PPP#8 — All my sources on the slide

Persistent Presentation Paradigm #8: “The source of every information needs to be put at the bottom of a slide. It would be unprofessional not to do it.”

There is a lot to say about professional presentation design, putting the sources of every bit of information on the slides is certainly not part of it. A presentation is not a scientific paper, and the purpose of visual aids, slides, is not to display all information in its totality. If we want to apply the strict rules of the academic world we can do so — in the printed handout, not on the slides. But, let’s see what one of the highest acclaimed academics of his time had to say to this:

We don’t interrupt our lectures, as a rule, to bombard the audience with bibliographical data. — Ernst H. Gombrich, Preface of “Art and Illusion” (1959)

Footers do not belong on slides at all. Whatever they might contain — company name, event, place, date, title, author, slide number, source, etc. — is superfluous when it comes to presentations. Often they are so small that nobody can read them anyway. For additional information, presentation programs provide a notes section that will be displayed only in the presenter view — just in case we want to name a source because it is relevant to our talk. If, for whatever reason, presenter view is not an option we will have written notes.

However, we strongly suggest to keep track of every single source during research, that is professional. The presenter needs to be able to name the sources when asked — and that goes for all copyrighted material, photos included. Google Image Search, Flickr, Photobucket, etc., let us access plenty of material, but we’d be well advised to read the legal fineprint before we use everything we find on the internet for our slides.

Paule Wendelberger