As I build PowerPoint presentations for myself or revise them for corporate speakers, here are the 7 steps I follow:
1. Begin with the end in mind. Do not begin by simply filling the first slide. As Stephen Covey would ask us, what is the main point that you want your audience to walk away with? Eliminate anything that does not serve your intended purpose. Do not think that you are giving a better presentation simply by heaping on loads of irrelevant content. You will only confuse and tire your audience. Less is more.
2. Eliminate bullet points. Yes, when you think of PowerPoint, you may think that it is your job to fill slides with text. But trust me, that has already been done already, and poorly! The “bullets” in “bullet points” have simply resulted in the death of innumerable audiences across the country.
3. Limit the amount of text. Have you ever been to a presentation at which presenters placed entire paragraphs of text on the slides? Somehow they must have believed that they need to pay for PowerPoint by the slide, because they try to cram so much information on each one. The presenter will begin to read the paragraphs to the audience, but then at some point in frustration will simply quit and say, “You can read this for yourselves.” If they are doing that, why do we need a presenter?
I was attending a conference recently at which the keynote speaker was a frenetic ball of energy. He, too, had placed paragraphs of text in a tiny font upon each of his PowerPoint slides (along with bunches of whirling and twirling graphics). But, because he had memorized his presentation, he didn’t really need the slides, so he would only give us a sneak peak of each slide, before he would whiz on to the next one. I’m not sure about him, but by the end of his presentation, I was certainly exhausted!
4. Don’t just show the end result of a complex diagram. A presenter will project an intricate diagram on the screen and then introduce it with the words, “As you can clearly see . . .” This action always makes me yearn for the times when presenters would use paper on an easel or even overhead projectors. They would have no choice but to build the elaborate diagram in front of our eyes, step-by-step. As they told the story, I could easily follow along. But now, with PowerPoint, the temptation is to get a graphic artist to render the entire process ahead of time. The presenter simply flashes the end result of the artist’s effort, which is a colorful myriad of beautiful bubbles, long lines, pointing arrows and tiny text, along with those words, “As you can clearly see . . .” Unfortunately, no I can’t. Neither will your audience, and most of them will not go through the necessary effort to try to figure it out. (Even worse are the disclaimers in 4-point type that the company’s legal department requires be placed on each screen.)
5. Remember that most member s of your audience are visual learners. They won’t recall most of the facts and figures or the charts and graphs, but a striking image can be quite memorable. When I was the master of ceremonies for a recent CEO conference, a CEO was giving a presentation on the presence of poor controls. He flashed on the screen a photograph of a road with a gate across it that was placed there as a control to stop trespassers. The photo had been taken from above. Light snow had fallen so it was easy to see the tire tracks. You could see by the tire tracks that motorists in both directions had simply driven off the road and onto the grass to bypass the gate. I got and retained the idea. Limit the words and increase the number of (full screen) images.
Always remember that you are the attraction, not your PowerPoint presentation. Audiences love stories. So tell stories, using your slides as a backdrop. Dale Carnegie once said that a great 30-minute presentation simply consists of 15 two-minute stories woven together.
6. Transition with grace. Make sure that the audience has visual cues that you are transitioning from one point to another. It is often effective to “chunk” your material. Remember, a confused mind does not learn, or as in the case of a sales presentation, a confused mind certainly does not buy.
7. Use images to create humor. Mark Twain once said, “Humor is our most effective but least used weapon.” But you may argue, “I’m not funny!” Let PowerPoint invoke the laughs for you. Just pop up a humorous slide at an unexpected moment and then shut up.
What are some other ways presenters are supplementing these lean presentations? I’ve also read presenters shouldn’t just hand out a copy of slides with notes appended to them either. Tough to review a detailed presentation later on with just visuals and phrases, even with my own note taking.
Thanks for your message. I imagine that is what causes the issue – the graphic designers think first of the presentation as a handout, then as the PowerPoint presentation. If the presentation is that technical and detailed, it would be better then to create a separate document (in Word) for the handout. But don’t try to make the PowerPoint the handout document. If that’s all you need, why have someone at the front of the room to read it to you?