Slide-based presentations are used every day across the world. They’re generally accepted as the standard for presenting, though certainly not without a wee bit of grumbling. In this article, we sought to have a little bit of fun, thinking through: (1) What other current options could we use if we did not use slides to present and (2) How do these options stack up against slides? Are slides really the best option?
By the end of this article you’ll: (a) feel very nerdy with us and (b) have a framework and mindfulness so that you confidently know that slides either are logically the standard for presentation or…should not be.
To be objective in this exploration, we need to set up criteria that tie to the purpose and definitions of presentations – and that tie to the core needs of both the presenter and the ‘presentee.’
First, for ‘presentee’ (which is the more important constituent):
- Easily understandable: capacity to have some words and context but not too much
- Focused/Absorption Flexibility: flexible depending upon how the presentee wants to learn, focus on specific items, format
- Ability to visualize: including imagery and brand elements
- Audio-compatible: for audio-based learners (either presented live or recorded)
- Sufficient standalone: not needing any support items to understand the opportunity
And for the presenter (of less weighting since what matters is catering to your audience, but the approach does need to be feasible):
- Easily executable: something that can be done in short-order, either by themselves, a teammate, or a partner
- Potential to differentiate: ability to demonstrate the uniqueness of the opportunity
- Ability to convey dimensions: such that the opportunity, nuance, brand are all possible within that medium
- Professionalism: does it come off professionally and business-like
- Cost effective: feasible for the team
So what are the alternatives we could use if we did not use slides? Well…a few items come to immediate mind:
- Spoken words: audio, without video
- Drawings: images, could have written words on top
- Word documents/pre-reads
- Videos (with or without text)
- Videos (cartoon-format)
- Demos/Models/Prototypes (renderings, etc)
- Slide presentations
We scored the options based on the criteria we laid out, giving double-weighting to the presentee factors (in reality the weighting should likely be higher as all of the focus is on viewer clarity and satisfaction); however we did want to temper for feasibility.
Here’s how the scores came out with a brief note for each as well.
Conclusion (This might surprise you)
What is not surprising about the conclusions is that slide presentations are just a more flexible, feasible, dynamic presentation approach: there’s a reason this is a preferred method.
However what might surprise you is the clear compatibility (and replacement) insights that you can immediately get from the data. Throwing drawings out as non-option, in going through the exercise it becomes imminently clear that a) videos and demos/prototypes are not sufficient by themselves. Further, b) it’s quite clear word documents are just an inferior visual (and verbose) substitute for slide presentations. However, it’s quite clear c) how much a demo by itself may lack in logic and overall business detail and therefore d) how complementary could be in bringing your presentation to life, reactiveness, and ‘touch.’
It’s for these reasons we would say a presentation is an absolute requirement in 99% of cases. However, to stand out beyond this, you may consider some of the other elements to further differentiate.