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#643: Put Power Back Into Your PowerPoint

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, August 31, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, August 31, 2011
I know Ed Tufte and others decry the overuse of PowerPoint and presentation software, but my clients insist on this format for their briefings. I do use nonstandard templates and animation (within reason) to add interest but what else can I do?

"Death by PowerPoint" is a well known affliction of consultants and their clients. The widespread availability of presentation software has made formerly elegant and compelling presentations (and speeches) into linear, low resolution and predictable marches of standalone points. Some people are better at PowerPoint than others but this usually is due not to the clever use of software but by the design of the content.

Think about what a presentation is about. It is an attempt to convey a message, often to influence an audience. It may dispense information, introduce concepts, startle the audience or drive at some other outcome, but the most effective method to convey these are in the form of a story. This communication form really is amenable to almost any presentation content. The goal is to inspire, influence and for the audience to remember. This means using the continuity of a narrative.

This is not about graphics or clip art or animation. It is about thinking through the communication before you ever put pen to paper (or mouse to screen). Begin by storyboarding and build in your information only after you identify the needed scope and sequence. Often we have the points we want to make in our head, we create a rough outline, start generating slides, edit, add graphics, resequence slides, dry run, polish and we are good to go. Active verbs in slide titles, horizontal logic, roadmaps, colors as visual cues, chunking of the story, audience interaction, timing, the first few slides, and other parts of a presentation must be well designed before you even draft the first slide. Tip: For a good tutorial on how to make your presentations more powerful (and memorable), see Cliff Atkinson's Beyond Bullet Points for concepts, resources and tips on putting the power back into your PowerPoints.

© 2011 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  communication  creativity  presentations 

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Iain Lopata says...
Posted Thursday, September 1, 2011
I would also note that while a client may require PowerPoint materials that does not limit what you can do in your delivery of content. It may be helpful if you think about the PowerPoint slides as the package of materials that your client will walk away with for later reference -- but not as a constraint on the discussion. The most common mistake people make is using PowerPoint bullets as a crutch to lead them, step by laborious step, through what they want to say. I would suggest you challenge yourself to answer how you are adding value when presenting the material -- if you aren't driving a discussion that goes beyond the direct slide content, then you may as well not be there at all.

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