Basically a slideshow is a display of a series of chosen images or slides which is created or designed for artistic, instructional or informational purposes. They are conducted by a presenter using an apparatus such as a computer running presentation software. The term originates from the use of slides which have been around for so many years. Slides originally were projected on movie theater screens by magic lanterns as part of early movie house shows.

The word slideshow does not appear in the Webster's New Twentieth Century Unabridged Dictionary (1973 edition). Although, slideshow will pass a spell check in Microsoft Word in both Office 2000 and Office XP editions.

A well organized slideshow allows a presenter to lend visual images to an oral presentation. The old adage "A picture is worth a thousand words" holds true, in that a single image can save a presenter from speaking a paragraph of descriptive details. As with any public speaking or lecturing, a certain amount of talent, experience, and rehearsal is required to make a successful slideshow presentation.

For instructional purposes, presentation software is most commonly used, and is usually used with the intention of creating a dynamic, audiovisual presentation. The relevant points to the entire presentation are put on slides, and accompany a spoken monologue. Slideshows have artistic uses as well, such as being used as a screen-saver, or to provide dynamic imagery for a museum presentation. Improperly staged or scripted slideshows can be seen by some as being a crutch for the presenter, and that the use of content put on the slideshow is not relevant or constructive to the presentation.

PowerPoint is a particular kind of slideshow software produced by Microsoft. It has been the subject of much discussion and criticism. training lectures and sales demonstrations are commonly conducted using PowerPoint, and PowerPoint criticism is not usually leveled at the software itself, but at the weakness of the presenter or material. The term slide-ware has entered modern industry bandwagon to describe the paper copy materials distributed as part of slideshows.

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