Thursday, February 18, 2010

For heaven's sake, avoid Slideuments! Here's how...

If you've worked for half as long as me I'm sure you would have already noticed the incredible importance Powerpoint seems to assume in our corporate lives. I'm also sure that you've received dozens of .PPT reports, agendas, project charters and documents in your working life. So much so, that it doesn't even seem wrong anymore! Let's take a step back -- what kind of a tool is Powerpoint again? A presentation tool. And why are we using a presentation tool to create awful documents? In today's post I want to address the practice of slideumentation, while keeping in mind people's motivation when creating such artifacts. A few clarifications:
  • Have I ever created a slideument? YES many times
  • Do I work with people who create slideuments? YES
  • Are people who create slideuments stupid? ABSOLUTELY NOT. On the contrary they're the most intelligent people you'll meet
  • Does ThoughtWorks have slideuments? YES, we're not perfect, are we?
  • Does this blogpost represent a ThoughtWorks viewpoint? NO, these views are mine and mine alone!
I hope that the FAQ ensures I don't lose any friends for writing this blogpost. With that said, lets proceed.

Why Slideumentation is just wrong!

A couple of days back I chanced upon this video. It's a fairly hilarious take on how to avoid slideumentation. Garrey Reynolds of Presentation Zen fame has said enough about why slideumentation is just bad, but let me give you my reasons of what I consider slideumentation and what I dislike about them.

"Slideuments are documents we create in a presentation tool. Slideuments are often created for a dual purpose -- to share over electronic media and to present in front of an audience. Often, we create slideuments only because it's apparently easier to create documents using slideware. In such cases, we don't even present the slideument. We only send it across over email or put it up on slideshare or discuss it at a table with our bosses."

I'm not going to define slideuments further -- I'm sure you get the idea. But as you may have noticed from my definition, we end up creating slideuments for two reasons:
  1. We have slides that we need to present and also share with people who may miss the actual presentation
  2. We wan't to quickly create a 'visually interesting' document using an easy to use interface.
Don't worry, very very smart people create slideuments. Hillary Clinton's one of them. So let me first tell you why slideuments are a bad thing in my opinion:
  • If your reason is #1 (above), then remember that if your slides can stand without you, your talk is kinda redundant. You might as well save people some time by sending them an email, writing a nice document (I'll come to this in a bit) or by putting up a blog post! Remember that your audience can read faster than you and if your slide says everything you needed to say, then you're not being much of a presenter, I'm afraid.
  • If your reason is #2, then you have plenty more reasons not to slideument:
    • Slideuments full of bullet points are documents most people will never read. Ask yourself -- how many such documents have you picked up and read from the first slide to the last?
    • Slideumented reports hide complexity. To be very frank, bullet points are nothing but headings for more detailed information. Slideuments generally include only these headings. What about the details? It's complexity that's hidden somewhere at the back of your mind. By creating a slideumented report of your work over weeks and months, you've stopped all of that information from becoming explicit. What would have otherwise been a table of contents is now a many page report. Needless to say, this is a recipe for disaster.
    • Slideuments encourage bad presentations. You might create the slideument only for a reading purpose, but someone is likely to use your slides and create 'Death by Powerpoint'!
    • Slides generally operate at a much lower resolution than documents. Slideumentation creates extremely low quality documents that generally don't portray your professionalism.
So, that's my case against slideuments. If you search for slideuments on Google, I'm pretty sure you'll see a lot more criticism.

3 Parts to a Presentation

So, if we're agreed that slides are slides and that they shouldn't be able to stand without our narrative, then where does all the valuable information go? Garrey Reynolds says that you should consider three parts to your presentation:
  1. The Visuals: These don't have to be slides. You can do presentations in many different ways. If you do use slides however, they should contain simple visuals that explain the topic you're talking about at the time.
  2. Your Notes: Of course, you need to have some notes handy just in case you miss a point here and there. All slideware tools have a notes section built in, where you can enter your notes about the topic on hand.
  3. The Handout: This is where you can add additional detail. So if there's a complex chart add it in here. If you want people to refer your talk after it's over, then provide them a handout. Your handout should be able to live without you. Your slides should not.
I cannot possibly tell you all there's to know about presentations, inside this blogpost. So I strongly recommend that if there's only one book you read about presentations, please read Presentation Zen and start to follow the Presentation Zen blog.

Use a Word-processor for Documents, please

Now for the more difficult part - creating interesting documents. Now you'd think that this is a simple task, but apparently not. People seem to use Powerpoint as page-layout software more than a presentation tool. The pity is that the tool was never designed for the purpose and has some obvious failings when it comes to dealing with large amounts of text.

So first things first -- you can create very interesting documents in just a few clicks using your good old word processor. Take a look at the documents in the image above. Those are templates from Microsoft Word! Now the next time you want to send a Powerpoint file as your 25 page report, think of how your favourite magazine would represent the same information. Then, select a template from your favourite word processor and start filling in the details. After a few rounds of working with templates you should be able to create your own stuff and lend your own brand to your documents. Here are a few tips on what kind of document you should create for some standard purposes.

Type of DocumentSuggestionExamples
Quarterly/ Monthly/ Annual UpdatesTry a newsletterHere are are a couple of examples from Microsoft Word:
ReportsTry Toyota style A3 Reports. Limited to an A3 size sheet, these reports are an example of simplicity in action. The thinking behind A3 reports is:

"If you can't express it in one page, then it's perhaps not worth expressing."

Obviously this means two things:
  • You need to put in serious thought to simplify your report. I mean simple - not simplistic.
  • If your report is simple and visible on a single page, then it'll perhaps be much easier to read for the people who eventually see it.
Here's example template. Contact me for specific examples.
AgendasIf you're sending out an Agenda for a meeting, perhaps a simple one page document will suffice, but if you're keen on trying something fancy, then try the events template from your word processor.
Here's an example from Microsoft Word.
Project Plans/ ChartersPlease, please, please don't pass around project plans in Powerpoint.
  • Its tough to keep track of changes and at some point somebody will have an out of date document;
  • There's always hidden complexity that you're bound to overlook
Instead, try a project wiki. When you have to present reports, try the A3 format. When you have to make a presentation, make a presentation with simple visuals. When you need more detail, keep referring back to your project Wiki.
There are quite a few wikis available on the big broad internet:
  • Mediawiki is the wiki that powers the internet
  • TWiki is a popular wiki that satisfies a number of enterprise use-cases
  • Wikispaces allows you to create a free wiki without the nightmare of hosting and maintainence.
  • Confluence is my favourite wiki and is a full fledged enterprise knowledge sharing tool.
Announcements/ EventsLast but not the least, if you're making announcements or creating a slideument to describe an event, please try a brochure. They're professional, easy to create and extremely good looking.
Here's an example from Microsoft Word.

As you might have guessed by now, I'm a sucker for good presentations and I just can't stand the misuse of good presentation tools! I hope my post today was helpful to you in some way. Please let me know what you think, by adding your thoughts to the comments section of this post. I understand this is a controversial topic, and I'm perhaps sticking my neck out for trouble, but I just can't help expressing myself on this topic.


Brain said...

Excellent write up. Thanks so much for bringing attention to this. It is definitely a large problem in education when teachers use slideuments for their lecture notes or even to replace note taking by the students!

Wealth Management Program said...

Nice written for the person who take tension or slideuments, they can't progress in their life and their wealth become down and down. They can't be take so much care about wealth like this post "For heaven's sake, avoid slideuments!". You can be well manages yourself like this for heaven's sake. their are many wealth management program when you get this kind of slideument.

Agen Sbobet Terpercaya said...

You should comment on the competition comparison of the blog. You can highlight it's mind boggling. Your blog exploration/tour will broaden your conversions.

michael angelo rosal said...

When I initially left a comment I appear to have clicked the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and now each time a comment is added I get 4 emails with the same comment. Is there a way you are able to remove me from that service? Appreciate it! Visit us bola tangkas

michael angelo rosal said...

Hello there! This blog post could not be written any better! Reading through this article reminds me of my previous roommate! He constantly kept talking about this. I am going to forward this information to him. Fairly certain he will have a very good read. I appreciate you for sharing! Visit us at agen bola sbobet

michael angelo rosal said...

Hi there! This blog post could not be written any better! Going through this post reminds me of my previous roommate! He always kept talking about this. I am going to send this post to him. Fairly certain he's going to have a great read. Thank you for sharing! Well also I will share my thoughts on agent ibcbet | agen ibcbet

agen bola sbobet said...

Hi, I do believe your site could be having internet browser compatibility issues. Whenever I take a look at your site in Safari, it looks fine however, if opening in Internet Explorer, it's got some overlapping issues. I simply wanted to provide you with a quick heads up! Aside from that, excellent blog!
Agen Sbobet

Meiqing Xu said...

oakley vault
true religion outlet
nike air max
jordan concords
jordan 11s
jordan 8 playoffs
cheap soccer shoes
coach outlet
louis vuitton
oakley sunglasses
pandora jewelry
michael kors
ralph lauren
chanel bags
jrodan retro
louis vuitton outlet
coach outlet store online
air max uk
ray ban sunglasses
louis vuitton
kobe bryant shoes 2015
coach outlet online
christian louboutin outlet
michael kors handbags
chanel handbags
nike air max
jordan 13
jordan shoes
michael kors
coach outlet
jordan 13
oakley sunglass
louis vuitton handbags
louis vuitton outlet
mont blanc legend
true religion sale
tory burch outlet online
ray ban uk
nhl jerseys

hulk games said...

Thanks for the best blog. it was very useful for me.keep sharing such ideas in the future as well. Thanks for giving me the useful information. I think I need it!
car game
bike game
happy wheels demo
unblocked games
my little pony puzzle
my little pony halloween

Watch movie online free said...

You have made some good points there. I looked on the web for more information about the issue and found most people will go along with your views on this website.Sbobet

Alexandra Kate said...

I really  liked  this  part  of the  article, with  a nice  and interesting  topics have  helped a  lot of people  who do not  challenge things  people  should know. you need  more publicize  this so  many people who know about it are rare for people to know this, Success for you. - atjeh              

Agen Sbobet Indonesia said...

Thanks for the data, perhaps I will use this all over my tufted selling and i have been use much ring American statedia in run a interaction and that they somebody existing a giant amend on me. Agen Sbobet Casino Agen Sbobet Terbaik

Watch movie online free said...

SEO and mobile friendly web design is really amaing that help boost rankings on search engine. So in order to have that you must hire an expert who will do the design and develop your webiste. Web Design Philippines

translation services said...

It is about creating documents and files using page layout skills and your partner on advertising and marketing the desktop publisher Philippines

Da Shuai Guo said...

adidas wings
coach outlet
manchester united jersey
true religion jeans
michael kors outlet,
coach outlet
cheap ray ban sunglasses
michael kors handbags
air max 90
mont blanc pens
ralph lauren outlet
cheap nba jerseys
puma sneakers
green bay packers jerseys
oakley sunglasses
swarovski crystal
coach outlet
nba jerseys
snapback hats
calvin klein outlet
louis vuitton outlet
ugg boots
gucci handbags
cheap jordans,
louis vuitton
swarovski uk
air jordan 11
michael kors outlet,

Jual Obat Keputihan Crystal X said...

Slideuments useful tips to avoid
mengobati keputihan berlebih secara alami
cara alami mengobati keputihan
cara mengobati keputihan yang gatal
cara menyembuhkan keputihan gatal secara alami
cara mencegah dan mengobati keputihan
cara mengatasi keputihan secara alami
cara alami mengobati keputihan gatal
mengobati keputihan secara tradisional
mengobati keputihan yang gatal secara alami
mengobati keputihan gatal secara tradisional
cara mengobati keputihan pada wanita
cara mengatasi keputihan gatal
mengobati keputihan saat hamil
cara mengobati keputihan secara alami
cara tradisional mengobati keputihan

Syka suwandy said...

Thats a good' article, i usually amazed with' this thing, i asked myself about this opinion, I wish You'll a better articles that can make another people impressive..don't make the article feel rigit and isn't interesting and poor, i like to read this' article and i think this is "good".thank you' m'y brother...........

gelo cly said...

What company is about? this is considered as the biggest agricultural conglomerates in Philippines which is retail choice of branch like AGRI Crop Protection, Heisenberg veterinary medicines, and many more. Visit the Joseph Calata for further information about the company and products.

happy wheels said...

Thanks for your post. I admire your work, although you're so busy, you still take time and share us these information :)
car game | racing game | game online

Related Posts with Thumbnails