06 Jul AMP UP THOSE POWERPOINTS!
Despite the bad rep some presentations justly deserve (“death by PowerPoint”), talk-and- slides
presentations—like PowerPoints, Keynotes or Prezis—when skillfully wielded, remain potent arrows in
the quivers of accomplished communicators. Effectively using both sight and sound during a
presentation creates two corridors into audience members’ minds and memories, and makes your
message more convincing, more understandable, and more durable.
But the operative words here are skillfully wielded. To supersize your presentation success, keep in
mind these secrets professional communicators use when developing talk-and- slides presentations:
Start by creating a PLAN for the presentation, NOT by creating slides or other visual elements.
Most ineffective presenters begin by creating visuals they can use as a bulleted outline, or
worse yet, as crib notes, for the talk. Instead, start developing your presentation by deciding
upfront what you want to convey, how you’ll convey it, and how you’ll prove it, both verbally and
visually. Write your plan down. As you build your presentation, routinely test its components
against the key elements of your written plan.
Next, OUTLINE or WRITE OUT the verbal portion of your presentation. Align the spoken
narrative with the strategy laid out in your written plan.
Now, STORYBOARD your visuals using sticky notes and a white board or other flat surface.
Align each slide or graphic with your spoken narrative. Use one sticky note for each. On each
sticky, sketch or describe the image you’ll use. Next, add a short headline or handful of words
that clarify and drive home each visual’s essential point. As you go along, arrange the stickies in
order on a white board or a blank wall (this gives you the big picture of your presentation’s
visual storyline, and enables you to easily re-arrange the order). Start obtaining or creating
visuals and entering notes in your presentation software only after you’re satisfied with the plan,
verbal narrative, and storyboard created.
Your presentation’s very first job is to CONVINCE the audience to continue paying attention.
You need to persuade them that they’ll want to hear what you have to say. Audience attention is
highest at the beginning of a presentation. They’re eager to listen. As soon as you open your
mouth, though, the audience will decide whether to stay tuned-in or use this opportunity to
check email, texts and their newest social media posts. Keep them tuned-in by arousing
curiosity—hook them with a promise to reveal things they don’t know, or a story they’ll want to
Once you’ve secured the audience’s continued attention, follow up immediately by
ANSWERING four questions audiences have at the outset of any presentation (if you don’t,
they’ll continue to wonder about them throughout your presentation and miss important points):
(1) What are you going to tell or show me? (2) Why does this matter to me? (3) Who are you
(why should I listen to you)? And (4) what are you going to ask me to do?
Use your presentation’s display to VISUALIZE what you’re saying, not VERBALIZE it. Never
blanket slides or other visuals with text. Think of each image or other visual component like a
billboard along the highway—a strong image accompanied by a mere handful of words. Make
visuals REINFORCE what you’re saying by providing a pictorial metaphor, or SUPPLEMENT
what you’re saying by conveying additional graphical information (like a chart or infographic)
that’s too complex, or too time-consuming, to describe.
Make it a MULTIMEDIA EXPERIENCE. Video and audio clips shift audience focus briefly away
from you as the speaker, and renew your lease on their attention when you continue speaking.
More importantly, multimedia content can add impact and authenticity to your message, for
example, by giving voice to people not present, revealing the realities of remote locations, and
demonstrating actual occurrences, outcomes and results. Video and audio can easily be
embedded, and often manipulated (e.g., setting start and end points), in modern presentation
REHEARSE! Several times! Professionals who routinely perform in public—actors, musicians,
CEOs, athletes, attorneys, dancers, politicians, and so on—succeed because they maintain a
discipline of PRACTICE. Rehearsing your presentations makes you better not only at the
current presentation, but all future presentations.
PowerPoint, Keynote, and Prezi are trademarks of their respective owners.