Wednesday, January 28, 2015

It’s a presentation! It’s a document! No, it’s a slidedoc!!

The new Slidedoc tool can be helpful in organizing complex information for maximum impact -- an important goal in communications and advocacy for technology, agriculture, food and international development work.

About six months ago, I came across an interesting new communication design approach – Slidedocs --  from my favorite guru on this topic, Nancy Duarte, author of Resonate and Slide:ology.

At the time, I was studying Resonate for the second or third time. Her call to tune our messages so that they resonate with the audience, rather than trying to tune them to us, has become part of the bedrock of my own communication philosophy, as has her idea of taking the audience on a journey that moves them from one way of being to another.

Duarte makes a clear distinction between oral presentations that activate, motivate and engage people, and report documents intended to convey information and facts more exhaustively. Presenters sometimes try to do both, and accomplish neither.  Garr Reynolds, my other presentation guru, refers to presentation slides containing too many words as ‘slideuments’, to be avoided at all costs. Audiences cannot listen while reading.  

However, Duarte’s new concept of slidedocs is built on a recognition that complex topics in today’s fast-moving world need to be organized in ways that are easy to grasp and refer to quickly. Because it fosters an ‘at-a-glance’ succinct format and use of visual elements, presentation software can be helpful in achieving that. 

Duarte's Slidedocs website explains the tool and offers a free 160-page e-book that describes the rationale and step-by-step advice for writing, designing and delivering a slidedoc. You can also download two free templates for making your own slidedoc in Powerpoint.

A slidedoc is a document
  • created using presentation software
  • where visuals and words unite to illustrate one clear point per page
  • intended to be read and referenced, instead of projected
Slidedocs are designed to be easily skimmed, read, shared, and referred to (especially electronically). Think of it as a ‘pre-read’ or ‘leave-behind’ on steroids, with a structure and look & feel that is complementary to more cinematic slides that are optimized for in-person delivery.

The slidedoc approach can be helpful in organizing complex information for maximum impact -- an important goal for those of us involved in communications and advocacy for technology, agriculture, food and international development work.

Last year, a client asked me to prepare a report for one of their flagship projects, operating in several countries for several decades with important impacts on the lives those they serve. There were so many possible ways of organizing this material that I got stuck trying to decide how to organize the sections in my Word document. 

So I spent a day plugging some of the text into one of the Duarte slidedoc templates, along with pictures and graphs that I’d gathered during the research. After just a few hours of work, the client and I were stunned to see how the words came to life with a completely fresh energy in this format. I could easily see how the pieces of our story fit together most powerfully, as well as the places where we went into too much detail, or not enough. 

Of course, many reports will eventually be given to graphic designers for publication, but for a writer or project manager, developing a slidedoc as an interim step can identify ways to boost the impact of material in the meantime.

Interestingly, about the time that I was reading up and playing around with this tool, I found the annual reports from the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), which appear to use the slidedoc design approach. It is highly visual, and even though it’s pretty long and text-intense, I find it easy to skim and navigate both in hard copy and electronically.
GAIN's Slidedoc-style Annual Reports

A well-organized slidedoc can build understanding, support and broader awareness for our work, and we need all the help we can get!

No comments:

Post a Comment