Presentations: Who do you design for?

Posted by Brad J. Ward | Posted in Concepts, Conferences, Speaking, Technology, Thoughts, Viral | Posted on 05-21-2009


As I prepare for a 4-hour social web workshop at OACUHO in Toronto this weekend, I find myself asking this question….

Should I be designing my slides more for the people who are there, or for the people who aren’t there?

Here’s where the thought came from.  I was browsing through my old presentations on SlideShare and realized that I’m reaching a much wider audience post-presentation. We’ve all been in this stage of ‘Presentation Zen’  and ‘Slideology‘ for many months as everyone tries to make their slides more simplistic, but are they still able to tell the story to the casual viewer online, and do they still reflect the message enough?  In other words, is there enough meat on the bones of your slides to transcend into the online world effectively?

See what I mean?

How to Recruit Students using New Media Outlets – MACAC 2009
Presentation: 40 people
Online: 930 views in 2 weeks

FacebookGate – Online Webinar
Presentation: 2 webinars, 20 people each
Online: 1,085 views in 4 months

Rock Enroll: Integrating Social Media into your Recruitment Strategy – MPSEOC
Presentation: 60 people
Online: 1,636 views in 9 months

The Recruitment Long Tail – Stamats 08  (Slidecast – Audio + Slides to tell the story)
Presentation: 150 people
Online: 1020 views in 6 months

After these presentations happened in real life, they reached an audience on average 15 x’s larger on the web.  Surely not all visitors viewed the whole thing, not all of them stayed after the first 5 slides, but they all came across the content. And if was easier to follow, would they stick around longer?

Which leads me to think: How can I create engaging presentation slides that capture the needs of both my live audience and my online audience? The live audience ALWAYS comes first. Bottom line. But would a little more clarification on a slide hurt for when you post it online later? Will it ruin your presentation? If you’re engaging, lively and captivating, does it even matter?

I’ll talk for several minutes this weekend on this slide:


But I wouldn’t expect someone on Slideshare to spend more than several seconds on it. On the other hand, you don’t want your slides to end up on the other extreme:

Just something to think about as you prepare for your next presentation. Be remarkable, be rememberable, and be aware of your post-presentation audience.  See you on the stage!

Comments posted (5)

Very good thoughts Brad. I think you made a great point when saying that the audience comes first, always. Because of that, I’m a proponent of having two presentations which are separate, one of slides simply for your online audience, and one for your live audience.

Optimally, your live presentation will be streamed or recorded for later viewing. If that’s not possible, have a different set of slides that summarize what you talked about for your online audience.

A great example of this would be Seth Godin’s talk on Tribes at TED. If he would have used a different set of slides, his presentation might not have been as effective. Yet, if his online audience simply sees his slides, and nothing else, they may not get everything he was trying to convey during his presentation.

Luckily of course, it was all recorded together, but you see my point :) .


This is something I’ve been thinking about as well as I do three presentations in the next 8 weeks to very different (and international) groups.

I think you’re first goal should be making the presentation as beneficial and informative for the audience in the room. They’re the ones paying to be there (either in the room or online). If you design your slides for the people in the room, you can be a bit spare with the content and you won’t feel like you are just reading bullet points. I’ve been in sessions where the slides are detailed and the person reads them point by point and its dull.

However, if you do want to post them online, make a second version with a bit more info. For example, on the slide above, add the two points you are making (even if its as simple as Community + Collaboration) and people who are viewing the content online can still get the gist of what you’re saying.

I made some modifications to the slides of my eduWeb 2009 closing keynote, “It’s the Community, Stupid!” before uploading them to Slideshare(1861 views in 9 months) – mainly removing the slides for the videos as Slideshare didn’t allow to integrate them at that time.

However, when I presented an updated version of this presentation to a new audience in March at the CUPRAP conference, “It’s the Community, Stupid! Take 2″ (1305 views in 2 months), the videos and the slides introducing them were included as well on Slideshare.

Actually, I think that presentation zen style slides work best on Slideshare as long as you can associate some text to your visuals and tell a powerful story.

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