Four PowerPoint Tips

If a picture is worth a thousand words – why don’t presenters use pictures?

I recently got to see Icebreaker CEO, Jeremy Moon presenting at a conference. One of Jeremy’s key points is that branding is about difference. I wondered if his PowerPoint slides would be different to the confusing, wordy, bullet point laden offerings that conference audiences are usually subjected to.

I wasn’t disappointed.

Jeremy’s slides were a triumph and an asset to his overall presentation. Here’s what stood out… (If you’re reading this then you’ll be interested in Complete Presentation Skills and our refreshing approach to PowerPoint in this course)

1. He used lots of pictures. His talk was about branding and he started with a photograph of a horse. Why? Because that’s where branding started – the burning of a unique mark into an asset to show its ownership.

Using pictures this way is powerful – it forces the audience to process the incoming information and make connections in their minds. This is much more memorable than showing bullet points which people skim through almost mindlessly. In fact…

yeah-right2. He didn’t use bullet points. When Jeremy used text he used it like a newspaper headline – to make a key point. He used complete sentences such as “Niche does not equal small” – and these were the only words on the slide. His spoken words provided the detail and examples and the simplicity of the text allowed us to focus on what he was saying.

Too many presenters overload their slides with bulleted lists. Instead of them being the credible expert, the slide becomes the source of the information. The slides are really their notes and their expertise is buried in bullets.

3. His logo was not on the slides. The slides had simple backgrounds so that it was easy to focus on the message they conveyed. Showing a logo on a slide has several disadvantages:

  • It limits the space you have to work with
  • It can conflict visually with the real slide content
  • It appears so often the audience stops noticing it.
If a branding expert chooses not to show his brand and logo on his slides then perhaps we should be doing the same.

4. He designs his slides on paper. And then gets others to create them on the computer.

For many presenters, the first step in designing their presentation is opening PowerPoint. This is not a good idea. It sucks us into creating title slides (Jeremy didn’t have one) and using bullet points instead of thinking about the key message and using a proper, logical structure to construct our talk.

The time to think about visuals is after your spoken content is written. But don’t be tempted to go straight to the computer – instead, “storyboard” your visuals on blank sheets of A4 and think pictures – not words.

PowerPoint is a great tool when it’s used creatively and with the audience in mind. It might take a little more effort but the results are worth it.

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