Working With SME-Slides

Aug 24, 2021


I'm creating some submission and development guidelines for the SME's I work with at my organization (medical association). I want to get people's thoughts on providing an approximate number of slides. How many slides would you say a person should have for a 30 minute activity? 60 minute? These are courses I will develop in both Rise and Storyline.

Again, I'm just looking for approximates to serve as a guide for my SME's. 



5 Replies
Judy Nollet

How many slides are needed? The minimum number is needed to present the content that will meet the objectives. 

I couldn't provide any guestimate number, though. There are too many unknowns, including how much text would be on each slide, as well as how you're measuring seat time.  

When presenting live, slides should ideally have relevant graphics and images with minimal text that supports what the speaker is saying. (Unfortunately, real life isn't ideal, and slides often show exactly what the speaker is saying...) 

That ideal setup would apply online if there's a narrator. But, if not, then all the text does have to be on the screen at some point. 

However, it good to remember that slides are free (well, unless someone is paying per slide). So instead of cramming a slide full of text, that same text can be spread across multiple slides. In other words, use one point per slide instead of all points on one slide.

Or related points could be revealed via an interaction.

In my experience, those decisions aren't made by the SME. Figuring out interactions and such is up to the instructional designer. 

Kandice Kidd

Hi Judy,

I am the person who will figure out the interactions and such, but the SMEs often struggle with how much is too much when preparing their slides for certain activities. In the past, I worked with a director, who suggested 30-45 slides for an hour activity, and then she and her designers used that to work with the SME as they developed the course. I was just curious about others' thoughts or experiences.



Walt Hamilton


Two thoughts: Here is something I gleaned from Duarte:

Slides are glance media

3 cultural roadblocks to uncluttered slides  
     expectation to pass around slide deck
     limiting # of slides to keep presentation concise
     cluttered slides appear intelligent

100 slides with one item one each, or 1 slide with 100 items on it; the learner can't tell the difference.

But I know that's not what you are asking; you want to have a number to help SMEs gauge the amount of content. I think if you tell medical people or College of Med profs 40 slides, you run the risk of ending up with a three hour presentation. I would start with 20 to 30, and be prepared to adjust it per individual as you get to know better what to expect.


Bianca Woods

Hi Kandice,

This is a situation a lot of instructional designers experience. We want to give our SMEs helpful parameters so they better understand how much content can fit into a time frame. And we want to prevent learners from getting information overload.

The number of slides is a metric most SMEs understand easily. Unfortunately, as Walt and Judy mentioned, there's not a strong connection between slide count and time. A light and thoughtful slide might take a minute to go through, or a dense one could take several minutes (and also lead to so much cognitive overload that learners don't take in the content). And learners don't tend to even notice slide counts if the content is engaging, well-paced, and useful to them.

The best approach is likely to vary from SME to SME, but one that might work (both for e-learning and presentation design) could be to pivot away from slides as your metric and instead get them to think about how many key takeaways/points they can cover in a time frame. It's still rather subjective and you'll probably need to give them examples of what a single takeaway is and isn't. But that approach would at least prevent SMEs from focusing so much on the slide count that they make the text tiny to fit more on each slide.

If you want to further borrow from presentation design, before your SME begins writing content you could work with them on an outline of the key points they plan to cover. Using the learning objectives as a jumping-off point, you could help them rough out the key point order and how much time should be devoted to each one. It's a bit more hand-holding on your part at first, but it likely could save time in the long run. It also promotes the idea that everything has to connect back to the learning objectives.

If slide count is still easier for them to consider, a middle ground could be to set up slide templates that promote the idea of one key point per slide. Give them directions about that focus, set the font size so it can handle only a minute or two's worth of text, and then have them agree to not change the size. It's not a perfect solution, but it might be another option to consider.

I'm sure there are other approaches that could work too, so I'm excited to see what other people share here about what they do in these situations.

Kandice Kidd

Thanks to all of you for these responses. My last eLearning Director focused on number of slides to give the SMEs some direction.  However,  I've seen challenges with that approach. 

I like the idea of starting with an outline and creating a link between the content and the learning objectives and key takeaways.