The Presentation Secret = “Dog Cat Fish”

5th March 2024

Imagine that you’re making a presentation, and that your next slide has three words on it – “dog”, “cat” and “fish”…

How would your audience want you to present alongside that slide? Would they want you to:

  1. All at once: Show all three words on the slide upfront. That way, they’d then listen to you talk about dogs, knowing that the next things you’d discuss is cats and fish. Or
  2. One by one: Show the animals up one at a time. So, they’d only see the word “dog” when you said the word “dog”. They’d only see “cat” when you said “cat” etc

They’d prefer the second one, yes? Lots of reasons:

  • Showing the words “cat” and “fish” when you’re talking about dogs is just distracting and irrelevant
  • If they know what you’re discussing next, they’ll think “I AM BORED. I know where this is going – so please hurry up. Shut up about dogs, and get onto cats and fish”
  • If they’re more interested in cats or fish than dogs, they’re even more likely to want to hurry up! And…
  • … all these points would be much worse on a very wordy slide. For example, if you had 4-5 bullet points about each animal. Now, as you’re talking passionately about dogs, they’ve already read all three animals’ bullet points, know exactly what you’re about to say, are desperate for you to hurry up, and probably desperate for you to shut up!

Obvious, yes? Clearly it’s better for them that they only see the word “cat” when you start talking about cats.

But most presenters don’t do this.

Instead, they show everything at once.

And then wonder why the audience is reading ahead, not listening properly, looking bored and wanting them to hurry up/shut up.

The solution to this is as you’d expect:


(And, by “slide builds”, I mean that – when you click – the word “cat” appears on the slide. None of this whooshing in from the left rubbish!)

Action Point

Next presentation:

  • Use slide builds: Only show the word “cat” when you say the word “cat”
  • Use fewer words: Remove words from your slide. Put these words in your mouth instead! That way, your audience still gets the same messages. But they’re much more interesting to hear you say them, than they are to watch you read them off a wordy, boring slide!

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