Can I have your slides?

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One of the problems that you'll encounter when doing more visual presentations is that people are going to ask for your slides; yet your slides are pretty much useless for them without your narration. I've noticed that this makes some people - especially technically minded ones - suspicious of the whole concept of more visual slides in the first place.

Effectively, this comes down to habits: People are used to text-heavy slides. During the presentation, they say to themselves I can't remember all of this - I'll get the slides afterwards and read it again. What sounds like a solution is in fact the problem of such a presentation. The presenter is not doing a good job of explaining the topic and engaging the audience! And so, since they feel overwhelmed by all this content, they hope that reading the slides again later will help.

The advantages of a more visual presentation style are established and better explained elsewhere. But they still leave you with one problem: The audience will want to have something to refer to after the talk. Even if you are successful in having them remember your core message, they still want to be able to revisit your arguments. So what do you do?

The Handout

The classic solution to this is the handout. You provide a proper document (not a copy of your slides!) that discusses your topic. But that really only works for a small, well-defined audience. In a normal conference setup, you usually don't know how many people will attend your talk, so you'll either end up with too many or too few copies. I'd also question how many people will actually read it - or just toss it out once they're back home.

Still, a handout can work very well in some situations. Specifically when you're giving a presentation to a small group of people, e.g. in a business environment. Scientists will also usually want to see the hard data; so instead of trying to cram all the data onto slides, put the details in a handout and restrict your slides to the highlights and conclusions.

Your Website

A more modern solution is to put a summary of your presentation up on your website. This has the added bonus of making it available to more people than those that were in your talk. While I don't believe in most forms of "SEO", having a text that's relevant to your topic and area of expertise up on your website will undeniably help in bringing traffic (and, eventually, business) to your site. It can also help to establish you as an expert in the field or at least as a person competent on that specific topic.

Summarising a one-hour talk into one article, however, will result in a very long piece of text that nobody will really read. Instead, break it into pieces. If your talk consists of three parts, for example, then publish them as three separate posts. You can even spread this out over time. Make sure the first part is online before or at least shortly after your presentation, so that you can point people to it. They will then come back for the next part(s).


Preparing a handout or an article for your website may sound like a lot of extra work. But you'll find that it's not so hard, really. You are already familiar with the topic and all the details from preparing your presentation. Writing them down will only require you to find some quiet time to sit down and actually do it.

A third option to make the content of your talk available for your audience is a recording; I'll leave that topic for another time.

(Image Credits: "Co-op Info Session 24" by Hector Alejandro, from Flickr)

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Creative Commons Licence "Can I have your slides?" by Dirk Haun is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International Licence.