When the late, great Steve Jobs walked out on the stage to present a new product, he had everyone’s undivided attention. He knew how to tell a story, make a sales pitch and present a compelling narrative. Jobs understood the mechanics and demonstrated a remarkable intuition that always elicited an emotional response from his audience and he kept them focused.
Jobs, of course, had the advantage of presenting new Apple products, but his style of engaging his listeners with big-screen graphical presentation backdrops is adaptable to a PowerPoint presentation.
The subject matter can be as prosaic as quarterly sales projections, but by adopting the following four PowerPoint presentation strategies, anyone can rouse the most laconic captive audience. Your listeners, after all, are eager for your message and likewise want you to succeed.
1. Create your narrative.
There has to be a logical story, and a presentation is rather like a good piece of writing, which has a beginning, a middle and an end. You tell your audience what you’re going to tell them; then you tell them, and finally you tell them what you told them.
2. Avoid the mistake of information overload.
Your presentation needs only cover the highlights. Guy Kawasaki, a contributor to Inc. puts it succinctly:
“It’s quite simple. A PowerPoint presentation should have ten slides, last no more than twenty minutes, and contain no font smaller than thirty points.”
3. Lay off tacky clip art, distracting animations and too many charts and graphs.
The PowerPoint application makes it easy to fall into the trap of creating distracting fly-in bullet points, fadeout transitions and fancy graphics. All that distracts from your branding, which can appear generic in comparison to flying text and zippy slide animations.
The rule of thumb on graphics is that if the graphic does nothing to support your information and allow your presentation to progress, don’t use it.
4. Your PowerPoint presentation is only half of everything.
The other — and far more important half — is you, the presenter. You need to rehearse, practice and rehearse some more. If you get into a presentation mode that makes you sound like a bored museum tour guide, expect your audience to be at least as unenthusiastic as you sound, and possibly even bored.
The only way to boost your confidence and project enthusiasm is through rehearsal and practice. If you expect to engage your audience, don’t rely on copious notes or even a scripted presentation. Leave the details and minutiae to your handout.
Remember the most important thing about how an audience experiences a presentation: most people will absorb and leave with just a few key points. Don’t confuse them by trying to replicate the details of your narrative.
Finally, let’s encapsulate our four pointers above into a PowerPoint slide:
- Create your narrative
- Less is more
- Branding is everything
- You are the better half