAT I’ll say, on each one.

I suppose I could just print it up, but … PowerPoint really makes that easy.

Thanks, Mika, we appreciate it, and you have been a dream beta tester. Sincerely cannot thank you enough for the countless hours you’ve spent using seoslides. We have been super thrilled with our recent 1.2 release, as it really is heads above where we were at even just a month ago, and the WordPress community is entirely to thank for that.

As you know, live presenter tools have been on the roadmap since day one. There are some tricky challenges to work out; however, these tools are personally important to our entire team, so they are coming. Just not soon enough, for sure. 😉

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