New year? New resolutions? New you? Same demands?

How many times did you hear this in 2013, or any year for that matter: “Hey, I sent you the slides, can you take a quick look at them and give me your comments?”  When did having a “quick look” at anything do any good?  “Well, I took a quick look at your car, but I couldn’t have known it was going to break down like that.”  “I took a quick look at your finances but hard to see a way out of that mess!”  What are you really supposed to say in response to the question? “Took a quick look. Looks good. Lots of slides though. Loved the font. You’ll crush it”

Having a look at the slides is liking staring at a car through the window. You don’t know how it’ll drive – how the individual elements, seen or unseen, that go into its construction, will actually function together. Can you judge the car by looks alone? What if we did that to presenters too?  Not everybody that wows at TED is also suited for the cover of GQ. Next time that somebody asks you to take a quick look at their slides, try answering this way: “Well, there’s really nothing I can do by looking at your slides but I’d be delighted to hear your presentation.” After all, readers of this blog will know that some of the best slides in a presentation appear the most abstract when printed. And slides without the presenter are like words in a book, but in random order. The craft is in the narration, the pacing, the tease, the reveal. Even with speaker notes, you’re going to struggle to decode that in a 16MB attachment.  So decline the request to review the slides, but offer your time to review the “presentation.”

And while you’re busy declining, politely, be ready for this demand too: “I’ve knocked up these slides, can you pretty them up for me?”  Pretty them up?  Like an orange box is going to make a difference?  Even with a drop shadow. Or bevels.  My hope for 2014 is that we’re one year closer to a time when presenters realize that it is their duty to make the presentation come alive.  When presenters just ditch ugly slides and engage with an audience instead. Where presenters prepare far enough in advance that a designer can translate pages of text into a single, striking image. And where dropping words in with a starbust effect and emphasizing in red, is officially removed from Powerpoint’s animation palette.

If all that were to happen, 2014 might just be the best year yet.

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