216 slides?!? Presentation Purgatory …

Don't try this at home ...

Death by PowerPoint.  Many of you probably recognize that term and can feel the pain.

216 Slides?!? Presentation Purgatory - Mike Russell

There have been years of talk, many articles, what seems like a billion blog posts, and even books about improving slide presentations.  Why then do we still see, for instance, insanely long presentations like the one referenced in the title?

Maybe it’s as simple as there are few repercussions – at least visible, immediate ones – for poor presentations.

The 216 subject slides are from a well-known company.  The topic is the results of a consulting assignment, including a section that is actually titled as “Appendix.”  Meaning that the slides are basically a report in slide form.

Why not just deliver a report that is easier to read along with some summary slides?

It takes time and skill to distill a lot of information into a concise summary to go with all the detailed information.  Which is another possible reason why it probably wasn’t done.

Don’t commit the same mistake.

Slides are at one end of a spectrum, with a written document at the other.  Nancy Duarte has proposed a hybrid – the SlidedocHer take on how Slidedocs fit into the spectrum and when you might use a Slidedoc:

  • “You have detailed information to convey but you won’t be around to explain it
  • You need more detailed support for your presentation, either something that your audience can read before or receive as a hand-out after the presentation
  • You have detailed subject matter that would be more easily understood by combining visuals and text
  • You need to break complex content into more consumable chunks to help people understand the material
  • Your sales team needs modular collateral and tools flexible enough to get the right material to the right customers
  • You need to get people up to speed before a meeting so you can use the time you have with each other for building consensus”

The simplest form is a PowerPoint or Keynote slide with notes.  The best form is one that is tailored to the need, meaning altering the format of a notes page master in some custom way.

Something to keep in mind is Guy Kawasaki’s 10-20-30 guidance:  10 slides, 20 minutes, 30 point type minimum.  He has evangelized this for years, and it’s brilliant guidance for just about anyone making a recommendation.  While the specific content may vary in your situation, the core concept is still applicable.  Cut all your slides to what you think is the bare minimum.  Then cut more until you can gain and keep the attention of busy people.

Even better, how about reducing the the presentation down to one page?  Yes, one page.  Various forms of “canvas” (e.g., business model canvas) methods and A-3 systematic thinking  (more on this one in the future) emphasize everything summarized on a single page, albeit maybe a bigger one like 11×17 or A3 size.


The next time you have a lot of information to convey, think about:

  • Who is your audience?
  • Why do they need the information?
  • What level of information do they need?
  • Does the information need to stand on its own?
  • How can you make the essential information clear, concise, and quickly understandable?

Take the time to consider something other than automatically dumping everything into one big mass of slides.  Maybe a Slidedoc or something like Guy’s 10-20-30 concept.  Or maybe just get rid of all slides if they really aren’t needed and go with a single summary page.

Happy presenting!

By Mike Russell