Whenever I do a talk, it always surprises me how many people ask about my slides. Some people couldn’t make it to the conference and ask for the slides instead, others want to have the slides as a reminder of the talk and some of them might even use the slides to do a slide karaoke back at the office. Great purposes, and usually I’m more than happy to share them with the world. What surprised me even more however, is that some people seem to get upset whenever a speaker decides to not share his slides – or simply forgets about uploading them, or hasn’t come round to doing it just yet. “Whenever a speaker doesn’t upload his slides to slideshare, God kills a kitten”, seems to be the general thought. I disagree for a number of reasons.
My talk is more than just my slides
First of all, talks are usually more than just the slides. For example: during the most important part of my last talk, my slides showed a picture of a slice of pizza for about 3 minutes. By browsing through someones slides you might get a general idea on what the talk is about, but you’re missing out on the details – and probably the most important message the speaker is trying to get across. It gets even better when the speaker uses more “Presentation Zen”-like techniques. Thijs Feryn‘s talk “PHP through the eyes of a hoster” is a fantastic talk, but if you would download his slides you would mainly just end up with a bunch of beautiful, but meaningless photographs (and some keywords).
That however is the way slides should look! They should confirm and strengthen what the speaker is telling, not tell the story themselves. Therefore sharing your slides then is not only pointless, but whenever somebody is going to see your slides it’s likely that the viewer will get a crooked view of what you were trying to tell in the first place.
Sharing slides is a gesture
I share them however, and most speakers do. My main reason is that people can browse through the slides again afterwards, and remember what I told them. If I did a good job the pizza-slide will then remind the viewer of the used metaphor and what I was trying to tell when this slide was on the screen. Even people that didn’t see my talk might still get a clue about the contents by looking at the slides. They will probably miss the main clue, but at least they will see a couple of mentioned tools that are worth giving a try – and if that makes you happy that’s just great! In such a case I’m glad you at least found some benefit in the work I’ve done.
Sharing slides is a gesture though. Something extra the speaker does especially for you. Not sharing slides is not “evil”, it’s normal. There are plenty of reasons why a speaker wouldn’t upload his slides. Maybe he thinks the slides themselves shouldn’t be viewed because the viewer would miss out on so much background information and explanations that it makes the talk look plain and stupid. Maybe there’s a reason like copyright restrictions on used photographs, or maybe the speaker doesn’t want to share his slides because he wants to do the same talk somewhere else next month and he doesn’t like it when people in the audience are already reading his slides before he has even started the talk.
Either way, it’s the speaker’s choice and not something that should be taken for granted. Sharing slides is a little bit extra a speaker did for you, and worth saying “thank you” for. Speakers don’t owe you anything, they usually don’t get paid (worse: they often even have to pay for their own expenses just to be at the conference) and they’ve usually put many hours into preparing their talks. All just for you! So next time, be grateful for the efforts they’ve put into it and give them a beer, instead of bitching about speakers that for whatever reason chose not to share their intellectual property with the entire world.