20
July
2015

How to avoid "Death-by-PowerPoint"

I was recently asked to assist an executive secretary with "polishing" the company’s PowerPoint presentations. 

My brief was simple:

  • Bring the slide to "life'.
  • "Visualise" the slides (in other words: make the content visually appealing).
  • Each slide must speak for itself.
  • The presentation must be meaningful.
  • Simple, punchy elements should be included that make the slides presentable with maximum impact. 
  • The slides must be effective.

Don’t we all want to see slideshows like that? So what was the problem? 

I had the strategies to improve the slides and I will share those with you in coming weeks. 

The real problem was that the executive secretary didn't originate the slides. The executives who sent her the slides had no idea there was something wrong with their slides. Moreover, the secretary didn't have the authority to ask the managers to change their slides. To make matters worse, their charts were sent to her as pictures, so she couldn't change them anyway. 

Then to crown it all: it turned out that the CEO who asked that we “visualise the slides” didn't like pictures on slides. 

So who should have been attending training on improving presentations in the company? More to the point, can people identify what makes a clear impactful slide?

Try-Test-Adjust-Repeat: the recipe for success in any endeavour

The CEO is spot-on with what good slides should do, and how they ought to look. But achieving these objectives involves re-imagining your company presentations, and being prepared to go through a period of trial and error to maximise the impact factor.

Here are a few questions to start asking about your presentations.

  • Who is your audience and what do you want the presentation to do?

    • Is this a report to the Board, to a client, or for an internal meeting?
    • Is this a presentation to sell the company’s products to new clients?
  • What is your content about?

    • If it’s a report, how are you going to make sure that all the detail is in there without boring the pants off your audience as you present slide after slide?
    • Can you think of creative ways to achieve your objectives using PowerPoint?
  • Are you producing slide after slide of boring bulleted text?

    Decide what to leave out
    Source
    • Each slide should only carry one message.
    • Can your PA recognise the key points on the slide, and reduce the number of bulleted points? 
    • Does she have the authority to change an executive’s slide?
  • Are you overwhelming your audience with numbers?

    Overloaded Slide
    Source
    • Can your audience see at a glance what the numbers mean?
    • Do you put tables of Excel data in your presentation like this?
    • Or can you use diagrams and other charts to show what the numbers mean?
      An effective visual
      Source

Over the next few weeks, our blog series will show you creative ways to maximise the potential impact of PowerPoint - without falling into the "death-by-PowerPoint" trap so many of us have come to dread. There are also so many resources on the internet, offering great ideas about designing a good presentation. Here’s a YouTube video to get you going.

Do you or someone you know need PowerPoint training? Contact us for details about the next PowerPoint Excellence training workshop.

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