More or less, but not the same

There’s lots of stuff out there about how to make really great powerpoint (and about terrible PowerPoint).  What I’ve observed is that people read these great suggestions and think “I could never do that” (which isn’t true) and use that conclusion to do nothing different.  Because the leap to “No more than six words on a slide.  EVER.” is a big one.

I’m actually a big believer in taking that leap, because once you leap, your audience has no choice but to listen to you, the presenter, instead of pretending that the most important thing up there is the slide (it isn’t).

On the assumption that lots of people won’t make the big leap (yet), here’s a baby step: the amount of words on your slide should NEVER be the same as the amount of words you say.

Ideally your slide has very few words and you have a lot of interesting stuff to say.  Another extreme would be that your slide is full of a lot of really rich content (I admit, I fear this really is “too many words”…) and you just say a few words and let people read.

But when you have a bunch of words and a bunch to say it is totally confusing to your audience.  Are they supposed to read or listen to you?  Not only do they not know, you don’t know!

Number of words you say ≠ Number of words on the slide

(And hopefully once you start down this path you’ll end up at 6-word slides.)

4 thoughts on “More or less, but not the same

  1. Hi Sasha,
    I love what you’re saying about the this. As a med student, I feel like this post needs to be sent to ALL medical school professors.
    Anyway, I love what you’re saying about taking leaps too, and it reminded me of The Leap Year Project: a project that is getting all sorts of people together from around the globe to share the leaps they are making in their communities this leap year. Check it out at, and feel to check out my leap here! I seriously love reading your blog every morning. I love reading about how others approach problems differently; it’s a friendly reminder of the creativity in the outside world that one can quickly lose sight of within the walls of a medical school. Thanks for writing!

  2. I’ve been amazed at how resistant people are to changing their style of presentation. People tell me that they wish that they could present as well as I do. I tell them that it is not hard and point them in the direction of Seth’s little book. When I was in the Dominican Republic, Seth gave me permission to translate “How to Give Really Bad PowerPoint” into Spanish. Although I forced my staff to adopt the style, it was pulling teeth. They gave me lines like, “I love the idea, but it won’t work here.” or “People aren’t used to that type of presentation.” In the end, I probably came closer to your rule of “number of words on the slide does not equal the number of words said.”

    As Jim Collins wrote in “Good to Great,” being great is not harder, it just takes more discipline. I think the same is true for PowerPoint presentations.

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