I’ve been known to be a stickler about slides. Ask anyone I work with, they’ll agree (too quickly).
For a few years when I was a kid, I got interested in magic. I’d walk up the flight of stairs to Tannen’s Magic Shop in New York City – always dark in there – and be wowed by the guys behind the counter. I’d go home with a few new tricks to practice and a handful of simple props to master.
I never had the discipline to get good at it, but I stuck with it long enough to learn that you could have a giant red plastic thumb on your hand that a person two feet away from you wouldn’t notice; that getting someone to pick the card you want them to take really isn’t that hard; and that what you say, the eye contact you make, and how you engage with your audience are more important than what you physically do with the cards or the props.
Many years later, I’ve come to believe that the best presentations are like magic. They engage, they captivate, they engross. Included in that is just a bit of illusion: attention to detail, the occasional moment of, “Hey, how did she do that?”, and never letting them see the man behind the curtain.
Of course the slides shouldn’t be the “wow,” you should.
But anything that pulls people away, anything that makes it harder for people to understand the story you’re telling or the points you want them to walk away with, breaks the spell. That’s why we sweat the small stuff, in our slides, in our words, in the stories we tell.
Without magic, you’re just standing up there presenting, just like everyone else.