We’ve all sat through awful presentations full of dense, text-packed slides, so much of the advice we typically hear these days about crafting effective Powerpoint presentations rings true:
- Stick to one idea per slide
- Avoid putting too much text on your slides and don’t just read them to people
- Use pictures or other visuals instead of text wherever possible
- Reinforce what you’re saying visually instead of just using your deck as an outline for your presentation
On and on. All good advice.
But another thing slides are especially good for: helping people to share your (hopefully) brilliant insights with people outside of the room.
With reduced travel budgets and increased adoption of social tools it has become increasingly common for people attending events to share their thoughts (both good and bad) about conferences and speakers in real-time with all of their followers, especially on Twitter.
It’s rare to find a conference these days that does not at least have a hashtag announced in advance, and, more and more conferences and speakers are using a unique hashtag for each individual session or keynote.
So, even if you’re just speaking to a local community group, why not make the first slide in your deck a hashtag to encourage people to share your words beyond the room? Simple.
But going a step (or two) beyond, when you follow the (excellent) advice to stick to a single idea per slide and reduce the amount of text what does that start to sound like?
Writing a good tweet.
Chuck Frey wrote a great post earlier today over on Google+ quoting Brian Solis (from his recent book “The End of Business as Usual” – which I have not yet read, but am looking forward to). Here’s Solis:
I completely redesigned the format of my presentation to trigger the sharing of experiences. I realized that if I could encourage attendees to share my words, I could at once get my message across to those in the room as well as to their online friends and followers. My slides, to this day, are rich with visuals and statements made with fewer than 140 characters—usually 120 to leave room for potential retweets.
Solis (and Frey) go on to talk about ideas as social objects and that’s also very true (and important).
In the increasingly noisy world we live in, it is no longer enough to just have great ideas (was it ever?) You also need to know how to communicate your ideas well in a way that is spreadable to maximize your impact.
I actually started testing this approach with a few recent presentations I’ve given. My approach has been a bit like this:
- Announce a hashtag in advance (on my first slide and on Twitter)
- Keep the text to a minimum
- Write slides in the same way I’d write a tweet (120 characters, enough room for a hashtag + RT @aschweig, etc.)
- Focus on stats and one-liners (which tend to perform especially well on Twitter)
- Invite people to tweet questions (@me or using the hashtag) to answer during live Q&A or on Twitter after the presentation
And anecdotally at least, I can tell you that it works great! I think it likely has to do with sharing useful information, but also coordinating all aspects of your presentation. That is, people hear the same message from your mouth, on your slide and in a form that is easy to further share beyond the room with their friends on social media.
Of course it also helps share your deck afterwards (when you can) and post it on your blog and/or provide a link to slideshare or a similar service. This is great for building your reputation, SEO (give your deck a good title and get some nice inbound links for your site) and continuing the conversation on your blog.
So, to summarize:
- Announce a hashtag
- Write your slides like tweets
- Post your slides (or a summary) online
- Invite question, monitor the backchannel and respond to keep the conversation going
What other tips do you have for making presentations shareable? Leave a comment and let me know!