Simple, ruthless presentation editing

A few weeks ago I was watching the movie EAT PRAY LOVE while working on a meeting presentation. Suddenly I heard the most wonderful line that made me smile like the grinch when his heart grew three sizes (youtube video no longer available) on Christmas!

Inspiration from dialogue

I stopped what I was doing and looked up at the screen. The scene is of Julia Roberts (as Liz Gilbert) struggling to communicate with her little old italian landlady (Lucia Guzzardi) on the first leg of her trip (Italy – ‘EAT’). They are standing in the bathroom over a bathtub into which the landlady had just poured a kettle of hot water (see the clip in this trailer on youtube).

Liz: It doesn’t seem like enough water.

Landlady: Everything that’s important gets cleaned!

Even now I can’t help giggle at the scene. So much was said in just those two lines! Maybe it was the way the landlady spoke with her italian accent and gestures, or maybe it was because it reminded me of my grandmother, whatever it was it reached me loud and clear. There is too much waste! Waste in words; in time; on unimportant things. Just focus on what is important! I get the feeling she knows what she’s talking about – she has the experience of a lifetime!

From Dialogue to Action

I immediately translated that into what I was doing. I looked down at my in process presentation. There was too much waste! We (yes, myself included) are always adding unnecessary content to our presentations. It’s time to be ruthless about editing. Make sure everything that’s important gets covered! But nothing more.

From now on, when editing a presentation, I will think of Julia Roberts talking to the little old italian lady about taking a bath in 2 inches of water and adamantly letting her know that is all she needs – the rest is excess!

The Approach to editing

  1. Clearly identify the purpose of the presentation (also applies to meetings, conversations, and blog posts): What is the one thing I want the audience to come away with?
  2. For each slide, topic, and subtopic ask: Will the material on this slide help me achieve that one outcome? Will I achieve the outcome without this? Remove, purge, and strip away anything that does not support your one objective.

Simple, ruthless presentation editing