Putting on Your Editor's Hat: How to Trim Your Presentations
July 13, 2015
The key to sharp writing and fantastic design is simple: You must become a cruel, thorough editor. No fluff, no unnecessary elements -- just a clean finished presentation that says exactly what it needs to say.
Here are a few fast tips that can help you get down to business as a presenter:
“In the same way that sketching isn’t drawing and mixing colors isn’t painting: first drafts merely scratch the surface of what it means to really write. Editing is part of writing—they aren’t two separate processes, but rather, one in the same.” – Hannah Rubin
You can make your presentation a lot more design friendly and visually appealing by trimming the amount of text on each slide. Slash through bullet points and sub-header text by moving the excess into your speaker’s notes, if available. Or simply consider stretching out the number of slides in order to feature one main idea per slide. The more room or “white space” on each slide, the better your audience will be able to focus on what is most important, and the more space you’ll have for visual elements.
Consistency is all about structure, which entails making sure that your beginning, middle, and end fit together. For instance, if you introduce a visual theme or a set of colors in the first few slides, make sure they appear later. If you bring up a main point or start a story in the introduction, be sure it’s all wrapped up by the end and not forgotten later. You can also ensure consistency by writing an outline separate from your presentation document that keeps track of the images and main ideas on each of your slides to be sure everything is tied up by the end of the presentation.
Put Power In It
“The main thing I try to do is write as clearly as I can. I rewrite a good deal to make it clear.” – E.B. White
If you wouldn’t want to sit through your own presentation, no one will. Giving your presentation potency means that all of the images are relatable and meaningful, and all of your text leads to a moving call-to-action. Although we are asking you to cut a lot from your presentation, you also shouldn’t hesitate to add a few personal elements, no matter what the topic is. Opt to take a risk by sharing something personal or inserting an image that has great meaning to you, and then speaking to it while on that slide. A powerful deck is more about “feeling” than ensuring everything is grammatically correct, so consider asking someone to preview your presentation at this stage.
If you’re not sure what to look for as you edit, refer to this short list to ask yourself questions about design and content basics:
1. Have you read the entire presentation aloud to check for mistakes?
2. Are your images and other design elements consistent throughout?
3. Is there a logical order to each slide?
4. Do all of your points relate to your final conclusion?
5. Are you repeating any images or text?
6. Have you gotten a second opinion?
7. Are there any words (like jargon) or images that your audience won’t understand or can’t relate to?
A well-edited presentation is a visual treat. The images carry the viewer alongside each of the written main ideas, and the whole piece conveys a consistent feeling from cover slide to end slide. It’s all about trimming the unnecessary and revealing the gem beneath the bullet points, clip art, and iconography. Don’t be afraid to be hard on yourself! Aim for a clean presentation with a logical flow.
About the Author
Sunday Avery is the content manager for client presentations at Ethos3, an award-winning presentation design and training agency providing professional presentation design and training for national and international clients ranging from Fortune 500 companies to branded individuals like Guy Kawasaki. Say hello to Sunday on LinkedIn.