The art of writing a good slideument

The term "slideument" was coined by Garr Reynolds (his post from 2006 here): a PowerPoint file that looks more like a densely written text document than a minimalist, visually powerful sequence of slides for a presentation.

Documents and slides serve a different purpose and should be designed differently. But here is what I have been observing: the document is on its way out, and the slideument will have a bright future. Not as a presentation tool, but meant for on-screen reading, mostly for an internal audience that is very close to a subject matter. Background materials for a strategy discussion for an important board meeting would be an example. Nobody has time to plough through a dense text document anymore.

Some suggestions for creating good slideuments:

  • Create good data charts, using the exact same rules as you would for an on-screen presentation. Focus on the trend you want to show, ignore everything else. Round numbers up.
  • Use overview maps, strategic landscapes, with trends/competitors plotted against 2 axes, or lists of options with qualitative evaluation bubbles or traffic lights. One page that has the entire logic in it. Far too dense to present to a big audience, but really useful to discuss options. See the map to get a vague idea about the logic, digest the subsequent information in the deck, come back to the map to understand the full nuances. 
  • Bullet points are an essential part of a slideument, but make them useful. Make sure they are short, and say something tangible/specific. Don't just rattle down a list of 15 points on a page, but group the bullet points into meaningful categories. Put bullet points inside boxes, and use arrows to highlight the relationships between groups of bullet points.
  • Write a clear page upfront with what you want from the group you are submitting the document to.
Most of the times, you will not have time to convert the slideument into a proper presentation, and you probably do not have to. To discuss it in a group, I would select a few key slideument slides put them up the projector, but instead of discussing the content in detail, highlight the important points. You could do this by creating circles, or hand-drawn-style lines. Another approach is to project the slides on a whiteboard and circle/mark things with a pen as you go along.