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PowerPoint Delivery, Text or Pictures, Handouts: TJ Walker with Geetesh Bajaj

Friday, August 12, 2016
posted by Geetesh on 9:30 AM IST

Here's another podcast that I recorded with TJ Walker. In this podcast, we explore several areas:

How do you balance between the text slides vs. picture slides approaches?
Is there more than one presentation scenario that needs different strategies? Or is there a one-glove-fits-all option that works for all presentations?
What about handouts? And when do you provide them? Do you print them, or can they be electronic?
Here are the video and audio embeds, and the transcript follows later on this page.

More Advanced PowerPoint Delivery Tips August 12, 2016 from Geetesh Bajaj on Vimeo.

TJ: Perhaps you've been using PowerPoint for years, even decades, but are you confident you're using the best delivery practices possible?

Thanks for joining me today. This is a special joint venture between Speaking with TJ walker and Indezine, which is a fantastic website; all-purpose site for all of your needs on PowerPoint, slides, templates how-to information.

I'm very happy about the interview I am about to present to you. This is with Geetesh Bajaj; he is the owner, founder, and the top creator at Indezine.

Listen in to the interview. I think you're going to learn some things that you didn't know before about PowerPoint. Geetesh is the founder and chief PowerPoint expert at Indezine. Not only does he publish one of the leading web sites in the world all about PowerPoint, design, templates, structure—but he's also a leading trainer to major corporations around the world.

I want to throw out my idea of how to actually prepare for PowerPoint. I want you to tell me where I'm wrong. Number one, because I certainly do not have a standard accepted viewpoint on PowerPoint. So I believe after you've created your slides that you should speak them out loud on video; keep doing that until you love every aspect of your style and substance. Then I believe, if you're for example, speaking to 40 prospects or clients on Thursday, you should find three colleagues down the hall with a similar mindset—not someone you work with every day, but practice your PowerPoint speech in front of them at lunch time in a conference room.

Colleagues helping with a presentation?
Copyright: Image by StockUnlimited

When you are done, ask them every slide they remember, and every message they remember. And, here's the kicker that a lot of your colleagues, people in the industry aren't going to like—I believe that any slide that your audience can't instantly remember, and tell you what the point was; you now have empirical evidence that the slide is garbage. Throw it in the trash can. Any message that you want the audience to really get that they're not throwing back in your face, if they can't tell you what the message is, you have failed. You have to go back and retool your presentation.

Because I believe speaking a presentation is about communication; it's communication if and only if your audience understands it, and remembers it.

Now every time I've done this with clients and colleagues, I can tell you there is ‘zero’, I don't mean a third of the time or ten percent of the time. I mean zero percent of the time, the audiences remember text on a slide. In my experience working with major corporations all over the world for more than 30 years, people only remember images on slides. So that's my thesis. Tell me how you do it and what you see wrong with my idea?

Geetesh: I don't see anything wrong with your idea, TJ. And, I think my idea is complementary to yours rather than contradictory. So there's nothing wrong.

What I would believe the best way is that what we need to do exactly everything that you told us that has to be done, but before we get to that level, we also need to do some testing in PowerPoint itself, OK? And just to be in a sync with our slides, and work on them, and then be in sync with the body language and work with them and video-tape ourselves and get the best of both.

TJ: What about my actual theory of don't use text on slides? A lot of experts will say, “Oh, less text is better”, “Only three bullet points, or three words per slide”. Again, I’m not an anti-text person. I love text, I have written books, and I read books. I just don't have any evidence that putting text up, on a slide while you are speaking—and then that projected screen is 30 to 40 feet away from an audience. I don't have any evidence that actually works on people?

Geetesh: Again you're right, but there are different aspects and different perspectives, with which you can look at the same thing. And depending on which perspective you're looking at, you may be right or wrong. Or I may be right or wrong, or maybe both of us may be right. So let's get into that. OK, first of all, in an ideal scenario, it would be good to have less text, and more visuals, as long as visuals are relevant and you can explain them well. But you know, sometimes you really do need text and…

TJ: Why?

Geetesh: Why, given one scenario, where you have presentations with someone like a pharmaceutical company. They need to have some text put in the end, which just goes and absolves them of any legality. Stuff like that has to be put there due to laws, and that has to stay there, that’s one scenario.

TJ: Then I have a question. Why does that have to be? Why couldn't that simply be in the Notes section? So if it's emailed or it's putting a legal document, it's all there, but it's not what’s literally projected on a screen.

Geetesh: Well, that's something that the legal departments have to answer. I’m not an expert in to that area, so I wouldn't go into that. But yes, they just need it to be there as part of the production that's presented to the audience at that point of time, and to make them legally safe, they just have to go and say that we are not responsible for…and they have a long legal language, over there. So let's not get into that. And that was just only one aspect of putting text.

Secondly, what happens is that presentations are essentially of two types. One are the boardroom slide presentations where you have lots of pictures, and you have a very good presenter. Let's look at this very clearly, only a presenter who is much practiced, seasoned, and really good at their job can walk away with the presentation that has got lots of pictures and little text. But everybody doesn’t come from that level.

TJ: But why is that?

Geetesh: That is because you have to start at somewhere, TJ. And even on the journey to become of a wonderful presenter, an expert in your area, you're going to get there eventually, but you wouldn't start that way right at the beginning of your career. And you really need to get know there's always a middle path, and it's OK not to have…I really believe there's no sense in having so much text which is so teeny-weeny that no one in the audience can even read it. And even if they can read it, they're not interested because they really haven't come to a presentation to read text, OK? And I completely agree with that, and naturally it's always great to have some visuals over there and tell a story about something to the audience which interests them, holds their attention, and they remember something when they walk out of the room. But the thing is: everything is not black and white! There's a million shades of grey in between, OK? And there is something in between. So, let's not just look at yes or no; there's always a ‘maybe’ somewhere. And grey exists—and so it's there.

Copyright: Image by StockUnlimited

TJ: Oh absolutely, and let me say for the audience. I think the vast, vast majority of business people, communication experts, and PowerPoint presenters share your view. But I want to question some of the assumptions. You mentioned like, if you're really great speaker, using images may be fine; but if you're intermediate, or average, or below—then you somehow, you didn't say this directly, but I think that was implicit that you sort of need to have the text on the slide to help you. And that's a premise that I simply don't agree with. I don't have evidence, that that makes that speaker a better speaker, and more memorable to the audience. I understand people use the PowerPoint slides as sort of their notes, their teleprompter, but I don't have evidence that it actually makes the experience better for the audience. Can you address that?

Geetesh: See, first of all, let's get back again to what we originally started with. OK, I don't disagree with you TJ, and I completely agree that in an ideal situation, in an ideal world, this is exactly what you should have. And I wouldn't even call them average presenters, or not-so-good presenters. I would call them presenters who are trying to get better, and they are somewhere on the way to getting better. OK, so let's put that in a more positive way. And they need to get somewhere, but they need to travel that path. It's not, you know it's not so easy—it’s not like you just enter a dark room, and press a switch. The light is on, and suddenly everything is illuminated. Unfortunately, it does not happen that way with skills, and people don't become presenters overnight. They need to work on that, and what they really need to do is…that all depends on the audience again, and they would move up one level at a time to becoming a wonderful presenter.

But even today even in the large world, let's say you are having a company meeting where all the top shareholders are there, and they need handouts, and they need detailed slides, and detailed charts—and all that stuff to be shown, and they expect that. And they have a motive there; they have a reasoning there and that's the way they have been working and they understand that well. So in that case, where the present is happy, and the audience is happy with the way they're working—there’s no reason to go and change that.

But that's a different scenario, and I completely agree with other scenario that you spoke about; that's valid too.

So I'm just telling that I'm agreeing to agree with this set of people at that and I'm agreeing to agree with the other set of people as well because this is what works for scenario 1, and this is what works the scenario 2. But we just cannot believe that scenario 1 or 2 does not exist, and just one of them is good.

TJ: I agree with you completely that it works in the sense that with people do it that way, they meet expectations, and nobody's upset, nobody gets fired; but I would question it, if you dig deeper and really test it? Does it work in the sense that their audience truly understands and remembers their key messages and images and slides? I would contend quite often, it doesn't. The other area where I would quibble is I think it's entirely possible to be a complete beginner-presenter, to be scared, nervous, uncomfortable, and give a PowerPoint slide exclusively with images—and to simply use a piece of paper with your words or your outline that you, the speaker see what the audience doesn't see, that's really the biggest suggestion I give.

Geetesh: That’s great, TJ. That's wonderful but the thing is I'm not talking about a beginner-presenter. It's always easy to work with a beginner, but it's very difficult to unlearn something that you have been doing for years, okay, and that person is not even a beginner—but for them to unlearn something that they have been doing for a long time, and they think they're pretty successful at that, and that is what a lot of their audience expects. And it's easy to do with beginner, but it's very difficult…

TJ: But let's take it a little deeper on audience expectations. I agree with you completely that's what audience expectations are. I would contend however that people have extremely low expectations for any business speaker they are presenting; they are expecting to be bored. I mean when I am introduced to an audience, I am introduced as this great world class speaker, fantastic keynote speaker, and still people are fighting for the seats in the back row. People are not fighting for the seats in the front row because people have an expectation that business presenters are going to be boring, and I would contend that yeah, there's always a chance you fail to meet expectations, but there's also a chance that you can exceed expectations. Why not try to be better than what people are expecting?

Geetesh: Now, how do we go and put the entire…it’s just using one word, TJ: audience. And, you just can't say that every audience is the same. You can’t bracket all the audience in the whole world can’t even bracket all the audience in one company into one world audience, OK? So audiences are always different, and one audience is always different from the other. Expectations of one audience is always different from the expectations of the second one, the third one, the fourth one; they are different types. So when you actually are doing your presentation, and your storyboarding, and you're thinking about what the message that you want to give across—you have to think about your audience. And you have to work as the audience expects you to. So that's the most important thing because nobody ever creates a presentation for themselves. They always create it for the audience, and so then you have to think who your audience is.

In the same way as cinema is made. If someone wants to make a comedy, they have a different audience. When someone wants to make a fictional movie, they have a different audience. Or if someone wants to make any other genre of movie, and they have a different audience. So based on what their audiences are, they decide the script and they work on that.

But it's very difficult to go and put all presentations into one genre, and say every presentation has an audience and this is what an audience expects. Because audiences can be different.

TJ: Well, you've had a couple of themes that I think are worth exploring further. The analogy with cinema; that's one I use with my clients all the time. I always ask them to think of your favorite novel of all time that was turned into a movie. No matter how much you love that novel, if you go to a big movie theater and pay a bunch of money for tickets and popcorn, and sit down—all of the sudden, it's the text of the novel up on the screen. You're going to be profoundly disappointed.

So my theory is you have to really respect each medium for what it's good for. Big screens projected in the movies are used for images and pictures and action—they're not used for conveying text. Text is great on your computer, your laptop, your cell phone, and paper.

I'm constantly urging my clients to use handouts. But so many of them feel like everything has to be on the slide deck, and what is good for paper and a computer screen has to be projected to. And to me they're respecting the genre, they're not respecting the media. What are your thoughts?

Geetesh: I completely agree with you. It really doesn't matter what type of presentation you have—handouts are great. And if you can send handouts, that's even better because if you really know who is going to be part of the presentation, it's a good idea to send handouts probably an hour or two, or maybe a day before. And email them, make PDFs out of them, and format your handouts well. Work on them and send them to your audience. It's better because it will save trees, by not having to print all your handouts as well.

I think that's a fantastic idea and I really recommend that all the time. But again, when you have a boardroom-style presentation where you have two thousand people sitting in the audience, it's not always practical to get handouts to all of them at that point of time, and typically maybe those slides…you know even they would benefit from handouts. So I can’t say that it's OK, but you know you can probably put a web URL at the end of the presentation, and tell them this is the place that you can go and download the handouts. So whichever way you look at it, handouts are a great idea.

TJ: Excellent suggestion, Geetesh Bajaj—thanks for being our special co-presenter today. Geetesh Bajaj is from Indezine. If you're looking for more information on PowerPoint, PowerPoint creation, slides, templates, all the technology, how-tos, plus the people side of creating it, go to Thanks again.

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