How to write presentations

Don’t be lazy

Here’s a thing I’ve seen quite a lot: people raiding old presentations for slides they can re-use in new presentations.

Someone’s writing a presentation, and realise they’ve talked about Point X before, in that other presentation they did a couple of months ago, or even a couple of years ago.

“Excellent,” they think. “No need to write anything new, I can just copy and paste from the old deck into the new one.” So that’s what they do.

This is bad. It’s lazy. And it’s more obvious on screen during a talk than most presenters think, more often than they realise.

For one thing, pasting from an old presentation means you’re pasting old images, styles and layouts. They might not precisely match up with the images, styles and layouts you’re using in the newer presentation. The difference might be slight, but your audience will notice.

Worse still is when people paste stuff in from old presentations and brings slide numbers along too. Those numbers might have been on the right slides, in the right order, in the old presentation - but in the new one, they’re just random numbers that appear out of nowhere in the corner of your slides.

It makes you look unprofessional, and it sends a message to your audience: “I don’t care enough about you to write a whole new presentation for your benefit.”

It’s lazy. Don’t do it.

It’s not wrong to re-use ideas and re-use stories. You can even re-use slides, but don’t be lazy about it. If you can, re-create old slides from scratch in your new presentation (re-type the same words, re-insert the same pictures from their original source files).

If you really have to copy-and-paste, at least make an effort to preview your slides and check for those small differences. Delete confusing page numbers, make sure that old text styles and alignment match up with new ones.

Yes, your time is valuable. But so is your audience’s time. You should respect that, and make sure your presentation is so good that they won’t feel like they wasted any by coming along to listen.

@gilest - 21 Sept 2017