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Is there anything in life to which the saying “can’t live with it, can’t live without it” applies more than presentation slides? For conference speakers, slides can be the bane of our lives or our savior—or maybe somewhere in between; many of us think of slides as a necessary evil.

Let me throw the cat among the pigeons and say that while they may sometimes be evil, slides are not strictly necessary. We’ve become so used to slides that to suggest doing without them may sound crazy. I admit, this approach is for the brave—and the experienced. But in my opinion, we should all aspire to have one day the skill and confidence to be able to deliver a talk without slides.

Back to the present, where most of us are still working towards that aspiration. How do we structure our slide decks so that rather than taking over, they enhance and support our presentations?

First and foremost: by using them to tell a story. Human beings love stories. Stories are without doubt the best way to get your audience to enjoy and remember what you are saying. Best of all, your story can be a personal anecdote—everyone loves these. Just make sure your story has an arc; that is, a clear beginning, middle and end that take the listener on an emotional journey, with a satisfying pay-off at the end. Your slides should support this arc with minimal text (more on this below) and engaging imagery. (This article is one of my favorites on how to use stories effectively.)

The next thing to keep in mind is: it’s not about you. Yes, I’ve said this before. A talk or presentation is for the audience, not the speaker. When preparing your slides, put yourself in the audience’s place. A slide containing nothing but a long bulleted list may help you as the speaker, but how does it look to the audience? Does it make them want to keep listening? Or start surreptitiously checking their Twitter feed?

Which leads me to my next point: images. We know that most people are visual learners. We also know that it’s difficult to process written and verbal information simultaneously. Cut back ruthlessly on the amount of text on your slides. Remember that you will be talking at the same time as your audience is looking at the slides. One sentence—even one word—per slide, along with a good quality, meaningful image, is all you need.

You can also use an absence of slides to create structure in your talk. Human attention spans are fragile. After a few minutes of slides, audience eyeballs may begin to roll back. To snap them back to attention, turn off the screen! Fade to black! They will be forced to focus solely on you. Use this burst of attention to make—or repeat—a key point. You can turn the screen back on after thirty seconds or so.

Lastly, remember that the audience is there to listen to, and learn from, you. Slides are just a background thing. Spend most of your time in advance on preparing yourself, by practicing what you are going to say and how you are going to say it.

– Richard




Voxgig Podcast

Coming Soon… 

I am delighted to announce that  voxgig is starting a podcast series! The title of the series is ‘Fireside with voxgig’. In each podcast, I’ll be interviewing leading experts from the events industry.  The aim is to deliver high quality insights, valuable public speaking tips and enjoyable personal success stories, all in a relaxed, informal and chatty style. Keep an eye out here for the first podcast in the series, coming soon. 

Speaker Profile

Picture of Adam Savage on the Ted stage

My love letter to cosplay
Adam Savage

How often do we attend a presentation that includes slide after slide of information that honestly loses us after the fifth one? There’s a real art to addressing your audience while using a slide deck to drive your point home. Adam Savage is a master storyteller without any visuals needed; however, in this video he demonstrates how using well-timed and well-selected slides effectively gives new life to the story he is telling. He doesn’t solely rely on them, but uses them to complement his words. We all know Adam from the popular t.v. show Mythbusters and if you’re a fan, you know he has A LOT of content to draw on. He brings a part of himself to the presentation with photos from his childhood to really grab the audience’s attention, drawing them in further with some humor for a talk that is well worth a second watch.

Learn from the Best

David JP Phillips on the Ted stage wearing dark clothes with decorative lights behind him

How to avoid death by PowerPoint

David JP Phillips

This will change your PowerPoint forever—at least, it should.  A fantastic, humorous presentation that will make a significant improvement to your talks.

Tell me…

What is your biggest challenge as an event speaker?

This newsletter is for you. I want it to resonate with you.

So go ahead, hit reply, and tell me what you want to read about. Or email me at richard@voxgig.com. You can tweet too: @voxgig.

I’ll address the most pressing issues in each edition.

Book of the Week

Book Cover shows presenter in front of slide that's full of text, The bottom half of the book cover is flames of hell and 11 Deadly Presentation Sins text is descending into the flames

11 Deadly Presentation Sins

Rob Biesenbach

“Analyze your audience’s needs and concerns in order to better connect with them.”

You know you’re onto a winner when the audience comes first.  A great book for every public speaker. Practical books work much better when they’re fun.

Blog Post

20 Creative Presentation Ideas That Will Delight Your Audience
Kayla Darling

“We’ve seen it before—the speaker standing behind a podium, droning on and on in a monotone voice, with a boring bullet-point slide behind them. It’s all well and good to scoff at them, but then we think about our own projects, and wonder if they might fall into the same trap.”




Three Conferences




Three days of PHP related content to bring the community together, with another 2 track tutorial preceding the conference. And if you’re up for it, you can also participate in the UnCon, where attendees can share unscheduled talks. Developers and enthusiasts of all skill levels are welcome to join the event to discuss the latest trends and technologies in the PHP Detroit regional area.

We welcome developers and enthusiasts of all skill levels to come join us while we discuss the latest trends and technologies in our industry.


Deccan RubyConf

Deccan RubyConf

A regional Ruby conference that is in its fifth year! With a single track, plus workshops, your ticket gets you lunch, snacks and tea, as well as drinks and a dinner party. If you’re a Ruby person and in or around Pune (or want to be), then be sure to take a look and check out the line-up and maybe plan some extra time for a weekend vacation around the conference.




Three years strong and RustConf will once again be hosting over 350 friends from the Rust global community. While the conference is only one day, there is a bonus day of opt-in training the day before. Whether you attend one day or both, you’ll enjoy some great learning opportunities and socializing with your Rust peers!




CFP Calendar

These are the CFP deadline dates and submission pages.

Speaker Training

Do you speak at conferences? Want to learn how to give the very best talks? Or are you just starting out and want to overcome the fear of speaking on stage?
We are running speaker training workshops in Dublin, Ireland and London, U.K. over the coming months.

There is a 10% OFF early bird discount.

To find out more follow the links below.

Public speaking with Debbie Forster

London, UK – Thursday October 18, 2018 | More Details

Giving great talks with Russ Miles

London, UK – Thursday November 8, 2018 | More Details




A favour…

Can I ask you for a favour? If you enjoy this newsletter, and if you find it useful, please consider recommending it to a friend who is learning to give technical talks, or who aspires to do so. I meet so many cool programmers who have brilliant things to share with the world—that’s you!

Please help me to improve this newsletter – I’d love to hear your suggestions! You can email me directly at richard@voxgig.com. You can tweet too: @voxgig. Thank you so much for reading!

A special thanks and shout out to TammyCora, and David for helping to make this newsletter even better!