A skilled PowerPoint designer understands that the presenter and the slide show act as partners. They support one another in delivering the message.
Some presenters may confuse this partnership, treating the slide show as the primary messenger. In this arrangement, the presenter becomes the handler and translator, pushing buttons to advance the slides and then reading text-heavy bullet points aloud. The audience gets bored; and the message is lost.
An engaging PowerPoint design substitutes words with meaningful visual content. The presenter uses the visual content as assists, triggers, and comprehension aids for the audience. Consider the following three steps for building a PowerPoint presentation with meaningful visual content:
1. Know your take-aways.
On the surface, this may be stating the obvious. Know your message. What do you want/need to communicate, overall? However, the question should be asked at each specific point in the presentation.
If you are presenting five steps to creating environmentally friendly business practices, know the bottom line take-away for each of the five steps. Make it succinct.
2. Choose content over decoration.
Some may be tempted to add decorative visuals, eye-catching clipart, or stock photographs of carefully posed, anonymous models. It may offer an alternative focal point for an audience member, but does it add meaning? Worse yet, does it distract from the take-away message?
Each visual should be explainable, providing an assist to the presenter. It may even depict its own story. For example, rather than a line drawing of a recycling bin for your environmentally friendly business, consider a dramatic photograph from a local landfill or a “garbage island” from the ocean. Alone on the slide, the presenter tells the story of the photo to demonstrate his or her point.
3. Assess components individually.
After composing the PowerPoint presentation, assess the spoken text, printed text, and visuals separately. Evaluated as stand-alones, what do they each communicate? How do they fare individually? What is missing from each of the three elements when left to its own? And do the other elements fill in that gap when they are integrated? How do they contribute to the overall message and individual take-aways?
A strong PowerPoint design balances a meaningful visual presentation with an oral presentation to form a partnership. This partnership is the vehicle for a well-received message.