“Reading Decks” and the SlideShare Dilemma

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January 6, 2014 at 9:01 am  •  Posted in Best Practices, Featured, Techniques, Tools, Trends by  •  0 Comments

Just about every piece of modern advice about creating PowerPoint presentations offers the same kind of tip: when crafting a slide, less is more.  And that especially applies to words on a slide.

“Use big, bold images and an evocative, memorable phrase,” the experts say.  They point to Steve Jobs, one of the most powerful presenters of all.  Jobs rarely used more than two or three words on a slide.  Sometimes, just a single number would make his point.

That’s great for live presentations.  Minimalist slide decks focus attention on the storyteller, not on the slides.  And the elimination of long, wordy slides forces speakers to resist the temptation to merely read bullets off the screen.

But have you ever had this experience: You attend a great presentation — one whose concepts you want to share with your colleagues.  The speaker says, “My slides are available online on SlideShare.”  You go back to the office, open the deck, and all you see are images and a few scattered words.  Sharing the deck with your colleagues is useless: you “had to be there.”  Much of the commentary behind the slides is lost.

This tension — between the minimalist trend in presentation slide design and the need to have a presentation standalone — has given new life to word slides, in the form of what I call “reading decks.”

Take a look, for example, at the SlideShare deck below, from the Content Marketing Institute, entitled “The Content Marketing Playbook.”  It is the antithesis of the minimalist approach.  In fact, there are more than 100 words on just about every single presentation page.  In fact, even though there is a slide in here (Slide 20) giving the usual advice about short, snappy, with few words, this online presentation breaks those rules with lots of words on every slide.  Yet, it’s reasonably effective in getting its point across.

The fact is, SlideShare (and PDF slide-deck handouts) have spawned a whole new medium quite apart from the presentation slideshow with the reading deck.  Sitting somewhere between the white paper and the infographic, the reading deck needs to have enough words to convey the basic message, but the attractive design and layout of infographics.  Reading decks a great medium for quickly conveying concepts in a memorable way.

While the reading deck has started to come into its own as an online presentation form, there’s often no substitute for the experience that a good storyteller/presenter offers.  After all, how satisfying would it be to read about the iPhone introduction in a slide deck, as opposed to seeing a recording of Steve Jobs unveiling it before the Worldwide Developer’s conference.  That’s why multimedia online presentations like KnowledgeVision have evolved in parallel with SlideShare, for they preserve the compelling words of great storytellers alongside the powerful, memorable images they offer.

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