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The Benefits of Restriction

  • Linh Nguyen
  • September 10, 2015

To be honest, I can’t remember the last time I made a presentation before joining Swipe. It was probably in secondary school trying to create one in PowerPoint, experimenting with the whole works: graphs, pictures, fonts, etc, which was fun for a bit except I ended up confusing myself with what I wanted to say.

The thing is, Powerpoint, and like many presentation tools out there, has a lot of options. Instead of just getting my message across, I found myself trying to understand what all the buttons meant, playing around with them, rearranging text and images, but the worst thing was that I kept adding. I added more slides, more pictures, just more stuff in general and I’m sure others have experienced the same thing, because when you are presented with more then you naturally do more, which is not always a good thing.

Since joining Swipe, I noticed the importance of the things we don’t do. We spend more time taking stuff out than putting stuff in. Creating a presentation tool taught us how to approach our business in the same manner. We learned that an effective presentation is all about putting in what’s crucial and we also apply that to building Swipe.

In some aspects, we are intentionally restrictive, because when you are not given the opportunity to do more, you save time. Swipe simply tells you: “Look, you know what you want to say, we’ll help you make it better in 5 minutes.” That’s it.

As long as you know what to say, then you’ve done half the job.

I was very inspired by this blog post by Jason Fried at Basecamp, titled “The class I’d like to teach.” It’s very relevant for your presentations too. He says:

“Every assignment would be delivered in five versions: A three page version, a one page version, a three paragraph version, a one paragraph version, and a one sentence version.”

Apply the same principle to your slides. Reduce what you wanted to say to a one sentence version and practice reduction by trying to fit it into a tweet. For a live presentation, if the slide has more text than a tweet (or thereabouts) it’s probably too long.

You shouldn’t have to spend a lot of time thinking about how it’s going to look, mainly because if you’re like most of us, you’re busy. That’s why we reduced the number of choices in our Markdown Slides by taking care of the design for you and letting you focus only on your content, because it’s important to use the time you spend on making a presentation on what you’re actually going to say.

Not having a lot of choice is good because it stops you from doing things you don’t really need to do. You get to prioritise your content as well as your time. Not doing much can be way more effective than doing too much. After all, we’re already living in a world overloaded with choices, and studies have shown time and time again how unhappy that can make us.

We all know there are more important things in life than making presentations, which is why we made Swipe incredibly simple. You say what you need to say and get on with the rest of your day, but you still get a great presentation at the end of it.

Linh Nguyen

Linh Nguyen

Head of community at Swipe, a writer who loves talking to people.