October 26, 2012

When you have to submit slides early...



Many of us speak for events where we are required to turn in our PowerPoint slides ridiculously early.

What do I mean by ridiculously early? One conference I speak at requires the slides two months in advance (I love this conference, but I do not love the early slide deadline). Yesterday, a client lamented to me that her slides were due a week before her presentation and I couldn't believe how fortunate she was!

I have a couple of problems with this practice:

1. Turning in slides early means that if you come up with new ideas, new activities, new content in that period after you've submitted your slides, your hands are tied.

Of course you can add content to your presentation, which you then deliver verbally and with handouts or additional visuals, demos or props. But you can't adjust your slides to match. And with a couple of months between slide delivery and the presentation, it's almost inevitable that I will come up with better ideas.

And sometimes it's as simple as realizing that a couple of slides need to be rearranged for best impact. Ideally I'm at the venue early enough where I can enact a quick switcheroo of my slides before I begin.

2. The requirement to turn in slides early is usually so the organization can make your slides available to the audience beforehand.

First of all, I like my slides to be a SURPRISE for my audience. My slides are fun, image-based and engaging. I like to keep that under wraps until they see the presentation.

But even if you do traditional bullet-pointed slides, why would you want the audience poring over your presentation before you give it? It just makes no sense. Talk about distraction.

And second, I don't like to give my slides to the audience, period. My slides are overly simplistic for a good reason and do not stand alone without a presenter. If the audience wants to take notes in the margins, that's fine. But they can just as easily take notes without a slide handout, as each slide has only one simple sentence on it. Slides should not be handouts.

Read more on that here and here.

So what do you do?

You have two options:

1) Be done. When you hand in your slides, that's it. Let it go, don't bother to add anything else, and practice your presentation as is.

2) If you do come up with brilliant ideas, go ahead and add them in, and if they don't fit with your slides, use the magic "B" key on the computer to black out your slides during these new activities or discussions. You should be able to seamlessly integrate new material; just be aware of any transitions or segues you need to make it work. And as I stated above, get to the venue early enough so that if you have any slide rearranging to do, you can at least do that.

I know it's hard to let go and let yourself be finished when there are still two months or more before your presentation, and I don't like it either. But until there is a shift in the mindset of the organizations who engage us, we are stuck with this reality.

Make the most of the situation and give your audience the best experience possible. As Tim Gunn always says: "Make it work!"

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