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TABLES AND SLIDES: a marriage condemned in advance!

Luckily, sometimes there are questions whose technical answer is extremely easy to make use of! For once, putting a table in a slide is very easy: copy your table/chart from Word or Excel and paste it on your PowerPoint slide. There are even plenty of tutorials to guide you step by step and ensure format compatibility. However, in the case of an oral presentation, we strongly recommend that you do not do it! We will even try to dissuade you by any means possible because a table simply has no place in a slide!

A table/chart is a powerful tool for making your data coherent. It allows for a global vision of your results and to check at any time the link that unites your data and identifies the resulting trends. Ideally, a slide is supposed to do the opposite: to specifically amplify the impact of an idea and channel the audience’s gaze on a specific subject in order to avoid any loss of attention.

In the context of public speaking, tables and slides have nothing to do together! If you have trouble persuading your boss to get rid of his tables, here are some arguments ready to be made:

  • Whatever people may say, it is impossible to read and listen at the same time. By displaying a table, your audience will automatically try to read, understand or interpret it and you will automatically lose their attention.
  • Those who disagree with you will not listen to your comment and will look for things in your numbers to feed their own arguments.
  • Worse, with a table on your slide, you’ll be tempted to read it yourself. Absorbed by all the boxes to comment on, you’ll feel reassured. But you will realize too late that you spent most of your presentation with your back turned toward the audience!
  • A table often concentrates too much information, while a handful of values provide what is really useful to fuel your purpose.
  • The only interest in having a table is that it shows that you worked a lot. But it also shows that you do not have to ability to synthesize and that you cannot extract what is really important. In both cases, it’s not a good position to be in.
  • If you want to show a trend, a bar chart will always be more effective than a table.

Standing before your table, you are now convinced that you must delete it but you don’t know what to replace it with. Ask yourself “What is the idea I’m trying to get across?” “What does this table tell me?” You will realize that you will not read it line by line but that you will target some figures after explaining the general meaning of the table. Is it then really necessary to insert the entire table?

No, it isn’t, even if the information the table contains is of quality, it is not essential. Find the few numbers you want to comment, add the key message you want to convey, and you’re done: the slide before you is effective and impactful and your audience will be able to remember it. And rest assured, you will always be able to hand out your table as an appendix document at the end of your speech.

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