Your Slide Deck Is Not a Communication Strategy

It’s time to demote the almighty slide deck to its proper use: as a support tool that bolsters your message and lets you be the star of the show.

Imagine if you never had to create another 80-slide deck. Imagine if you never had to sit through another one.

Spoiler alert: Slide decks are notoriously used as a script to communicate your message, but that’s the wrong approach. The deck is not meant to communicate—you are.

Second spoiler alert: You should never concurrently develop your slide deck and your content strategy.

Third spoiler alert: Engagement in virtual meetings is abysmal, and much of that can be blamed on wasteful slide decks that work against progress.

It’s time to buy a one-way ticket out of presentation hell and demote the almighty slide deck to its proper use: as a support tool that bolsters your message and lets you be the star of the show.

Ask anyone at any company and you’ll quickly find that nobody likes slide decks. So why are we so married to using them? Why are we handing over all the communication control to the thing that destroys productivity, gets in the way, and is universally hated by everyone?

Why Using A Slide Deck as Your Script Is the Wrong Approach

The art of conversation is being displaced because of slide programs, and it’s working against businesses. You don’t have to look back very far to see how things have evolved. Twenty years ago, when a meeting was scheduled, the first question was, “What do we need to say?” Today, the first question is, “Who’s going to build the deck?”

The exchange of ideas happens between people. You’re there as the expert, so you already know your stuff. You don’t need a script, and your audience certainly doesn’t need to read it along with you. In fact, people have more trouble comprehending the point when forced to read and listen at the same time. Imagine how showing up without a slide deck would differentiate you. People will tune in, engage, and connect.

A slide deck has no ability to promote or establish trust. It’s an emotionally disconnected device that stifles connection, and building a connection is the whole point of the meeting or training. People are motivated and inspired to execute, buy, and learn from people, not slides.

Imagine a world where you can reach a meeting’s or training’s objective by building an authentic relationship with the people in attendance. But business communication does require some visual support, sparingly, and when created properly, great visuals can help to drive the desired outcome. Marrying authentic communication with powerful visual supports is where the magic will happen.

Communication Strategy and Visual Supports

The first rule is that the medium is not the message. Simply put, creating your slides while you’re developing your content is a recipe for disaster. It’s the wrong approach. Doing so compromises the value and integrity of both.

So what’s the best approach? That’s a question of competency. It’s an art nobody ever taught us. There’s no one correct answer, except to say that slides should only be used to support spoken communication, when words can’t do the job.

Once your communication strategy is crafted, it’s incumbent on you to think critically about where a visual would be needed and why it would help reinforce both your message and your connection with your audience. Imagine the weight a powerful supporting visual would carry if it’s not surrounded by other less meaningful slides.

Some of the best uses for supporting slides include:

  • Punctuating an important point and emphasizing a particularly important aspect of what you’re sharing
  • Creating an emotional feeling using a photograph, word, or phrase
  • Communicating complex information that will be made clearer with a visual
  • Sharing something that’s naturally visual that can’t be communicated verbally

It’s not about getting rid of slides altogether; it’s about clearing the path and only using ones that improve your communication. This approach helps you become more invested in the communication at hand, and it makes you more engaged in the meeting or training.

The Truth About Engagement in Virtual Meetings/Training

Virtual meetings and training have become the norm, and attendees are getting creative—and brazen—about tuning out. And slide decks are only making things worse. They’re the death knell for virtual engagement—and it’s the worst-kept secret in business.

In a physical conference or training room, we’re all still there. In a virtual meeting, there’s little connection to grasp onto in the first place. Sharing a slide presentation on the screen does several things:

  • It makes each person’s avatar the size of a postage stamp.
  • It prompts people to turn off their cameras.
  • It serves as a de facto permission slip for participants to tune out and do literally anything else.

A presentation in a virtual meeting often leads to wasting an hour getting nothing accomplished.

To make matters worse, we don’t know the size of the screen on which people are watching, if they’re watching. Imagine trying to communicate a difficult concept with a complex slide that someone is looking at on their phone. It’s impossible. Let’s not hamstring ourselves in an environment that’s already bad for human connection.

The Value of Soft Skills

Soft skills, including communication, are perennially cited as the most essential aspects of furthering one’s career. We communicate. It’s how business happens, and it’s not going away. It’s all about human connection. As humans, we want to connect with one another to establish trust. Using slides to communicate is the most misused business tool in the world, and it’s increasingly becoming a barrier to successful meetings.

And all this is to say nothing of the productivity suck. It’s estimated the cost of slide creation and review costs employees six hours a week of productivity. Multiply that by thousands and the numbers are staggering.

Today is the day to stop wasting your time and everyone else’s and rid yourself of the crutches that slide decks have become. Your bottom line with thank you for it.