One of the golden rules of good presentations is to NOT hand out the slides at the beginning of the presentation. My own preference is not to hand out slides at all, but the organizers and the audience want something tangible to fondle. Now, I think I’ve found a great solution.

Presentation Technique

Bill Joos is a master presenter.  He’s also very good at a bunch of other things, but when it comes to presentations, he is really good.  I’ve been to several of his presentations and only recently did I figure out his technique for handouts.

Good presenters understand that they are the ones delivering the content, not the slides.

Handing out the slides is a bad idea for a number of reasons and good presenters are loath to hand out copies of them at the beginning of the presentation.  I don’t even hand them out at the end of the presentation.  If the presentation is substantive enough, I’ll hand out a write up on the topic, something that people can read and even email to other people.

What I don’t want is to have person A, who attended the presentation, hand out the slides to person B, who did not attend the presentation because person B will not be able to make sense of the slides.  Slides are not standalone documents.  They are just a prop.  It would be the equivalent of giving person B pictures of the props used in a play and saying “take a look at these, it was a great play!”  Uh?

However, event organizers and most people in the audience want to have something to take with, to fondle.  They want something tangible, besides the presentation itself.  It’s just human nature.

The other problem with not handing out anything is that people then take notes.  And some people will take copious notes.  They are basically copying down the slides in real time, adding comments, etc., and missing the gist of the presentation in the process.

Bill has a simple, brilliant solution to this: he hands out simplified versions of the slides, with some of the words missing and fill-in-the-blank spaces in their place.  The example below is from a presentation of his that I attended entitled “Top Ten Mistakes in Business Plans.”  (BTW, this is the first of three presentations that he’s giving as part of the FountainBlue “Funding Road Trip” for entrepreneurs; the others are coming on April 3rd and May 1st, respectively.)

One of the slides in this presentation looks like this,

Goofy Fundamentals that Distract

  • Not doing the basics right
  • No obvious “adult supervision”
  • Not using specialists
  • Not looking like a “standard deal”

The corresponding frame in the handouts looks like this,

Goofy Fundamentals that Distract

  • Not doing the ______ right
  • No obvious “____ ___________”
  • Not using ___________
  • Not looking like a “________ ____”

This has the following (subtle) effects,

  1. Attendees don’t have to take notes, they only have to fill-in-the-blanks
  2. They do have to pay attention and find the missing words in the slides
  3. This satisfies the urge to take notes while not taking too much attention from the presenter

As I said: brilliant!