How many times have you sat through a seemingly unending presentation that used slides, wishing you were in the dentist’s chair getting a root canal instead?

Many people in the working world where slide presentations are used seem to have forgotten one of the golden rules of making a good presentation:

Don’t make yourself obsolete!

Designing a great presentation requires that you are the central player in it. Any visual aid that you select to use to enhance your presentation is just that – an aid. Too often we find that people are designing their slides simultaneously with designing their presentation, or worse, designing the slides first. What you end up with is basically a script that the presenter is using to read from the screen.


Your presentation slides should NOT be able to stand alone without you as the presenter. If they do, then you have just removed yourself from the equation, and reduced your role in presenting the slides to one of an annoying commentator who reads what people can just as easily read themselves. On their laptops or other devices. In their offices.

They no longer need you.

Does anyone really want that?

If you as a presenter are obsolete, does that mean that you in your role or job are less vital? We wonder…

Design your presentation FIRST. You should evaluate many factors in doing this – your audience, your objectives, your desired outcomes, the amount of time you have, etc. Once you’ve designed your entire presentation, THEN come back and think about how slides could enhance your points – not make them for you. Here are three basic rules of thumb to go by when designing your slides:

  • Less is more! Use pictures to make your points. Our minds like pictures and we’ll retain the information longer. When you do use words, make sure they are no more than six words across and six lines down on the slide. Anything more is too much.
  • Stick to the point! When using words, choose them carefully. Create questions or short phrases that require explanation and elaboration from you. You are, after all, the presenter! Also, consider revealing them one at a time so that your audience stays with you.
  • Try to incorporate other visuals! If you can use a prop or sample that your audience can see in three dimensions or even touch, it will support your presentation much more strongly than slides alone.

Above all else, remember to evaluate your presentation before you give it. If someone can read it and take what you want them to take from it without you saying a word, scrap all the slides and start again!

Ellen Patnaude

Ellen Patnaude is Vice President of Instruction for the Northeast region. She is based in Detroit, Michigan, but she also teaches in Chicago, Cincinnati, Columbus, Toronto, Baltimore and other Northeast cities.

Interested in a Team Building Event of Your Own?