My colleagues and I see a lot of PowerPoint slide decks. More than we can count, actually. So we have a deep reservoir of context on what makes a good slide deck and a bad slide deck. And very often, people make a critical mistake when thinking about slides, and how to make them better.
Good slides are not good, contrary to popular belief, because they are pretty. Good slides are not good because someone who knows PowerPoint well spent some time on them, making them look better, with consistency and good animations, colors, etc.
Sure, the aesthetic matters when it comes to slides. But good slides are good, first and foremost, because the preparation was good, the speaker has planned out the message, the speaker knows what she or he is trying to accomplish. Good slides are good first because good thinking was done, and the message plan is tight.
Then and only then do the aesthetics really begin to matter. Yes, they need to be “prettied up,” or at a minimum need to be put into the proper template, with the correct colors, fonts, etc.
But good slides represent good planning and thinking.
And bad slides are primarily a symptom that the preparation was flawed. So the next time you see a really bad, unclear, overwhelming slide deck, don’t tell the person their slides are bad. Their slides are bad. But the slides are the symptom. The real problem is that they are not yet prepared and don’t know what they are trying to say.
Have a great day.