The truth of the matter is that a presentation can exist without a powerpoint and a powerpoint, unfortunately, can also exist without the presentation. Most companies can fill up rooms of powerpoint documents that failed in getting the message and the decisions across but don't blame the powerpoint for it - in most instances, it was a failure in the presentation and not the powerpoint.
I have learned (and I continue to learn now) that there is a process to a successful presentation that does not start with opening up powerpoint (gasp!). Here are some key tips I have learned so far:
1) Key Message - The thought process should start with the key message - what is the one primary objective of the presentation. It can be a sales pitch or a decision driver, for example.
2) Outline - Breakdown the key message into an outline. The art of the presentation starts with an objective and then goes first into a high level story telling approach - what are the key points that would support the objective.
3) Simplify - When you have the outline ready - review it and ask yourself the following questions - is the story build up good?Does it have direction? Does that direction logically lead the audience to the objective? Is there information that you can consider extraneous? Does it fit the time allotted for the presentation?
4) Approach - When you have the high level outline done and you understand what you want the presentation to do - decide next what is the best approach for the presentation. It is not always through a powerpoint document that a presentation becomes effective. It may be best to just stand in front of the crowd and talk them over it or maybe start with a video for that emotional build up or a series of photos to set the stage.
5) Effective Powerpoints - If you do decide on a powerpoint, keep in mind the following tips that I have learned over the years:
- Keep it simple - each slide must have one message and one message only
- Word it right - imagine that each slide is a billboard on an interstate and your audience is driving a car on that interstate at speed limit and think about how many words they can read on your billboard as they speed by - that is the number of KEY words that you should have on your powerpoint. Studies vary - from 8 to 10 words.
- Keep it tight - the message of your slide should be heard and understood within 5-8 seconds. Imagine that you are presenting your slide while inside an elevator - borrowing from the proverbial elevator speech - each slide should only take as much time presenting as a 2 floor ride in that elevator.
- Images help but don't overdo it - studies have shown that learning is enhanced if senses are involved in the process at the same time. The saying that "a picture speaks a thousand words" still hold.
- Bottom line - each element in your slide, from that picture to that movie to the words used, must have a distinct value and purpose to be on that slide. If you can't figure that out in 3 seconds - remove it.