Slide Trackers and Organizational Communication

Okay, so I’m a bit of a design freak.  Big surprise, right?  But one of the areas where I feel people often overlook design is in presentations.  As someone who has taken quite a few classes in the Stern School of Business at NYU, I’ve seen quite a few presentations as the result of group projects.  Most of them are created by students who have taken Organizational Communication (or Org Comm as it is often called).  In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve never taken Org Comm (thankfully).  That said, after seeing plenty of examples of the course concepts in action, I’ve come to one conclusion – Org Comm really doesn’t seem to help that much.  I don’t mean to be mean and I’m certainly not saying that taking Organizational Communication doesn’t add value to someone’s education (then again it is a required class at Stern, so they don’t have a choice).

What Org Comm does seem to lead to is a bunch of bland looking and sounding presentations, often times featuring the following elements:

  • A slide dedicated to the agenda – do you really need to tell me what you’re going to talk about in such great detail?  I’ve seen agenda slides with multiple levels of bullet points.  Not a particularly fun way to begin a talk.
  • Slide trackers – Thanks for the fancy diagram at the bottom of every slide telling me what part of the presentation we’re in, but I’d much rather listen to you speak than find out where we are in your story.
  • Three levels of bullet points per slide (aka way too much text) – While I respect that you want to put as much information out there as possible, if you put 300 words on a slide (which is just about all of the words in this entry), I’m much more likely to either 1) read your slides instead of listening to you or 2) start checking my Twitter on my phone because I’ve tuned you out entirely (shame on me, I know)

Now I’m not saying I’m perfect – if anything, I’m more likely to throw in an extra transition or two when it isn’t necessary just because I find it cool (what it ends up being is distracting instead).

So what’s the solution?

Well, I don’t have one, but Nancy Duarte does.  In addition to being the Principal and CEO of Duarte Communications, She’s the author of slide:ology: The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations, which is a great book that looks at using visual aids to complement a presentation, instead of letting them overrun it (I particularly enjoyed the case studies).  Rather than rehash her book here, I’m just going to recommend that you real her blog (linked to her name) or check out her book (or for that matter any number of the interviews she’s given).  Meanwhile, I think I’m going to get back to designing the slides for my final presentation in one of my classes.