• Scott Stiefvater

If you ask, "What should I say for this slide?", you've got things backward.

Updated: Nov 25, 2020

The common presentation is generally slide-driven. Here's why:

In our minds, a presentation is a high-stakes speaking situation, so we want to think carefully about what we say. Our slow and careful writing-minds kick-in, telling us to plan out what we'll say and the order in which we'll say it – to prepare a script. Knowing we can't possibly memorize and deliver a true script successfully, we rely on slides to be our surrogate script – our teleprompter.

Our slides are visual aids for our listeners.

Visual aids, when properly designed and employed, can help our listeners to understand and retain the ideas we are trying to transfer to them. When visual aids also serve as our script, they cease to be properly designed and employed. They tend to become dense and wordy, and they take center stage.

Our visual aids should accompany our talk, not the other way around.

If you can accomplish your communication goal by recording your slides with a voice-over and posting the video for your audience to watch, then do it. If, on the other hand, you need to make a real-time connection with your audience, if you need to have a conversation with them, than the question to ask is:

Will a visual aid absolutely help my listeners understand and retain this thought I am trying to transfer to them?

If the answer is yes, display a well designed visual aid. If the answer is no, than display a black screen so your listeners look at and experience you. If the answer is no for the entire talk, don't display any slides.

Remember, you should be the most compelling visual in the room.


© 2021 by Scott Stiefvater,

(anti) Presentation Coach


Tel: 925-586-3517

San Francisco Bay Area


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