Hari Patience-Davies shares her rules for producing good slide deck that work for both presenting and being sent around to be read.

PowerPoint, or Apple’s Keynote or Google Slides are all incredible pieces of software. After all it’s really not that long ago that projecting anything onto the wall meant transparencies or expensive 35mm slides to go in a carousel projector. With the creation of PowerPoint was in 1987, meetings changed forever.

But, there’s a strong argument that PowerPoint is used too much. It’s been a part of office life for decades and is ever-present – and not just as presentation software anymore. I’ve seen it used to design posters, printed books, even videos (using the slideshow functionality and some clever hacking of slide timings.)

Frankly, we use PowerPoint for too much.

We even expect decks to do double duty as presenter slides and a fully comprehensive leave behind.

The first question you should ask yourself when you open up PowerPoint is, is this deck being presented or will it be circulated to be read? 

Often people will say it needs to be both, and this is a dangerous path.

Ideally a deck which is being presented should have as little content on the slides as possible as you want the audience to listen to the presenter rather than read the slides, while a deck that is being circulated to be read on-screen needs to have enough information on the slides to make sense without the presenter’s narration.

So if your boss tells you to do both, what can you do to try and cover the needs of both on-screen readers and presentation audiences?

You’ll be relieved to find that there are a few approaches you can take:

1: Keep the slide deck simple for presenting and use notes to include extra information for the readers


  • Only one deck.
  • Clean slides for presenting ensure fewer distractions for the audience.


  • People often don’t look at the Slide Notes in other people’s decks, so you need to TELL them to do it. You may even need to explain to people where to find Slide Notes as it’s not always obvious.

2: Have one slide deck for presenting and another version of it for reading


  • Each slide deck is tailored to an audience and has clarity of purpose and design.


  • It’s easy for decks to get out of sync if you’re editing them.
  • People may circulate the wrong deck on to colleagues.

3: Use Hide Slide functionality to only display the slides you want to


  • Only one slide deck.
  • All the content is in one place for readers, but an audience being presented to only sees what you want them to see.


  • Readers may not understand that some slides are for presenting and some are for reading and complain about inconsistent styles.

None of these three are a perfect solution, but each of them is better than trying to present a slide deck written for reading (too much content with fonts too small to be read on a projector screen) or trying to understand the minimalist deck created purely for presentation purposes by reading it.



Image: Photo by Alex Litvin on Unsplash

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