I was talking with a colleague recently about a project she was peripherally involved in. One of her clients is very command-and-control, by-the-numbers (mostly made up of engineers, maintenance men, manual workers) and is about to embark on a large-scale change communications project. And had decided that it was going to have the training consultants put together the materials for this.
[There are, in this project, a number of things that I disagree with vehemently, but at the risk of this becoming a rant, I'll stick with the headline problem.]
The main piece of this change jigsaw was a presentation that was being put together to go to the organisation at large. The presentation slides were being put together by a trainer and currently numbered 174.
No, that's not a typo. 174 slides. I can't imagine a single potential audience for whom 174 slides would be a good idea, far less the disaster that this seems.
My first reaction was "whoever's putting them together should talk to whoever it is that does presentation skills training in the consultancy." There was an awkward pause. "He's the one putting the slides together."
Narrate avoids doing "presentation skills training" as a rule - it's an old-fashioned idea that's had its day. But the other week, when I was coaching a director of a large public sector organisation for a conference, we got away from using PowerPoint slides altogether, in favour of video footage and good delivery.
Bulletpointed slides don't work in situations where you're trying to communicate and generate understanding. I know they may help presenters feel more confident when they're presenting material they're not sure about. But then they shouldn't be presenting.
If you're going to use slides to get material or data across, there are three books to look at before you fire up PowerPoint:
Edward R Tufte, The Visual Display of Quantitative Information
Edward R Tufte, The Cognitive Style of Power Point