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Raheel's Blog

Nobody Wants to Read Slideshow Text

/ 3 min read

Before we get into the horseshit procedural indoctrination that leads us to include text in slide decks, let’s consider whether slideshow presentations are necessary.

EMVS: Order of Communication Mediums

“The most revolutionary ordering system since BEDMAS.”

When attempting to communicate a message, consider following EMVS (em-viz):

📧 Email/Messaging

  • Preferred because it’s the most asynchronous form of communication
  • Primarily text-based, so it’s good for “saying” things
  • Attachment and linking of resources is optimal
  • Easy to summarize with AI

📝 Document/Memo

  • All the pros of email
  • Better for longer, organized messages (including a table of contents, for example)
  • Good for gathering comments and feedback

📺 Video

  • Improves messaging with moving/static visuals
  • Eliminates stage fright and boosts confidence
  • Viewers can manipulate the video with captions and playback speed
  • Difficult to summarize with AI as an accurate transcript is required
  • Takes much longer to create

📽️ Slideshow/Keynote

  • Good for Q&A and celebrations/applause
  • Allows you to mess up, unlike all other mediums
  • Forces the audience to process the information at the speed you speak
  • Takes forever to create, but faster than a video

“People who know what they’re talking about don’t need PowerPoint.”

— Steve Jobs

Though charts and visuals are insanely helpful in enhancing an audience’s understanding, Steve’s argument lays the groundwork for mine.

I Don’t Know What I’m Talking About

If I don’t know what I’m talking about, I’ll put my script on the slide deck so the audience can read it before me while also confusing them on where to look because I’ll accidentally emphasize the content of the slide by facing it. Sometimes I’ll throw in a picture or GIF to convince the audience that this had to be a slideshow instead of an email/memo/video and that I followed EMVS (the acronym needs work).

Finally, by the end of the presentation, they have fallen asleep, which is good for me because there are no questions!

Of course, this is all sarcasm, but it should paint a picture of the terrible presentations that we often see. Paragraphs don’t belong on a slide, but other forms of text such as code snippets, quotes, polls, and logos are all fair game.

The Art of Slide Design delves deeper into specific slide design advice; I highly recommend giving it a read.

Procedural Indoctrination

How did we get here? I have a few theories:

  1. Teachers forced us to speak in front of a class to improve our public speaking skills while encouraging any use of slideshows, including abuse. While our public speaking improved, our slideshows didn’t.
  2. Picture books and graphic novels were always accompanied by text. So we feel the need to do the same.

Or, perhaps the answer is simpler: people are taught how to present, not how to make slides.

The next time you create a slide deck, remember that presentations are boring to begin with. Every second that passes is a second you’re fighting for the audience’s attention.