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3 things presenters can learn from children’s books

June 10, 2011 - Presentations

As someone who has narrowly escaped death by Powerpoint more times than I care to remember, I spend a lot of time thinking about how not to subject others to the same.  Working in IT, a lot of presentations are developed by us techies, analysts, and geeks.  And if you know anything about techies, analysts, and geeks, you know that we’re detail oriented.  This means we write great user manuals, but unfortunately, a user manual makes for a mind-numbingly boring presentation.

However, if I’ve learned one thing from my daughter’s bedtime story books, it’s how to make a great presentation.

1.  Pictures are more important than words

children readingA children’s book is a book illustrator’s dream.  Each page is a full-size, magical portal into the illustrator’s imagination.  Sure, my daughter is paying some attention to what I’m saying, but her focus is on the picture.  That colorful, descriptive picture.

While you don’t have to be a graphic artist to create effective presentation slides, you do need to focus on pictures, pictures, pictures.  If there’s too much text on the slide, you’ll find your audience will be reading instead of listening to what you have to say.  If you have a slide of bullet points, think about how you could illustrate your point using a diagram instead.  If you have MS Powerpoint 2007 or later, be sure to check out the Smart Art feature for some help and ideas.

I had to go through a real shift in thinking when I was learning this lesson.  But give it time, and you’ll find you’ll begin automatically thinking in pictures.

2.  Text is limited

You’d think limited text would go hand-in-hand with a focus on pictures, but I’ve seen nice diagrams get absolutely crammed with text.  In a situation like that, not only is there too much text on the slide, but it’s impossible to read because it’s all trying to fit within a diagram.  The only thing worse than too much text is text you can’t read.

Always remember that presentation slides are intended to accompany a speaker.  If there are details your audience should know, talk about them.

3.  Keep it simple

Oh man, we analysts love details.  If we were writing a children’s book, we would be so tempted to not only describe the velocity at which the bunny was hopping across the field, but also how many siblings the bunny has, what the bunny had for lunch, and what kind of siding is on the farmhouse.

Know your audience.  Take the time to understand what your audience will need to know from your presentation, anticipate their questions, and develop your presentation to meet those needs.  Too many details and your audience will get lost in the weeds, or even worse, confused.


Where do you find your presentation creation inspiration?  What are your go-to tips you can’t live without?

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