The presenter, Jim, was happy and the audience seemed engrossed. Why? Jim’s story delivered at the beginning of his presentation had hit the target and had everyone’s attention.
It was around 20 minutes into his presentation and he still had another 25 minutes left. But Jim wasn’t aware of the time – he was just happy that his session was progressing well.
In the next 15 minutes Jim took some questions, answered them with attention to detail but he was only on his third slide. Jim had 25 slides in his presentation.
It was around that time that Jim realized his predicament and panicked. He realized that he still had not even started talking about his main topic. And that’s the story of many great presentations that start well, progress well, but end miserably.
Any guesses about what Jim did in his anxiety? He “jumped” slides.
How to Avoid Jumping Slides
What do we mean by jumping slides? Jumping slides is the act of moving between slides very rapidly, and in fact skipping many slides altogether.
If you’ve attended your share of presentations, you know how many presenters jump slides. To make this panicky act more kind to the audience, and also to reassure themselves, presenters often offer excuses such as:
1. I know you are all busy and I don’t want to take too much of your time. Let me skip to the important part.
The audience will wonder, “If you knew that we are all so busy, then why did you spend all your time with the not-so-important parts?”
2. These other slides mainly relate to the several issues we have already discussed – so let me get to the part that will benefit us the most.
The audience wonders, “If those slides contained issues we already discussed, then did the presenter not know about this little detail before he started? Does he expect us to believe that he did not know what was coming up in the subsequent slides?”
3. These slides are not required or valid for this audience. Let me skip to the slides that matter to you.
The audience is confused, “If those slides were not necessary, then why did they exist in the first place?”
The presenter is doomed if he shows all the slides – and he is in no better position even if he does not show them! What started as an amazing presentation has turned into a disaster, or in other words, a “lose-lose” situation.
I have sympathy for Jim. Yes he should have been careful with his time – but he is human, and humans make mistakes. So rather than criticize him, let’s look at two ways in which he can salvage his presentation.
Remember that Jim need not just use any one of these approaches – he can combine parts of both these approaches too.
1) He can be truthful.
Jim can admit to his mistake and say that he got carried away by his audience’s enthusiasm. He has to say this in a way that celebrates the audience’s enthusiasm rather than blaming it. And then he can ask the audience for more time – of course, if another speaker is scheduled to present after him, then that may not be an option.
Even if his speaking time does not extend, the act of being truthful will help him win the hearts of a fair percentage of his audience members, and he can then skip slides. But although he is still skipping some slides, this is not considered “jumping,” because the audience is now more involved with his decision.
This is not an ideal situation – but Jim is now only looking at making a better ending than a worse one.
To salvage this situation even further, Jim can ask everyone to leave their visiting cards with him – and he can then email them a copy of the slides and set up a phone call with them later!
2) He can be savvy.
How can being savvy help Jim? Well, if he knows the keyboard shortcuts for a program like PowerPoint, he can just jump slides without the audience being aware.
To do so, he can quickly press the numbers 2 and 3 in quick succession followed by the Enter key. That will get him straight to slide 23 without showing any skipped slides.
This approach is certainly not as truthful as the first option, but cannot be considered deceitful. Even now he can save time by skipping slides, and compensate by speaking about related topics. Every expert presenter will agree that the presenter is the presentation, not the slides.
And as long as Jim makes sure that his message is not diluted, he can manage with fewer slides.
But don’t use this trick of accessing slides by their numbers unless you have practiced it well and are confident of doing so. Also, this trick assumes that you know which slide you want to skip too quickly. This way of working, in turn, requires that you know your slides well.
Takeaways from the situation
Here are some takeaways from this scenario:
1. Always practice your slides before you present. This may seem obvious, but time your slides and also time your delivery. Also only prepare for around three- fourth of the time allotted to you, so that you have extra time to take questions – and also some extra time so that you never need to jump slides.
2. Know your slide numbers well. Create a sequence of your most important slides and memorize it – something like slides, 1, 3, 7, 14, 18, 22, 23, 24, and 25! That way you can use keyboard shortcuts only to show your most important slides.
3. Don’t get too carried away by the audience. And if you want to get carried away, ask their permission! The next time Jim gave a similar presentation, he responded to a question from one of the audience members, “That answer needs a fair amount of time. Can we make this presentation a little longer? If not, I can meet you later and give your answer the time it deserves.”
That works most of the time because the audience now decides whether they can give you the time they need!
Whatever you may do, make sure you only jump slides as a last resort.
About the Author:
Geetesh Bajaj has been designing and training with PowerPoint for years and is a Microsoft PowerPoint MVP (Most Valuable Professional.) He heads Indezine (www.indezine.com) a presentation design studio and content development organization based in Hyderabad, India. The site attracts more than a million page views each month and has thousands of free PowerPoint templates and other goodies for visitors to download. He also runs another PowerPoint-related site (http://www.ppted.com) that provides designer PowerPoint templates.