Who else has spent hours developing a robust, lengthy and data-laden PowerPoint deck only to have it land flat when you present to your audience? It’s hard to tell a story if your audience is constantly questioning, discussing or debating every slide. We’ve all been there, right?
We believe that by implementing a few changes to how you frame your PowerPoint content, you can tell a more effective and compelling story, while also creating a less rigorous experience for your audience. Below we’ve shared three helpful tips that will allow you to develop more persuasive and compelling PowerPoint slides. We hope you find it useful!
Our objective is to offer a few simple techniques that will help you make your content more persuasive or influential. They will make it as easier for your audience to comprehend the points you are trying to make, while not forcing them to spend additional time consuming (or questioning) every piece of data included within. Read on and we’ll share how!
1. Start your slide off right: Use full sentence titles to convey the key take away
The title is the most important part of your slide. It’s the first opportunity you have to capture the attention of your audience, so it’s important to make the most of it.
It’s important to keep in mind is that your audience will probably not read your entire slide. If there is something you wish to convey or just one thing you want to ensure your reader takes away from your slide, put it in the title. You don’t want the reader to have to work hard to grasp the point of your slide. Make it easy for them by putting it in the one place they are sure to look!
Additionally, unless you wish to force the reader to consume all the content you share on a slide, stay away from single word titles. What about the subject of the slide is important? The answer to this question can be used as a title. There are a few benefits to this approach, for both the reader and the slide creator:
• Increase the audience’s ability to retain the information you want them to remember
• Save time and effort by ensuring that a reader skimming the content does not detract from your story or pitch
• Ensure your main message is conveyed and increase the likelihood of the audience comprehending it
This is probably the simplest and most straightforward way to effectively tell a story with your slides; it can really make a big difference when presenting to a busy audience who may not be fully engaged. You can also ensure your main points still land with a reader who may be consuming your deck offline or at any time where you aren’t there to speak to it.
The goal of your deck is to make it as easy as possible for the reader to grasp the point you want to convey. This is a key first opportunity to do just that, on every slide.
2. Visually organize your content with grouping
The human brain is capable of incredible things. But when you’re pitching a client or leadership team, you don’t want their brains to have to work too hard. That’s where being mindful of your content and how it’s visually organized becomes very important.
Studies show that the human brain is only capable of effectively retaining 3-4 groups of information at once. Any more than that and recall ability starts to be affected. Do your audience’s brains a service and try to present your slide content in 3-4 easily discernible groups.
There are four main ways that the brain organizes units of information:
• Proximity: objects that are positioned closely together are part of the same group
• Similarity: objects of the same shape or color are part of the same group
• Connections: objects that are connected by lines are part of the same group
• Enclosure: objects that are enclosed within the same border are part of the same group
See below for a visual illustration of how these can be applied:
Some example slides where these principles are applied can be found in a webinar, entitled PowerPoint: How to Influence and Persuade.
This doesn’t mean you have to reduce the amount of content you have on your slide! It just means you should be thoughtful about how you arrange or present it. Again, you do not want your audience to work hard or spend extra time trying to understand the content you present or the key points you’re trying to convey. Pull the story out and make it easy to understand. We’ll further apply this principle in the next section.
3. Use size, shape and color charts and graphs to tell your story
Data is king these days. We are all exposed to charts and graphs as a main avenue to deliver a message, either as a presenter or the audience. Data-driven assertions are key to effectively persuading an audience. So how do you present data as evidence clearly, while making it easy for your audience to find the clear takeaway?
We often forget that the medium of PowerPoint and chart presentation is twofold: in person presentations and private consumption. For the former, our decks often have a lot of information to convey in what rarely amounts to adequate time for a detailed review or discussion. With the latter, someone is consuming that information when you're not around, which means you aren't there to tell them what to look at. It’s important to pull out the key information you want them to know, whether you're around to deliver it or not.
The first question you need to answer is: What story do you want your data to tell? You should have a story or conclusion that you want the data you present to support. The objective is to present that story or conclusion to the reader without them having to look for it themselves. If they do, you run the risk of them arriving at a different conclusion than the one you are presenting.
Think of your chart or graph as wallpaper on your slide. It’s a lot to look at without one thing to focus on. You want to draw your reader’s eyes to a picture on the wall (your conclusion), so that needs to be discernible from the wallpaper or background it hangs on. How can this be done?
Use size, color, shapes or other effects to differentiate the data you want to share with the reader from the rest of the chart or graph. Essentially, you draw their eyes to what you want them to pay attention to, which not only saves them the trouble of consuming ALL the data you include, but also makes your slide tell a story versus simply presenting information in an open ended (and unpersuasive) fashion.
The slides included within the webinar (linked above) provide some really good examples of how to transform your charts and graphs and make them more compelling. The following before/after example illustrates how impactful the use of size and color can be as you “pull the picture out from the wallpaper”, and also how the use of an explanatory, full sentence slide title can bring so much clarity to the content being presented:
Thanks for making it this far.
We hope these simple tips are beneficial and help you create more persuasive, compelling and structured PowerPoint content. At minimum, we hope these save you some time and energy.
If you have additional questions, comments or would like to engage with us around content development or content management or support needs, we’d love to hear from you. Thanks for your time and interest!
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