Show and Tell is Broken

Mark Luckinbill

Of course you’re a good presenter


If you are reading this, you’ve likely delivered dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of presentations during your career. Many of your presentations likely had visual aids, often in the form of powerpoint or keynote slide decks. You are probably quite good at presenting. But we all could be even better.

There are a few basic rules that will make you a better presenter, guaranteed. Here are three:

  1. Rehearse your presentation
  2. Only one idea per slide
  3. Don’t use bullet points or more than one full sentence on any slide

If you follow those three rules you will be a better presenter.


But only one rule will truly set you apart


For years, we’ve seen and been taught to “show and tell.”

In a meeting, we pull out a brochure, hand it across the table, then talk about it while our audience looks at it.

On a stage, we bring out our widget and hold it in our hand while we talk about it.

During webinars, we put up a graph then talk about it.


THIS IS ALL BACKWARDS. We should always “tell then show.”


The human brain can not read and hear at the same time. If your slide has sentences that must be read (show), or even complicated imagery (show), your audience will hear little or nothing you say (tell) as they read and view what you show.

Your objective when presenting should be for all eyes and ears to be on you while you describe your idea, which will be shown to them AFTER you describe it. This works magic in two ways:

  1. Your audience will be listening intently to what you say while looking at you, which is .
  2. When you finally do show the slide or concept you are talking about, showing it validates what you just said.

This validation is very important. You see, when the human brain visually validates what someone just said verbally this strongly reinforces the words. The words, when validated with imagery, become even more important than words alone.

To do this requires some practice and a solid knowledge of your material. But, practically speaking, it simply means you should talking about the upcoming slide instead of the one you are on. Talk, THEN click.