Do your PowerPoint presentations fall flat?

business woman giving presentationWhen composing a PowerPoint presentation, you probably begin by compiling the information you want to impart. Then you organize it onto slides. This might be a good place to start, but don’t finish there.

Think about preparing a meal for guests. You shop for food, empty the grocery bags and put things away. Imagine handing your guests the recipe and pointing to the kitchen. This might sound fun, but if you translate this to the meeting room, that’s what you’re doing when you gather data and organize it onto slides. It might be consumable by your audiences but perhaps not terribly palatable or very appetizing. So, if you feel like your presentations fall flat with your audiences, or that participants aren’t really engaged, you might need to heat some things up and throw in a sprig of parsley.

We know what we need the audience to hear, but how will they hear it? Consider these three titles:

  • New Computer Systems Rollout
  • System Deactivation Schedule
  • Coming soon: Faster Apps–More Tools

Any of these titles could suffice for an upgrade to Windows 8/8.1 or Office 2013. The first two might strike fear, frustration or anger in the hearts of people even before you start talking. You don’t have to be a “spin doctor” to realize that the title slide should communicate your presentation goal in a way that will still have people listening to you when you start talking. Spend some time on coming up with the right title. This is what’s on the screen as people gather. What kind of mood do you want them in? And don’t just leave them guessing; they will be impatient when you start talking.

After “What do I want them to know,” think “How do I want them to react?” Do I want their buy-in on something? Do I need their participation, cooperation or agreement? Do I want them excited, dedicated to action? I can throw some food on a plate and, if you’re famished, you’ll just gobble it down. However, if you’re only a little hungry, you might only pick at it if it doesn’t look appetizing. Don’t assume I’m famished! Pictures are powerful here. You can tell me that we’re going to be collaborating better on SharePoint, but showing me a happy group of people sharing ideas is better. Be bold and have a picture occupy the whole slide with the words playing a secondary role. Go in the reverse and have a single word or small phrase on a blank slide. Don’t just tell me. Move me to the desired behavior.

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If I won’t be able to read it, don’t show it to me! While I am squinting at the screen trying to discern what you are showing me, I am not hearing a word you say. So, if you’re showing me sales data for the year in order to tell me about an important trend, tell me about the important trend, first! Then, if you must, show me a chart. If the chart has actionable information for your participants, consider putting it in the handout, instead of on the screen.


Contributor: Melissa P. Esquibel, Microsoft® ­Certified Trainer