PowerPoint Presentations Don’t Have to Be Boring

We’ve all sat through them. Workshops, lectures and classes where the speaker uses a projector with a PowerPoint presentation to lead the audience through key points. Often there are handouts of the slides, so you can follow along without taking notes.

The only problem is this: Unless there’s a good story that ties together all the bullet points and data, you and everyone else around you are probably going to forget what you learned and toss the handout into the circular file when you get back to your office.

The good news is that PowerPoint offers a wide range of options for visually stunning and compelling presentations. But it takes thought, planning and some playfulness with visuals to create a memorable message.

Here are some key elements for an effective PowerPoint presentation:

Know Your Audience
This is my marketing mantra. Understand whom you’re speaking to. Why have they come to your presentation? What’s the problem they’re trying to solve, and how is the information you’re presenting going to help them? Keep this foremost in your mind as you plan your slides.

Identify Your Desired Outcome
What do you want your audience to learn from your presentation? Are you teaching a new concept? Making a case for a favorable decision on a project? Structure your content in a logical sequence that enables your audience to connect the dots.

Simplify, Simplify, Simplify
There’s only so much information that any of us can absorb and retain. Don’t overload your slides with too many bullet points or too much data. Set priorities and organize content for each slide around one key point.

Tell a Story
There are several ways to do this. You can use a metaphor, such as a journey or sporting event to tie together the elements of your presentation. Or you can integrate anecdotes into your presentation, stories that illustrate key points involving people and dilemmas your audience can relate to. Make this the heart of your presentation. It helps to map our your ideas in a storyboard format, so you can see how it all fits together, before creating your slides.

Use Great Visuals
As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. Introduce key concepts with images that illustrate your points. You can include a simple line of text or just let the image stand on its own. There are many royalty-free stock image sites; some require payment per image and others are free. My current favorite source for free images is CompFight, which enables you easily to search Flickr Creative Commons. There are also a wide variety of government sites that offer free content. Be sure to read and comply with all licensing agreements.

Add Movement
PowerPoint enables you to isolate elements of your graphics and text so that you can stage the appearance of information and visuals. Used sparingly, animation can help you to build your explanations point by point, as well as add some fun to your stills. Just don’t overdo it, because too much animation can end up being a distraction.

You can find more ideas about how to create great PowerPoint presentations at BeyondBulletPoints and intriguing ways to display complex data at PresentationZen.


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