Most books, blogs, and courses about presentations aim at a setting where you present for a big audience. The role of the sides is the support the presenter, who is the central element of the full theatrical performance.

The majority of decks as I see them coming across my desk are meant to speak for themselves, as an attachment to an email for example. “Send me the deck”, says the investor after a 2 minute talk at a conference. Your audience here: impatient speed readers.

Think about yourself browsing a newspaper, or a piece of research. What do you pay attention to, what do you ignore? Some points to consider:

  • Like on the big keynote screen, a page full of dense text and bullet points will get skipped over

  • But, super short, summary statements will not be understood without context, since you are not there to explain them.

  • Anything that sounds like what everyone else is writing, full of cliches, will get skipped over.

  • Real photos attract the attention, people on the team, the prototype, the office, even small text surrounding it (you often read the small print under an image in a newspaper)

  • Arguments, comparisons, pros and cons, need to be made very visible in clear tables or graphs, remember how in car or consumer electronics reviews to skip right to the end to the red and green check marks.

  • Personal stories that sound interesting on stage, might look clumsy when written down in a deck.

  • Watch out for inconsistencies, errors, in financial data and/or market sizes, someone reading at a screen has more time to go back and forth than someone sitting in an auditorium. Errors cost you credibility.

  • Consider putting links in your deck so people can instantly go to LinkedIn profiles of team members, or the source behind market research.

  • The speed reader is a bit less patient to wait for the big punch in your story. Building excitement and anticipation can work great on stage (like a DJ building towards that drop), the speed reader can’t resist and will click through the last page to see how the story ends.

Think about the speedreader, you might have been one yourself while reading this post…

Photo by Isaac Jenks on Unsplash

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