Un-bury the lede!
Create presentations that cut through the clutter and leave a lasting impression
(I took some time off this past week to spend time with the family. So I’m re-publishing an older post with some updates - Rakesh)
Every slide in your presentation must reveal an important insight or perspective to your audience, and the biggest mistake I see people make is to “bury the lede”.
In journalism, the “lede” refers to the introductory section of a news story intended to entice the reader to read the full story. “Burying the lede” is a phrase used to indicate that the most important insight has been buried deep inside the article, such that the reader will probably miss it. Worst case, the key insight has been left off completely.
(Why is it spelled “lede” and not “lead”? Refer to “Around the Web” section below)
Journalists make this mistake often, as they are too close to the subject matter, get distracted by the details, and fail to communicate the key point to the reader. And what’s the result? The reader not only misses the insight but most likely forgets the details as well.
Chip Heath, one of the authors of “Made to Stick” illustrates this wonderfully using an example from journalist Nora Ephron's life.
We sit through countless presentations regularly - how much of it do you retain five minutes after sitting through them? How about after a day? Are you guilty of subjecting your audiences to forgettable presentations? If yes, I'd argue that un-burying the lede will address a big chunk of the problem.
Let's demonstrate how we can "un-bury" the lead at the level of a single slide - in other words, let's take a couple of forgettable slides and convert them into ones that will stick.
Example #1 - before and after un-burying the lede
Example #2 - before and after un-burying the lede
For other examples, check out this excellent slide creation guidebook by Garr Reynolds: Sample slides by Garr Reynolds.
Try the following tips to un-bury the lede for the key slides in your next presentation. Use this as a checklist for your future presentations.
Identify the lede or the key insight you want the audience to take away. If you fail to identify the lede, you should either kill the slide or move it to the appendix.
Modify the title to reflect the lede. Avoid cramming the entire "story" in the title, only reveal enough to hook the audience.
Re-organize the slide content in service of the new title. Provide data or explanation to back up the assertion or solution.
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Powerpoint and Google Slides have become the default tools for creating presentations. Of late, I have started using Canva to create presentations that require more visual oomph and are not data-centric. They have a better set of pre-existing templates to choose from than Powerpoint and Google Slides. Do you have another suggestion? Be sure to leave a comment and share.
AROUND THE WEB
Why do journalists use the spelling “lede” instead of “lead”?
According to this Merriam-Webster article:
The spelling lede is an alteration of lead, a word which, on its own, makes sense; after all, isn't the main information in a story found in the lead (first) paragraph? And sure enough, for many years lead was the preferred spelling for the introductory section of a news story.
Spelling the word as lede helped copyeditors, typesetters, and others in the business distinguish it from its homograph lead (pronounced \led\ ), which also happened to refer to the thin strip of metal separating lines of type (as in a Linotype machine). Since both uses were likely to come up frequently in a newspaper office, there was a benefit to spelling the two words distinctly.
Thanks for reading!