In a library stuffed with books, how does one tome stand out from the rest? By being visually captivating, compelling in content, and able to connect with readers in a meaningful way. The rules of engagement for a PowerPoint presentation are very similar. Just as a library is saturated with reads, the world of business meetings (and lectures) is saturated with slideshows, each one trying to grab an audience's attention.
There are approximately 500 million PowerPoint users worldwide. Let this serve as a reminder of the importance of staying original in delivery. Our design experts have compiled a list of five tips that will help transform your slideshow from bland and boring into breathtaking.
1: Craft a Story
Just as your English teacher used to say to you: everyone has a story to tell. Let your slideshow be one of them. Whether you're creating business pitches, sales decks, elevator pitch examples, or even lectures, the presentation ought to take the audience on a stroll with a story.
When you give a presentation, one or two goals should be at the forefront of design: offer the audience something they don't already know, persuade the audience to do or believe something, or a combination of both. To accomplish these goals, begin with a story.
Scene One: Introducing the Problem
The first step is to connect with your audience, whether that be through a shared grievance, a similar interest, or another commonality that brings you together. Convey this immediately with your words and content.
Scene Two: Develop the Plot
Begin with the turning point -- that 'aha' moment when you can channel Cher's "If I Could Turn Back Time," and make a difference -- before you wrap up this segment with the climax. Introduce your product/company/idea, present any eye-catching data or metrics, discuss the team behind the action, and then spell out your vision, noting how it can shift the status quo for your audience.
Scene Three: Climax and Conclusion
This is the moment when you can take your presentation from good to exceptional. It's the scene at the pub in Inglourious Basterds when Quentin Tarantino demonstrated the art of tension. He defined the space, introduced the characters, established the main conflict, and then he...made...us...wait. Nail-biting, peek-through-one-eye sort of wait. If you master this skill, it's also where you slip in The Ask. The audience will already have their hands on their wallets if you've really done your job well.
Tip #2: Keep it Concise
Repeat this mantra: Less is more. The average professional slideshow is 10 to 20 slides in length with a mere 40 words of content. Total. Your slides are there to support you, not the other way around.
Statistically speaking, the average person only remembers 10 percent of what they read (as compared to 50 percent of what they hear and see, and 70 percent of what they say or discuss with others). That means you need to put the most important information on the screen, all of which will be supported (not read!) by your voice with additional information.
Harkening back to the days of Aristotle, a solid rule of thumb is to follow the 'Rule of Three'. Choose three ideas to present and present those three. Each of them can be broken into three parts, but do not go beyond the three. People simply won't remember them. For inspiration, check out any of Steve Jobs' Apple presentations -- he always follows the Rule of Three.
Tip #3: Choose Captivating Visuals
Messages alone hold little impact without an accompanying visual. Known as the picture superiority effect, studies show that powerful visuals can increase retention of information by at least 55 percent. Notice the word powerful. Choose professional, high-quality images that directly relate to the content presented. Avoid cheesy clip art and overused stock images. And whatever you do, make absolutely sure you don't use images have a watermark symbol or are copyrighted. If they do, you may as well kiss the presentation goodbye; it's the only thing viewers will remember.
You can purchase pictures from Getty Images or look for a reputable site online for elevator pitch examples. There are also good sites that offer free stock images to browse and use.
Tip #4: Engage With the Audience
Avoid using PowerPoint as a teleprompter. It can't be said enough: reading your slides verbatim is a slow and painful death for any audience. Assuming they are literate, they can read the information themselves and would prefer to do so. Quite frankly, they didn't choose to spend an hour or two reading a slideshow or they would have stayed in the office and looked at a screen alone.
Keep in mind that the slideshow is intended to augment, not repeat, what the speaker is saying. If the information is so straightforward that no clarification is needed, it is best not to struggle through a PowerPoint presentation.
Beyond adding material that isn't visually displayed, consider ways of engaging the audience so they pay attention to what you are saying. Here are some suggestions:
- Demonstrate your enthusiasm and passion for the subject with word choice, inflection, and gestures;
- Resist the temptation of talking too fast, but don't crawl like a slug either;
- Pause briefly after making a statement that you want people to remember;
- Periodically make eye contact with certain audience members;
- Speak a bit louder than you think is necessary;
- Move around the presentation area.
Tip #5: Emphasize Appropriately
What are the big takeaways from your presentation? When all is said and done, what information underscores your message the best and conveys the message you intend to deliver? Those are the things that should be called out in a presentation.
If you quote someone, use the whole slide to showcase the quote. Doing so will leave a much stronger impact.
Keep it concise and to the point. Let's say you have exceeded your fundraising goal and want to draw attention to the fact that your team has raised $400,000. You'll ruin the excitement if you cushion that information with: "We just exceeded our fundraising goal by $100,000 and now have earned $400,000." Yawn. Instead, devote an entire slide to the mere number: $400,000. Make it bold and brazen like the intrepid presenter you are. Let audience members percolate over what the number may mean before you offer them the reveal.
The ways to create compelling presentations are practically endless. We have only scratched the surface with these five suggestions. If nothing else, remember that the presentation shouldn't ever be treated as an afterthought.
It deserves its own moment of glory.