How many slides should my presentation have?
We apologise in advance, but we must inform you that the answer to this question will not be obtained by reading this article. The fact is that there is no right answer.
In truth, there is no right number of slides that should or can be associated with a presentation of a given length, therefore, always be wary of strict rules about the ideal number of slides in a presentation of a given length.
The number of slides to be used in your presentation will depend mainly on these factors:
1 – Your characteristics as a presenter
The way each person presents is of great relevance with regard to the ideal number of slides to use in a presentation. If you are very comfortable with the dynamics of using the remote to change slides and can effectively articulate your speech with the slide on the screen, we would say that you are in a good position to have a presentation with a greater number of slides. This is an excellent solution when storytelling techniques are used and when a considerable number of visual messages are employed.
If you are more comfortable with a larger amount of information on each slide, we recommend that you use animations (simple ones, such as “fade in”) for the introduction of each item as your speech progresses. This reduces the likelihood of the audience losing focus on what you are saying at any given moment. In this case, it is natural to have fewer slides in your presentation.
2 – The state of the audience and the objective
It is not unusual for us to have a presentation prepared on a certain topic and have it work as “one size fits all”. The truth is that this usually does not work.
Depending on the audience we have in front of us, the presentation may have more or less detail and, consequently, need more or fewer slides, or even differently crafted slides. Imagine that you are responsible for an internal project to reformulate the company’s culture and that its success has created the need to present it both internally and to external organisations. Does it make sense to present the same type of information and have the same level of depth in each topic? In our opinion, it does not. Of course, this difference will also lead to your having a different number of slides for each context.
The goal for each presentation can also determine the need to a greater or lesser number of slides. Taking the previous example, the internal goal will be for employees to know the new culture in detail, and thus the presentation will have to be considerably more specific and detailed. The external objective, in contrast, should be more generic and reveal the process of creating the new culture and its most relevant aspects.
3 – Presentation time
This one seems obvious, but what often happens is that there is no care in adapting the presentation to the appropriate time or, on the contrary, there is an eagerness to want to convey too much information. Do not make this mistake! Before working on the PowerPoint slides, clearly define what narrative should be used for a given context. Think about the topics to cover and about how much depth they should have according to the audience.
To be certain of the time you will need, practice, rehearse, and test your presentation and the use of PowerPoint (multiple times). Sometimes we think that the number of slides and the information we want to convey will take a certain time, but when we actually present, we realise that the presentation is much longer. The opposite rarely happens…
In a meeting environment, do not calculate the presentation time according to the length of the meeting. The presentation itself should not take all of the meeting’s time since it is when the presentation ends that there is usually the most interaction and when progress towards the goal can take place.
As we warned at the very beginning of this article, there is no right formula for how long each slide should stay on the screen. What must exist is a careful strategy and preparation for each moment, considering your attributes and experience as a presenter. The number of slides is not important. What is indeed crucial is that you be well prepared and that you achieve your goals.