Have you ever been told that you could only have a certain number of slides in your presentation, like 3 or 5? Crazy, right? How could you possibly condense everything you want to say into just a few slides? I think the better question, though, is “Why should you have to?”
Why people limit slide counts
Conference directors, administrators and other people in charge of organizing presenters for events limit slide counts to ensure that speakers don’t go over their allotted time. They believe that the more slides in a presentation, the longer it lasts. Conversely, the fewer slides in a presentation, the less time it takes, right? Wrong!
What is the sound of one hand clapping? How many slides go into a 10-minute presentation? While the first question is a well-known Zen riddle, both are equally thought-provoking and unanswerable. I have delivered 6-minute presentations that contain 20 slides and attended a 30-minute presentation that contained just one. The number of slides in the presentation doesn’t necessarily affect the length or brevity of a presentation.
What increases slide count in a presentation?
Many factors affect slide count. Complex animations are often broken up across several slides to make them easier to construct and edit. If you have lots of ideas to convey and you abide by the “one idea per slide” rule, then you’ll have lots of slides. Some slides contain images and text that keep up with the pace of the speaker. Difficult concepts often need to be broken down into their components, each one presented separately on its own slide. You get the idea: there are lots of legitimate reasons to increase the number of slides in a presentation.
If you are told that you can only have a couple of slides in your presentation, it’s up to you to push back. Here are a few scripted responses you might try.
- “There’s some complex animation in my presentation that appears across several slides. But the total run time is just X seconds.”
- “Even though it seems like a lot of slides, I’ve practiced this speech and it lasts just X minutes.”
- “My slides are a backdrop to my speech and move along very quickly, almost like a movie.”
- “My subject matter is very complex. If I’m limited to just X number of slides, I’m afraid I’ll confuse the audience.”
Sucking it up
Changing mindsets is never easy, and some people will just stare at you blankly as they repeat the mantra they’ve been told: “You only get X number of slides.” Well, if that happens, then you’ll need to revise your approach and really focus on what’s important to communicate to your audience. Through creative scripting and judicious use of graphics, you’ll be able to shine even given the meaningless restraint of an arbitrary slide count!