• San Francisco, California

Everything I Know About Life I Learned from Powerpoint

A while back I read Russell Davies’s excellent Everything I Know About Life I Learned from Powerpoint. It’s not really _just_ about learning how to make slide decks because extreme yawn. Instead, it’s a book about how to write well, how to structure your ideas, how to edit, and how to be light on your feet. It’s real good and I highly recommend it.

But one of my favorite bits of advice, which I feel like it applies to every writer and not just folks writing slide decks, is the bit where Russell talks about removing titles from your slide decks. Just don’t do it, he says. A title is a distraction, a preamble to your idea. Just have a single sentence on your slide without the waffling.

Over the years I’ve seen a lot of bad slides and I think this is the most common problem I see: folks try to treat a slide like a book or a magazine spread. They add lists and tables and headings, subsections and bolded bits and italicized items. Russell’s suggestion feels punk to me then: just treat a slide like a slide. You can have a slide with a standalone, blunt idea and then move onto the next, and the next.

This is why I’m such a fan of sequential websites. They’re basically powerpoint slides, with each webpage containing a single idea and nothing more. And because of this constraint you have to whittle things down to the bare minimum, you have to zoom in on a single paragraph and ask yourself if it’s good enough to just sit there taking up a whole page. Will this sentence embarrass itself if it’s left alone out there in all that white space? Is this sentence worthy?

These kinds of websites are perfect for focusing on the details, for making you your least rambly self.