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Three super-quick ways to make PowerPoint better (and less deathly) – PART I

Tags: Be interesting | Presentations | Impact | Save time | Do more | Influencing

29th August

On a recent workshop, I asked my delegates to shout out the first word they thought of to complete this sentence – “death by …”

Of course, their first answer was “PowerPoint.”

In fact, it was the only answer they could think of for a few seconds. Until someone eventually added “firing squad.”

And this made me think: how can things have got so bad, that the first word people associate with “death by” is a computer application, rather than something that actually causes death?

It’s such a shame. Visuals should enhance communication. Like they do in a TV weather forecast – the weather map makes the message clearer. (Let’s face it, it wouldn’t be as good if – instead of a map – they had a list of bullet points repeating word-for-word what they were saying).

The main problem with PowerPoint is that presenters forget who it’s for. So, instead of using it as an Audience Aid, they use it as a Speaker Prompt. So, their slides contain loads of words, which they then read out. No audience would ever choose to receive a message in this way.

To remove all these problems, I have six PowerPoint tips for you. The first three transform your slides. I’ve written these below. I’ll share the other three – which explain how best to deliver them – next week.

To create good slides, remember:

  1. Good titles
  2. Few words
  3. Not bullets

In more detail…

  • Good titles. The title is your slide’s First Impression. So make it impressive. Include something the audience cares about in it. So, if you’re presenting to someone who wants to increase market share, use the title “How you’ll increase your market share”. Don’t call it “Our process”
  • Few words. Nobody wants to watch you read words they can read for themselves. So one option: create wordy slides and print them out. These are your Speaker Notes – only you will see them. Then delete 90% of the words, and present alongside these sparse slides. And then, if people want copies of your slides, email them your Speaker Notes so they have the full version
  • Not bullets. Audiences don’t like reading lists of bullet points. So, find a more visual way of getting your message across. Useful tip: PowerPoint has a function called ‘SmartArt’ – in the ‘Insert’ tab. This contains many different slide layouts. Choose one, and type your content into these shapes – miles better than bullets

A quick reminder why this is so critical…

Presenters don’t think about their slides enough. Instead, they firstly identify what they want to say; then secondly create their slides to remind them.

But, from an audience’s point of view, your slides are a critical part of your message. After all, audiences see the slides at the same time as they see you.

So, these three tips will make a huge difference to you – and, more importantly, to them.

Action Point

In month 4 of my online video club, I’ve created lots of videos showing how to present better (including one explaining step-by-step how to create visually stunning slides). To watch one of these videos for free, please click here.

And one other obvious action: for your next PowerPoint presentation, use these three tips – good titles; few words; not bullets – to transform your slides.