What’s the Big Idea?

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The past two days have tested my patience. I sat through back-to-back presentations that, despite having interesting subject matter, failed maddeningly to resonate. I know I’m not the typical audience member — I get overly frustrated by disengaging slide-decks and prodding presenters pontificating their prose-ridden presentations. It’s surprising that I’ve not been asked to leave — I’m rather demonstrative of my distaste (there’s a lot of huffing and eye-rolling and even the odd “Are you kidding me?”). But I think sometimes presenters are happy to have elicited any sort of reaction, and simply regard me as “engaged and enthusiastic”.

In both cases my problem was an overabundance of information contained on each slide. The term “Slideument” most certainly would apply — documents in slide form that succeed only as a distraction and do nothing to convey the idea.

Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 3.42.46 PMHere’s an example of one of the slides I saw today. See! Horrifying, right? Now, for the sake of confidentiality, I replaced the text of the slide with my own, conveying as best I could what I actually got out of the presentation. I’m quite certain it’s not what was intended.

Now, compare this to the image at the top of this post. In a second… at a glance… you get the idea. Literally. Because that’s what it’s about. The idea.

Each slide should be limited to one idea. What’s more, no matter how complex that idea is, the context and meaning of the idea should be conveyed in three seconds. That doesn’t mean you can’t have supporting text, images or information. Remember, the role of the presenter is to deliver the information the most suitable means necessary. But again, in three seconds max — you should get the idea.

A good measure of how effective your slides are is to have a colleague take a quick look, and for each slide, ask them, “What’s the idea?” If they don’t get it off-the-bat, you’ll know to reconsider.

And, when you walk off the stage to a round of applause, you’ll know my advice is more than a “big” idea. It’s a good one.

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