How do I integrate slides in my speeches? — Frequent Questions

Q; How do I integrate slides in my speeches?
A: Do you really have to? Really?

I have nothing against slides—if they add value to a speech. But most speakers ask for slides because:

  1. everyone else uses them
  2. they need a reminder of what they’re talking about
  3. they want to believe it’s a TED Talk
  4. holding the clicky thing gives them something to do with their hands.

Look, none of these are capital offenses. But they’re not particularly good reasons, either.

Because everyone else uses them?

But the majority of “everyone else” uses them badly. Still, if you’ve sat through dozens of presentations with eye-chart slides, you think that’s the way to give a professional presentation.

You load up each slide with as much information as it can handle. If your audience can read the tiny type at all, they’ll have taken in the information in a minute flat. But they have to sit there listening to you read it to them for the next five or 10.

Is this a good use of anyone’s time? Will they be a) grateful for the information? Or just b) grateful that you’ve stopped talking?

How have you felt sitting through one of those presentations? So why would you inflict it on anyone else?

Integrate slides to add value to the presentation

There’s only one reason to use slides—and if you pay close attention to the mainstage TED Talks, you’ll see that’s how they use slides: to add value to what you’re saying.

If you’re talking about rocket science, you don’t need a picture of a rocket ship: everyone in your audience could pick a rocket ship out of a lineup. Showing them a photograph of one only diverts their attention away from you. And in my book, that’s the biggest mistake a speaker can make.

But don’t take my word for it. Here’s Chris Anderson, the Head of TED, from his book TED Talks: the Official TED guide to public speaking:

“…the first question to ask yourself is whether you need [slides]. It’s a striking fact that at least a third of TED’s most viewed talks make no use of slides whatsoever.”

One-third—sling that fact at the next person who tells you you need to use slides “because TED.”

Also, Anderson says if your presentation is well-written, you don’t need gimmicks. Okay, he didn’t exactly say that. He said:

“…if the core of your talk is intensely personal, or if you have other devices for livening up your talk—like humor or vivid stories—then you may do better to forget the visuals and just focus on speaking personally to the audience.”

I added the emphasis there. Of course.

But if you still feel you need visual aids, integrate slides into your presentation. Or as Anderson says:

“there needs to be a compelling fit between what you tell and what you show.”


“…limit each slide to a single core idea.”

integrate slides

Webinars need slides. But see how I feed the audience the info one idea at a time?

The bottom line:

“When you think about it, it’s fairly simple. The main purpose of visuals can’t be communicate words; your mouth is perfectly good at doing that. It’s to share things your mouth can’t do so well: photographs, video, animations, key data.”

Integrate slides into your script

Today’s question came from one of my readers on LinkedIn. All the poor man wanted to know, I think, was how to integrate slides into the text he gives his client.

That’s easy:


insert fascinating text here


more fascinating stuff here

But really, try as hard as you can to convince your speaker to go without slides. And if you can’t, read Nancy Duarte’s great book Slide-ology to learn how to do it right.

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