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Presentation Tip: The 200 Slide Solution

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Presentations are all so “samey” — a few slides, four or five bullets per slide, some stock imagery, maybe some effects if you’re feeling fancy. How about trying something different? Marketing guru Seth Godin proposes shaking up the status quo with his “200 slide solution.” Next time you have a 40-minute presentation to make, try using two hundred slides, each containing just one word or image. That’s a slide every 12 seconds.

Godin goes on to state that he doesn’t mean to stipulate that you should use exactly 200 slides — you could use 50, 100 or even none. The idea is to try to shake up the tired old presentation techniques that you’ve been using. Trying something radical will give your talk impact, keep your audience interested and make your presentation memorable.

I think Godin’s suggestion is a little reminiscent of the format of O’Reilly’s Ignite events, which is another place to draw presentation inspiration from. Ignite talks are shorter than most typical presentations, lasting exactly six minutes 40 seconds. Each speaker has 20 slides, with each slide being shown for exactly 20 seconds (a little longer than Godin’s 12 seconds, but not by much). The short amount of time allowed and the auto-advancing slides ensure that the speaker sticks to the point and keeps things interesting.

If you’re curious as to what kind of slides Ignite speakers use, many of them share their slide decks on Slideshare — here are some from Ignite Phoenix, for example. There’s also some useful Ignite presentation tips here. Of course, it may not be practical to limit your next presentation to a little under seven minutes, but keeping your talk as short as you possibly can is a very good idea; just because you’ve been allotted 40 minutes doesn’t mean that you need to use it all.

What approaches have you tried to shake up the presentation status quo?

Ignite Montreal photo courtesy Flickr user acroll, licensed under CC-BY-SA 2.0

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5 Responses to “Presentation Tip: The 200 Slide Solution”

  1. Sounds like what Seth is referring to is the “Takahashi Method” or “Lessig Method” of presenting: one word, phrase, or graphic on each slide; large text for easy visibility; many slides per presentation.

    I would love for this to become more common than it already is, because it’s a relatively straightforward way to stop people from 1) reading their slides, and 2) trying to cram their entire presentation into their slides, both of which are the death knell for audience interest. Using this style of presentation forces you to use your slides to reinforce the points you’re making, rather than just duplicating them. Hint: the audience can read faster than you can talk. =)

    http://presentationzen.blogs.com/presentationzen/2005/09/living_large_ta.html
    http://presentationzen.blogs.com/presentationzen/2005/10/the_lessig_meth.html

  2. Hhhhmmm….. it’s not often I disagree with Seth! :)

    For me, though, it’s not about shaking things up for the sake of it – it’s about using the number of slides (which could be zero) that the presentation needs. Just using a lot of slides for the sake of it is not better than using flashy graphics for the sake of it, conceptually.

    It’s about the message and it’s about the audience, not about the presentation.

    S

  3. I very much agree – shaking up presentations can add a lot of value. It forces the speaker to get out of slide reading and boring repetition and really know their material. Then images can add an effective backdrop to the current point, rather than becoming a frequent crutch for the speaker.

    Thanks for the Ignite Phoenix mention. If you want to watch videos of some of the presentations, you can find them all (100+) at http://www.youtube.com/ignitephoenix

    Cheers!

    • Thanks for the link, Jeff. I also think you’ve hit the nail on the head there. Slides should be an interesting backdrop, not (as happens all too frequently) a bulleted list of memory aids for the presenter.