April 10, 2017
PowerPoint is everywhere. It has been used (and abused) in the business world for so long that many are addicted to the same structure they’ve used for years. While your company might not make the list of the worst presentations, you may have become simply numb to the idea that anything new and exciting could be done with PowerPoint.
Of course, many companies are evaluating and using new tools to reinvigorate presentations. One of our favorite approaches is to use Adobe Spark to create an impactful scrolling web page for special meetings or even proposals. Still, since we know PowerPoint won’t disappear overnight, why not revisit how it can be used most effectively?
Use these guidelines to upgrade your company’s PowerPoint brand template, make your next meeting more engaging and, above all, help your story stick in the mind of your audience:
1. Structure your story.
The first step is to consider the story you want to tell from a birds-eye view. PowerPoint presentations should be structured the same way as a written essay or speech. You need an introduction, supporting points and conclusion. The mantra, “Tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them what you told them and then tell them again” holds true as much for PowerPoint as any other medium for communication.
2. Connect the dots.
Many presenters fall into the trap of providing “dots” of key information, and making audiences work to connect the dots on their own. The conclusions that come naturally to a presenter may not come as easily to the viewer, which is why it’s important to clearly define the connections you want them to make. To help you do this, write out the key takeaway on each slide or each section of a presentation in one sentence. Ask yourself: What do I want my audience to remember from this slide? Why should they care about this information? How does this point connect to my overarching story?
3. Ditch the bullet points – less is more.
Many presenters use PowerPoint ineffectively because they are stuck in the rut of structuring every slide the same way: headline, body copy, bullet points (repeat ad infinitum). Instead, use slides as a tool to create a dialogue in your presentation by highlighting one impactful quote, focusing on a key data point or using a powerful image on its own. Click through this presentation, created by SlidesCarnival, for some layout inspiration. In addition, consider adding in different types of content such as video, audio, etc.
4. Pay attention to aesthetics.
Follow brand guidelines in terms of colors, fonts, formatting, etc. Consistency is key when it comes to visual appeal, and adding excessive capitalization, bolding and italics can make it difficult for viewers to understand the hierarchy of information on the screen. When you are tempted to fall into that trap, consider separating a cluttered page into several slides to allow each piece of information to sink in instead of competing with the next point.
5. Remember that PowerPoint decks often live beyond the presentation.
After a presentation, PowerPoints are often shared with others who were not in attendance. Some presenters try to cram in extra bullet points on each slide to make sure their story stays intact when it’s shared later on, but that can make it harder for audiences to grasp the key messages both during and after the presentation. Instead, consider using the “notes” section of a PowerPoint to write out the full context for a slide in clear, coherent sentences. That way the deck is easier to digest visually during the presentation, and easier to understand in text later. Alternatively, it may be appropriate to create a separate supporting document with a written summary of the information in a presentation, to be shared on its own or in tandem with the PowerPoint deck.
These are just a few ways to apply simple communication principles to presentations in order to leverage them in a more powerful and memorable way. After all, digital intelligence is about using the right tools in the right ways at the right times – not just doing something new for the sake of being different.