Why are PowerPoints and keynotes in general considered to be boring? Well I believe it's for a few reasons: first slides are usually ineffective. Second, they're usually distracting and third, they are really confusing. So for those three reasons they have developed a reputation of being boring and to change these problems we need to step back and ask the most fundamental question, what's the purpose of a PowerPoint presentation?
The purpose is really to effectively communicate a message to the audience.
In order to communicate a message, you need two
things; First you need information to put on your slides but you need more than just data to get a message across. You also need your own interpretation of the data and with those two things combined it yields a message and my goal today is to optimize the communication of your message for your presentations. So let's get started.
First we'll talk about outlining your presentation. That's one of the most
important parts. Second is adapting to your audience. Third is creating a template.
Fourth is reducing noise. Fifth is using effective redundancy and lastly, making good use of the title area on your slide.
So let's get started with number one; "The outline"
When you're thinking about your talk or your presentation the first thing you should
think of is your objective. Whether you have one idea or one message or an
objective that you want the audience to get by the time they leave the room and
the outline is a path to achieving that objective. When you create this outline with that objective in mind, you ensure that every graph text, box chart photo and diagram that's
included in the slides; all revolve around the objective of the presentation. You shouldn't have any irrelevant information or data in the slides when you create an outline that's motivated
by an objective. So another thing to know is that your outline should be so solid
that it stands on its own without slides. So let's say you're gonna give your talk
and you have a technical difficulty you can't use your PowerPoint slides anymore and
all you have is that outline. You should be able to give a good solid thorough
talk and the audience should still understand the objective & understand the
message without the slides. So before you open PowerPoint or keynote, use any word processor and create this outline. Again, ensure that the slides stay relevant to
Now to number two, "adapting to your audience". When you're creating slides or an outline you have to think like an audience member not like a speaker. What I mean by that is well a speaker when they go to create slides or a talk, they tend to want to demonstrate their expertise.
How hard they've worked by using complex information and use really hard to
understand language. So when you when you're using language that's exclusive
to a certain field or an industry only, the audience mostly don't know
what the heck they're talking about. They're alienating every other member of
the audience from that talk. What does this do to the audience? Well the
audience has to make a conscious effort to understand the speaker's message and
we're not trying to make this hard on the audience we're trying to make our
message as easy and clear to understand not cloudy up the message and make our
slides complicated. Otherwise, the audience will just turn off. They'll stop listening and start daydreaming and then you've lost them completely. You have to ask yourself this question, "How does the audience want to receive a message?" Well it's pretty simple, they want to
receive it clearly with easy to understand language and pleasant and visual representations.
Here's a before and after example - https://www.designmypresentation.com/before-after
So let's say you have some text, graphs and a chart and the information is all
relevant to each other. Suppose you want to display it on one slide; well that might
not work, because you're throwing way too much information on the audience and they aren't sure where to look first where to look second where
the third. To make this clear and easier; to understand and to guide the audience
through your information, you can divide these three elements across three
different slides. It's much easier for the audience to consume these slides.
You're giving it to them one spoonful at a time rather than
dumping all the information on them at once.
So that brings us to point number three which is
"creating a template" Now why create a template? Well the purpose is not to make
slides prettier, it's not to feature a company name or a logo and it's not to
repeat the title of your presentation. I see these things a lot on slides that
are sent to me the only reason they really want to create a template is to establish
consistency and that is so important as it makes your slides easier to follow.
Let me give you an example of a slide with no consistency.
In this slide, You can see there's way too much text
and it's all over the place. The entire text is in capital, the color is
terrible and lastly the audience just doesn't know where to look. It doesn't
know what's important and if you really expect them to sit there and read
through those paragraphs of text from the audience, that's just insane!
So to establish consistency, you need to think about composition of different elements. Things like where is the title going to be and to make sure that it's placed on the same area on every slide. Also, where the content is going to be placed and where to put the data, the charts and the graphs. Make sure you put it in that same spot in all the slides. It's extremely important to make sure the colors theme is the same in the entire presentation.
Another thing to keep in mind is that you use a good font which is of small size. You also need to make the labels on the graphs and make sure it's that same size on every slide.
Now let's talk about number four which is "reducing noise". You might be asking what is
noise? Well, noise is essentially when you're giving a presentation you're trying to
convey a message to your audience and noise is anything that gets in between
the message and your audience. It's anything that distracts them and some of
the distractions you can't control, maybe they just flip. Maybe they have some jet lag and they're sleepy, you can't control that but you make sure that you minimize and eliminate all the noise that's in your control. So what are these things? Well, they can be background
colors. I've come across presentations where the designers have used neon green backgrounds that are just blinding. They can be logos in the corner up at the top. They could be tiny fonts that you can't even read from the audience. They can be too much text or it can even be dramatic transitions where you have text coming in and it bounces and
people are wondering; oh how did they get the text to do that it bounces? So cool!
and then they are totally distracted from what you're trying to say.
Now let's talk about principle number five
which is "effective redundancy". What is that? It's the use of verbal and
visual communication so again when you're trying to convey a message to the
audience you're saying it verbally and you're delivering it visually with your slides so for example if I type out every word I say in the presentation slides, I would not be using redundancy effectively. I would be putting my audience to sleep. So instead of the scripting method you should use small visual cues, simple videos that's appealing and it gets your message across much quicker. It gives the audience another opportunity to understand what you're trying to say. Also, it's important to know that when you use redundancy effectively, a deaf person should be able to understand the message of your presentation by seeing
the slides and a blind person should be able to still understand the message by
hearing you speak.
Keep that in mind that takes us to number six which is making good use of
the "tittle". The title area should be a combination of "WHAT" and "WHY" in all the presentation's slide. It tells us about what we can expect to read in the slide, and that all the data and content of the slide is mainly about the title. The title sort of divides your presentation and when someone is going through your presentation quickly, they can read the titles of the slides and get an idea about what we want to achieve through this presentation.
So for example, when startups approach investors to raise funds for their businesses, they mostly include these titles in their presentation;
1. The problem - It talks about what the current problem they're addressing to.
2. The solution - How they are solving that problem
3. About us - A slide about the founders background and their company's team.
4. Funding - This slide is about how much money they are looking to raise.
5. Use of Funds - They give information about how they are going to use those funds if they get in this slide.
6. Competitors - Mostly, (not all) successful startups tend to be transparent about their competition with the investors. In this slide they talk about who their competitors are and how are they working.
7. USP - This one includes the Unique Selling Point of the start up and what competitive edge they have.
So those are the six principles you should definitely keep in mind when making a PowerPoint or keynote presentation. I hope that was effective and that helped you gain value and offer more insights to your existing presentation.
Thanks for reading :)