Presentations and Sharing Slides 

Warning: Massive generalizations ahead!

It’s pretty common for conference organizers and attendees to ask presenters to provide their slides after the talk to share/post on the event site. While well-meaning, I’m not sure this is an entirely positive trend.

A slide deck that stands alone is often a sign of a poor presentation. If I can read the slides and get a lot out of them without the presentation they accompany, odds are you could have just written a short post that would have conveyed nearly as much information without the need for people to sit through a presentation. (Much less travel a great distance to see it.)

As a corollary to the above, if the presenter is using slides that convey most of the information, then the attendees are probably spending more time watching the slides and/or checking their phones/laptops than actually paying attention to the speaker. Again, what’s the point of sitting through a presentation if you can just read the slides and get most of the information that way?

Yes, you can have meaningful slides that support a presentation and are useful afterwards. For example, if you’re doing a presentation with a lot of data/charts, having those to refer to after the presentation is a good thing. Having code examples, or follow-along examples is a good thing.

I’m writing this, of course, because I received a request for slides for a presentation I gave recently (at SCALE) and was thinking about how often I’m asked for slides before a presentation even begins. (“Will the slides be available?”) In this case, the presentation has some slides that will be useful for attendees — but a lot of the slides are just enough text to spark my memory for the next topic.

Sometimes I’m tempted to chuck presentation-ware altogether and just give a presentation from notes accompanied (when appropriate) with a demo. A live presentation should be about an experience that is more than a person droning on at the front of the room that adds little or no value to the text on a screen. If it’s not, what’s the point?

This is something I’ve been turning over in my head for a while, and I think one of my goals for 2015 is to raise the bar on my own presentations. Suggestions welcome!