Tag Archives: slides

Is It Time for a Refresh?

You are an expert in your field – you know the intricacies and the nuances of your product or service better than anyone. Thus, you are often asked to speak publicly about your area of specialty. And like anyone with a lot to do and little time, you have a stock PowerPoint that you have created that you use over and again. It saves time and it works pretty well. As you read this and think about that PowerPoint you have created, I would encourage you to go through it and dispose of many of those slides.

Why, you ask? Because with each day, you get better and so should your PowerPoint. Think of new and creative ways to present your key points. Brainstorm ways to make complicated topics simpler to understand. Come up with ideas on ways to better engage your audience. Think of areas that went over really well in prior presentations and maybe put more focus there and for those areas that didn’t go over so well, how about a new strategy or eliminating the level of depth in that section.

Of course, you will also want to add slides that pertain to relevant industry news, updated research, and your own headlines – new business, new people, new products, etc. The point is, as you evolve, so should your PowerPoint presentation. While it may save time reusing your old one, it is worth the energy and effort to rebuild and revamp every couple of months. It pushes you to be better and will ultimately leave a better impression on the audience.

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Make Your Definitions More Interesting…

One of the more fundamental yet boring slides in a PowerPoint is the definitions slide. This may actually, in a really painful case, represent multiple slides. Here are some pointers for making the definition process fun and engaging for the audience.

Typically, you will see a slide that says “Definitions” in bold and underlined across the top. Then, listed underneath in microscopic font will be key terms and their respective meanings. Instead of using this method — which, by the way, is certain to bore your audience into a coma before you really even get started — try the following:

Let’s use the term “mammal” as an example. Across the top of the slide, state “What are mammals?” Open it up to the audience and find out what they believe the definition of a mammal is. This engages the audience, will certainly get some laughs, allows you to clear up any misconceptions, and gives you an idea of what you are dealing with in terms of your audience.

While getting audience input, add your own commentary. Correct what they are saying and add detail. Praise those who are accurate and reiterate what they have said to drill it home.

Next, on that same slide, use graphics to show examples of mammals. Introduce them one by one, focusing on the characteristics that make them mammals. Show pictures of humans, monkeys, lions, tigers, and bears (oh my!). This makes the concept real and relatable for the audience. And, again, keep things interesting and interactive.

Finally, end with the definition you want the audience to remember. It may be a simplified version of a standard definition, but it should be accurate and usable by the audience. This strategy will allow you to put your best foot forward with intriguing definitions that are memorable and meaningful to the audience.

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Finish Strong Every Time…

In any given week, I see dozens of presentations come across my desk. If you look at a random sample of 100 of these PowerPoints, I would estimate that 98 of them end with either “Thank you” or “Questions” as the last slide. Who made this the official last slide of PowerPoint? I often wonder that, because it really is not the best way to finish up.

After preparing for weeks, presenting for an hour, and doing an awesome job, what exactly are you thanking the audience for? For listening to you? I hope not. Also, the hope is that you allowed questions throughout if something wasn’t clear. So, finishing up with a big question mark in the center of a slide and stating “Questions?” is redundant and leaves the audience with nothing new.

Now to the good stuff. The best way to end your PowerPoint is with a summary slide of the key take-away points and/or action items for next steps. Assume your audience understood and followed your logical arguments up to that point. Assume they are ready to take the next steps and proceed. Lay the groundwork. Set forth those next steps and be prepared to discuss them one on one. Name your last slide “Discussion of Next Steps.” This moves the discussion forward and truly makes the most of the time the audience invested with you.

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Say Goodbye to Spreadsheets…

It may not be your first choice and you know the audience is going to hate you for it, but sometimes you have to present numbers, figures, calculations, results, financials, statements, and more. While it certainly makes it more enjoyable and digestible for the audience if the numbers are positive and show growth, profits, or bonuses, the reality remains that most people don’t like looking at numbers in a presentation and tend to tune out. A surefire way to lose the audience is to pop an Excel spreadsheet up on the screen and begin talking.

A spreadsheet is dull, difficult to follow, and not meaningful to an audience. Next time you have the task of presenting numbers, try using something visual. Try a pie chart to show proportions, such as sales by company division as a part of the whole company. Use a line chart to show a trend, such as profit growth over the last four quarters. Or, put together a bar chart to compare expenses over the last 12 months. These graphics are simple to build and create something digestible and understandable for your audience.

Take this one step further, though. The default in PowerPoint is for the visual to show up on the screen in one piece. However, you can animate your charts and graphs and build them along with the audience. This gives you time to discuss each piece as you go along. You can explain why something may have happened or congratulate a group on a great quarter as your line chart shoots to the sky. If you do this, keep the effects simple – we don’t need spinning and twirling. Keep in mind you don’t want to detract or make a serious presentation cartoonish.

So, next time you are faced with the daunting task of presenting financials, spruce it up a bit and you will see it is much more enjoyable for the audience, and they will both understand and retain what you have presented much better.

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Stop Boring Your Audience with Bullet Points…

We’ve all seen presentations loaded with slides that have too many bullet points.

The presenter has likely assumed that instead of sentences, bullet points can be shorter and bring forward the real information. But too often we see slides with more than 10 bullet points, each composed of more than 10 words. The presenter has inadvertently jammed too much information onto the screen in an ironic effort to cut back on the text.

In his book, The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs: How to Be Insanely Great in Front of Any Audience, Carmine Gallo points out that the late Jobs, often considered to be a master of message, delivered presentations that were “strikingly simple, visual, and devoid of bullet points. That’s right – no bullet points. Ever.”

That’s because Jobs was focused on one thing: making sure his message got across to his audience.

Your audience is bombarded by information all day, every day. It’s sensory overload. Give them a break and think about your message. Can you identify your main point with just one, two, or three words? How about an icon or image instead?

The less text you toss up on the screen, the less the audience has to read… and the more they’ll be listening to you and what you have to say.

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Save the Best for First…

In crafting and delivering a PowerPoint presentation, it may seem like a great strategy to introduce a slide and slowly build up to the most important and compelling point of that slide. However, paying close attention to any audience indicates that this may not hold true. In fact, you will very often notice the following pattern: at the introduction of a new slide, the audience sits up, their eyes fix on the slide, and after about 15 seconds, they begin to slouch in their seat and their eyes wander around the room until the next slide is brought up on the screen.

Contrary to popular belief and the strategy of “building up” to the powerful message of each slide, the introduction of a new slide is the best time to get your message across. It is by far the most compelling moment – there’s movement, new graphics on the screen, and the audience is curious and paying attention. This pattern repeats every time.

This, therefore, creates the perfect moment to get your slide’s message across. Never again while that particular slide is on the screen will you have the audience paying such close attention as in those first 15 seconds. The longer you speak on a particular slide, the fewer audience members are paying attention and only a fraction may get your message.

This new strategy will require practice as we have been programmed to do the exact opposite. Keep in mind, this isn’t about changing the content but rather the order of the content. So, save the best for first and get this new pattern down, and your presentations will certainly have a greater impact.

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