Stop Using This Word In Presentations!

There is a famous gag in the old “I Love Lucy” TV show where an English tutor tries to stop the gang from using slang terms:

The hapless language expert tells them there are two words they should never use… One is swell and the other is lousy. You can guess how well that works out.

I’m here to add just such an admonition to your speaking habits. Please stop mentioning ‘slides’:

“Now on this slide, I’m talking about…”
“As you’ll see on the next slide…”
“We’ll drill down on this topic in a few slides…”

No, you’re not trying to hide the fact that you built your presentation in PowerPoint or Google Slides or Keynote or whatever. Everybody knows that.

The idea is to put the listener’s focus on your message, not on the physical transport mechanism you happened to use when separating your visual elements so you could get to them easily.

If you call attention to “this slide says” and “that slide says,” you abdicate your authority as the presenter. The slides are presenting the information… You are just helping to click them along.

The structural flow and organization of your presentation topics, stories, and data should be independent of whether the information is grouped on one slide or spans multiple slides. Visuals and supporting text or data come and go as necessary to support the points you are making as the presenter. The audience should not know or care which slide does what.

By the way, this is why I hate page numbers on displayed slides. If you want to add them for a print-friendly handout, go for it! But as you speak, the information should simply flow with no sense of artificial subdivisions indicating which “page” you are on at any given moment.

Given all that, how do you refine your speaking habits to stop calling attention to slide construction? It’s not hard, but you’ll need to practice it self-consciously until you get rid of your old ingrained habits:

“As you look at this image, think about…”
“The next thing to consider is…”
“We’ll have a chance to discuss that in more detail shortly…”

If you’re worried about how to signal another person controlling the display that you are ready for the next click, please go back and read an article I wrote several years ago with plenty of practical alternative phrasing suggestions.

Let’s stop emphasizing our slides in presentations… they’re a swell way to get off to a lousy start.