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Public speaking tips: How many slides should I put in my presentation?

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November 19, 2012

by Andy Saks

As a presentation skills trainer, this is one of the most common questions I hear. My answer is never very satisfying, but it’s absolutely true: “It depends.”

Though speaking coaches often give a target number of slides to help struggling presenters, in reality there is no target number of slides that suits every speaking situation. It depends entirely on your speaker, topic, audience and goals.

For example, if you’re delivering a highly-technical presentation to a very visually-oriented audience, you might use twenty slides in ten minutes to explain your topic fully. If you’re delivering a presentation on music to an aurally-oriented audience of musicians, you might use few or even no slides, and use audio clips instead, because that’s how to best engage that audience.

It also depends on how slides are used. Some speakers fill their slides with graphics and bullet points and might squeeze all of their visual information into just a few slides and leave each slide up for several minutes. Other speakers like a quick-hit approach that puts less on each slide and advances slides more often.

The good news about having no target slide count is that your slide count is never wrong. Use as many slides as you think you need to explain your topic thoroughly to your audience in your speaking situation. If you do that, no one will accuse you of using too many or too few slides, and you can always justify your decision based on the situation instead of an abstract (and ineffective) rule.

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