“You’ve ruined us…”

During a recent meeting, one of my colleagues said this in response to my inquiry about a presentation they had just attended. Apparently the presenter had a lot of text-filled slides and read their slides (or notes) to the audience.  “You’ve ruined us, Lee,” she said.  “We can’t go to presentations anymore without critiquing the presentation or getting mad about text-filled slides.” (slightly paraphrased here).

Know what I said? “Good. Now, when you serve on conference or workshop planning committees you can demand better from your presenters.” And that’s what we need to do – demand better.  From ourselves, from our colleagues, from our consultants and from our workshop presenters – every one of you should demand better presentations.

Maybe we need to write presentation guidelines for our workshops specifically banning text-filled slides?  Maybe we need to take the Brick and Click Symposium’s approach one step further and require that presenters submit their slide decks before accepting their proposals? (Brick and Click uses a peer-review approach to program proposals – haven’t yet been to this conference but have heard wonderful things about it and am going this year!)

On her blog Creating Passionate Users, Kathy Sierra wrote a wonderful post entitled “Crash course in learning theory.” And while the entire post is worthwhile reading, one particular quote caught my attention:

“…your job [as a presenter] is to create an environment where the chances of the learner “getting it” in the way that you intend are as high as possible.” 

A presentation with text-filled slides is NOT part of a productive learning environment. Period. 

Have I “ruined” my colleagues? Nah.  I’ve just shown them that there is a better way to create and deliver an effective presentation, and their expectations have been raised. They deserve better, and so do you.




One response to ““You’ve ruined us…”

  1. As I sadly think it will be a while before the text-filled slide disappears, here’s what you can do next time you attend a presentation:

    If the presenter is talking and also displaying text-filled slides, LOOK AWAY from the slides and concentrate on listening to the speaker. Looking away removes that extra incoming stream of information that’s clogging up your working memory. Listen to what the speaker has to say.

    If that doesn’t work (and you can get away with it), walk out. That’s right–walk out. Your time is valuable and if a presenter isn’t going to put forth the effort to give you an effective learning experience, then he/she is wasting your time.

    Good presenting!


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