Dump text from your slides! Here’s how – without forgetting what to say (or skipping key details)

Shredded PaperHow many of your slides serve double duty? Let’s look at an example of what I mean

Suppose you have a slide with several contact numbers and email addresses on it, like the one shown below:
contact details slide

Slides like that serve double duty because they’re both:

  • Part of your slideshow during your talk
  • Used for reference afterwards, because people won’t remember all the details

If people won’t remember what a slide says, why show it?

My question is, if people won’t remember what a slide says, why show it during your presentation at all? That needlessly burdens your audience, who don’t know what you expect them to remember (or what details you might give them a copy of).

By all means, include details like that in a handout, for people to refer to later. But don’t overwhelm your audience with details during your talk.

Many presenters give their audience a copy of their slides to look at afterwards – in effect using their deck as their handout. But unless you’re careful, using your slide deck as your handout has 2 big problems:

    Using your slide deck as your handout has 2 big problems

  • If your handout contains some “appendix” slides (like the slide above), it’s almost certain you’ll show them during your talk as well.
  • Handouts need to be relatively wordy, because you’re not there to explain the content (as you are during your talk), which means your slides will be wordy too.

So how can you make a handout that avoids those 2 issues? Luckily, if you put most of your content into your slide notes instead of on your slides, you can do it in just a few clicks!

In the 4 sections below, you’ll find tips to help you


Hide “appendix” slidesScroll to Contents ↑

Your audience will literally walk away with all the key details

For your slideshow, you can avoid the problem of showing “appendix” slides (like the contact details slide, above) just by hiding them. That way, PowerPoint simply skips those slides during your talk. (You can still include them in your handout, which shortly you’ll see how to make. So your audience will literally walk away with all the key details they need.)

To hide the current slide (in Normal view), click the Slide Show tab and then click Hide Slide. To remind you that the slide’s hidden, PowerPoint fades the slide’s thumbnail (which is the small image to the left of the slide) and crosses out the slide number next to the thumbnail:
Hidden slide

Move wordy content to your slide notesScroll to Contents ↑

Experts like Nancy Duarte, Garr Reynolds and Jerry Weissman recommend that you put (at most) about 15 words on each slide. That way, your audience spends little time reading while you’re talking, and can focus on you.

Use cut and paste to move the extra words to your slide notes

But don’t worry: You can use cut and paste to move the extra words to your slide notes. So you’ll still have them to refer to during your talk, as discussed below. And, as you’ll see later in this post, they’ll be in your handout for your audience too.

To show you how cutting and pasting text to the slide notes can work, here’s a makeover of a 2nd sample slide – beforehand, the slide had lots of text (in 3 bullet points) and no notes:
old Aims slide

In the makeover, the bullets all moved to the slide notes and were replaced on the slide by 3 iconic photos, each with literally just 1 or 2 keywords as a caption:
new Aims slide

Use your slide notes as your handoutScroll to Contents ↑

A great way to create a handout is to click File > Save As and save your PowerPoint file as a PDF (provided you choose the options discussed in a moment)

You’ll see the Save As dialog box:
Save As

Instead of just saving your slides, it’s much better to save your slide notes

But instead of just saving your slides, it’s much better to save your slide notes. To do that, click the Options button (which appears under the Save as type box after you choose to save as a PDF). Then in the Options dialog box, choose to save your Notes pages and to Include hidden slides:
PDF Options

By doing that, you can keep your slides succinct, so your audience looks to you to explain them. Yet when people read your handout afterwards, the slide notes explain what’s on your slides, just like you did verbally during your live talk.

There are 2 tips to keep in mind with this technique:

  • To include your hidden “appendix” slides in the PDF, be sure to tick the option to Include hidden slides.
  • Copy any hyperlinks from your slides to your slide notes. That way, the links are clickable in your PDF handout (whereas hyperlinks on the slide thumbnails in your handout aren’t).


Refer to your slide notes during your talkScroll to Contents ↑

You can still keep all your words in sight

Having cut words from your slides, you might fear you’ll forget what to say. But there’s no need. Below, you’ll find 3 ways you can still keep all your words in sight during your talk:

  • If you’ll present in person – with a projector or a 2nd screen (like a wall-mounted TV) – you can use Presenter View to see your slides plus your notes (on your PC) while your audience sees just your slides.
  • Presenting in Microsoft Teams? You can use the Presenter View built into Teams (as opposed to its Presenter mode, which overlays your video onto your slides). That way, as well as your slide notes, you’ll see the Teams chat and any raised hands or other audience reactions. This 2½-minute video shows you how:

    While the video’s playing, you might want to click the Full screen button (⛶) to see the details better.

  • Thirdly, you can print your slide notes beforehand, to refer to while you speak:
    File.Print.Notes Pages


Your turnScroll to Contents ↑

Let me know, do those four tips sound doable and helpful? If not, what’s getting in the way? Sharing your thoughts makes this content more useful for everyone Thanks!

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5 thoughts on “Dump text from your slides! Here’s how – without forgetting what to say (or skipping key details)

  1. Pingback: Visual Thinking | Pearltrees

    • Thanks for sharing your related post, Ellen. It’s got great advice, like this:

      “Your PowerPoint file is not your presentation;
      what you say… is your presentation.”

      “Write out what you’re going to say.
      It doesn’t have to be word for word,
      but definitely idea for idea.”

      Love it!


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