Death by PowerPoint. Oh, the horror! Blocks of text, black on white, on that huge screen, read aloud on an even tone with the presenter’s back to the audience. If you are really lucky, they also incorporate a bunch of blurry, boring stock photos. Admit it, you too have been one step away from falling asleep or pulling your hair during one of these presentations. People forget most of the time that the slides do not equal the presentation, they are just the visual support.
I’ve recently attended a presentation delivered by Neil Patel, and I have to say I was as impressed as I had expected to be. He used a great hook, he got interactive, asked questions and kept engaging the audience at various points during the process. His slides were simple and easy to follow, but all the attention fell on him, as it should be.
Here are a few steps to follow for outstanding presentations
Before you start working on anything, take a moment to think. What is the presentation for? Is it going to be sent via email? Then you have to include more text and be very careful with your choice of info. Be sure to write a follow-up email and add more details if necessary. Is it going to be delivered in front of an audience? Then you have to refine it accordingly, include more visuals and be brief. You want the public to pay attention to you and what you’re saying, not the screen. Create both versions if necessary, it takes more time but it’s worth the investment.
What do we all hate when it comes to presentations? If your answer is standard, lifeless templates, then you’re right. Don’t offend your audience by using them. Instead, think of what appeals to them, do a little bit of research first. When you had your brand identity designed, you received your own templates, so put them to use. Once you create a style, follow it in all mediums. Use the same color palettes and fonts everywhere, so you’re coherent and people recognize your brand. You can create your own template or, if you’re not particularly creative, you can buy one and customize it. Either way, it shows your audience you care enough to put effort into it.
Avoid info overload
Oh, the horror again! I’ll probably say that a few more times by the end of this post, so brace yourselves 😉 Contrary to what you may think, you don’t need to give away huge amounts of data. Your audience has a limited attention span. This is where sorting and writing skills really pay off. Sometimes it’s better to break that slide with 10 bullet points into 2 or 3 separate slides. Pick only those pieces of info which may be of interest and can benefit you. Always keep in mind your audience, your presentation has to keep them interested, not you. A frequent mistake is getting too technical, in which case you will lose everyone’s attention in the blink of an eye. Maybe explaining to a 6 year-old or to your grandma isn’t just an overused phrase in the startup world.
Choose your images & symbols accordingly
An image speaks more than 1,000 words, so use imagery wisely. It is a defining element which can ruin or majorly improve a presentation. Go for high quality graphics and avoid clipart at all costs. Especially that which comes included with PowerPoint. Coordinate colors or use black & white, remember you are aiming for coherence. My favorite kind of slides are those made up of just an image, but a well-picked one. Add an inspiring quote or a phrase to support your verbal description, and you’ve got a winner.
Less is more
Keeping things simple is difficult. To avoid overload, think if it’s really necessary to use that image, those extra words or whatever other elements. If you can’t say yes and explain why on the spot, then the answer is no. Never ever use animated transitions between the slides. Maybe it was nice while you were using it for projects in school, but in the grown up world it’s an artifice you don’t really need and which makes you look unprofessional. Most importantly (this is a rule I swear by in everything I do), edit mercilessly.
Avoid charts if you can
There’s this myth that a presentation isn’t a proper presentation without charts. Oh, the horror of having to look at graphs you don’t understand and listen to figures and jargon you don’t care about. I feel you. If you absolutely must, use pie charts and make them as simple as possible. People don’t have the patience to decipher chunks of data irrelevant to them.
Check your details carefully
It goes without saying that you should always aim for the accuracy of your writing. Triple check your grammar and spelling. Always choose the word that best fits into the context. Thesaurus.com is an excellent resource to help you with that. Make sure you have the same fonts and colors throughout all your slides. The text should be coherent overall. If you use bullet points on a slide, don’t put a paragraph on the following one. Consistency and coherence are your goals. Check if all your links work and if you have included all your sources. Don’t forget to add your email on the Thank you slide.
Presentations don’t have to be boring. Be fun, make unexpected associations, go that extra mile no matter what you’re speaking about. Ask for feedback, and remember you should measure your success in the amount of emotion you manage to raise in others.