Yes, you compete with your slides for the audience’s attention. When the audience is looking at your slides, they aren’t listening to you. So we preach, over and over, keep your slides simple, keep your slides simple.

But in real life, you don’t always control the design, or even the timing, of your slides. Sometimes a committee does, or a board, or maybe your boss. You might feel like the slides are too heavy with data (charts, graphs, numbers, etc), but what can you do?

Here’s a tip:

When those data-heavy slides flash on the screen, there will be a moment, at the very beginning, where your audience will be confused. They’ll be thinking, “Oh my god, what do I do with all this information? And there’s this person speaking too! Where do I look, what’s important?”

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Seize that moment of confusion. Tell the audience that you are going to stick with the big picture, and reassure them that the details, via handouts, will be available to them later. Try this:

“Thank you everyone for coming. Yes, I know this is a lot of data to absorb. But have no fear. I will stick with the big picture, and then, if you really want to dive into the details, don’t worry, you can take the slides home with you and spend all the time you want tonight looking at as much detail as you want.”

Right at that moment of greatest confusion and panic, when your audience is looking like deer in headlights, that’s when you grab them with this. A drowning man is so happy to have a floating lifesaver ring to grab onto. Be that ring for your audience, and they’ll listen to you, not the slides.

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About Matt Krause

Matt began his professional life as an import buyer, and since 2006 has been teaching companies how to connect with their investors and clients better. His clients work for companies like Allianz, 3M, P&G, Citibank, and Reckitt Benckiser. He also walked across Turkey and wrote a book about it.