A Deck isn't a Presentation

“Hey, do you have The Deck?”

“Dude, shoot me The Deck, will ya?”

“I missed the preso. Send me a copy of The Deck, huh?”



There is a deck. There is a presentation. They are NOT the same thing.

A Deck, for you who are lucky enough to have never seen one, is a report that is created in PowerPoint. They are created by cramming as many paragraphs into a slide as possible, and when the slide is full, repeating until the end. I've seen decks that are hundreds of pages long when they are printed. Are they useful? I can't speak to that. You'd have to ask the individuals who create and consume them. What I can speak to is what you should never do.

Please don't expect people to watch a deck on a screen whilst you stand nearby reading it to them.


Do I really have to say? Think back to the last time you sat through someone reading a deck on a screen.

Why would you be so cruel?

Know the difference

  1. Deck: a thorough explication of the topic.  
  2. Presentation: reduces the deck to its essence.
  3. Decks: complete, in depth, word-centered.
  4. Presentations: Digests, top level, visual.
  5. Decks: stand alone.
  6. Presentations: need a presenter (and should be better than the deck because of it).
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What to do with the Deck?

Decks certainly have their function. But if you shouldn't present with a deck, what do you do?

  • You can save everyone precious time (save their sanity, for God’s sake.) Skip the ‘presentation’ and just send them the deck. They can read without your help. And you can all have one less meeting.
  • But, if you must do a presentation, please don't stand up and read the deck.
  • Instead, you'll need to translate your deck into a presentation.

Translation is an art

Make no mistake. It is challenging to transform a Deck into a Presentation. But it's necessary if you want to be effective. (You do want to be effective, right?)

Here are some general guidelines:

  1. Reduce your deck by 75% (Yes, you heard me right.)
  2. Replace paragraphs with short phrases. About 3 to 6 words. Short, punchy, action-oriented.
  3. Replace words with relevant pictures (I have it on good authority that a picture can replace up to one thousand.)
  4. Utilize charts, graphs and such. Simple, clean, representing a single point.

What about all those words?

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If you lost 75% of those words, how does the audience get them? Well, that is where you come in. The Presenter! The most important words missing from the deck will instead flow from your mouth in interesting ways.

(And if someone really has a fit, you can always give them the deck after the presentation.)

It'll take practice, and skill. No one said being a leader, or being effective, was easy. But it's certainly worth it. And as a bonus, everyone in the audience will love you for giving a presentation instead of a deck.

Have you ever had experience with Decks? What's your opinion?


Mike Vayda has been helping leaders transform decks into presentations for many years. They're almost always happy about it. And their audiences are thrilled. Learn more about great presenting at PresentableU.com.

PowerPointMike Vayda