The Secret to Slides that Stick

This week in the world’s #1 newsletter on leadership communication:

  • How to Create Slides that Stick
  • Be So Visible They Can't Ignore You
  • Playing The Status Game

The Secret to Slides that Stick

I am guilty.

Of slide thinking.

That is the idea that a 20 minute presentation equals 20 slides, and that preparation consists of tweaking an old deck.

This approach not only produced boring, pedestrian presentations. It also prevented me from connecting with the audience.

Why? Because whenever you look at the slides, you can’t look at the audience. You may even have to turn your back to them.

For those reasons, these days I create my outline and storyline before I even consider slides.

The difference is like day and night. Overcoming slide thinking has allowed me to create better presentations in half the time while making a much bigger impact.

With more than 30 million PowerPoint presentations being produced every day, bad slide decks are not just an annoyance.

They come at a huge cost for ourselves and businesses all over the world.

Why use slides at all?

Slides have one job. To support your narrative visually in order to make it more memorable.

The Science of Slides

Fortunately there is solid data on the science of slides so we know what works:

#1 Create slides for the audience, not the presenter

Eye-tracking studies show that viewers spend more time reading text on slides than looking at the presenter, leading to reduced engagement and connection with the speaker.

#2 Use fewer words

A 2009 Microsoft study revealed that slides with eight or fewer words were rated as more effective and persuasive than those with more text.

Bullets kill, and bullet points kill attention.

#3 Simple = Effective

If it’s hard to remember, it is not simple enough yet.

If you can’t remember it as the author, how do you expect the audience to remember?

#4 Follow a structure

Slides should follow a tried-and-tested structure to bake a narrative arc into your slides. A ten point list is not a structure.

#5 Control your 10%

Studies show that the audience will forget 90% of what you told them.

Control your 10% and make sure the 90% support the 10%.

#6 Make your message your headline

Never make a topic like “quarterly update” your headline. Instead, make your key message the title of your presentation.

The headline of each slide is the point you want to make on that slide.

#7 Rely on visuals

Use visuals to support your message rather than text that distracts from it.

A LinkedIn Learning survey of over 1,000 professionals revealed that 46% prefer presentations with more visuals and less text, while only 5% prefer text-heavy slides.

#8 Cut cut cut

Imagine I gave you 1000 dollars for every slide you delete. Which would you keep?

The Exception to the Rule

In his book ‘Really Bad Powerpoint’ Seth Godin wrote this rule: 1 slide per minute.

An analysis of 500+ TED Talks found that the most popular talks use 35 slides on average – even more than 1 per minute.

Why does it work? Because TED speakers use a narrative arc and use visual slides.


Be so Visible They Can’t Ignore You

No one wants to be ignored, especially in a job search. I recently joined Loren Greiff on the fantastic “Career Blast in a Half” podcast to help anyone in that situation become unignorable.

The last few years have seen a shift in how we brand ourselves, giving us a new opportunity to be visible. Social media has given us a great platform and AI has remarkably sped up our processes, but this has led to a huge volume of content. We can not just create any content, it has to provide meaning and value.

This episode is about how you can use this as your opportunity to become unignorable while maintaining authenticity.

Listen on Spotify and Apple:


Playing the Status Game

Will Storr, author of “The Science of Storytelling”, dissects one of the driving forces of human nature in “The Status Game. On Human Life and How to Play It”.

Humans play three kinds of status games to “get along and get ahead”: the dominance game, the virtue game and the success game. Writing about connection recently reminded me of a crucial point Storr makes: Before we can be rewarded status, we must first connect with others.

Business, social media and life in general are full of status games. Storr argues that we can’t opt out of them as they are ingrained in our nature, and that we are drawn to high-status players – while at the same time feeling resentment towards them.

It is a fascinating read that sheds light on an aspect of human nature that is rarely discussed (because, as Storr would argue, talking about status reduces one’s status).

Have an inspired weekend!



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