7 Points of Effective Presentation: Killer Powerpoint Slides

I am going through a “killer presentation” sent over by a client, and I am excited….

I am excited because I see that we have a good topic for a successful coaching session:  it will bring immediate result. Actually, I see two successful sessions coming, because every presentation is built on two pillars: the slide stack and the delivery.

(Note: in some companies, the PowerPoint format is used as a document; here we are talking about speaker’s slides).

Let’s work on the first pillar today: preparing the presentation slides.

Below are the 7 key points that many presenters forget about. Based on my experience with clients of very different level and background, these steps are easy to remember and repeat.

1. Define your overall goal

Even if you are in a rush, take good time to think of the purpose and desired result of your presentation.

You may hear about several types of presentation (informative, instructional, inspirational, etc.), but in business environment, most presentations will have two objectives:

  • to inform
  • to obtain a decision.

For example, a status report or a business review presentation usually informs the management on what’s done (% complete), what’s planned for the next period, and what support is necessary to stay on plan. If all is good, you will probably want to show off your team’s excellence and make sure they receive a well-deserved recognition – which is a sound objective as well.

If you just explain to a group of employees how the newly installed software package is going to work, then probably you want to your audience to start using the new software – and that you must reflect in your presentation, too.

In all cases, you need to make sure that your needs are clear and the audience walks out of the meeting committed to support your case.

Therefore, start with clear identification and listing of your goals and of the key members of your target audience. Better still, prepare the two lists prepared before you start working on the slides.

2. Estimate and plan

Now, with the end goal in mind, you need to do some time planning. If your “air time” is one hour, consider reserving 20 minutes for Q&A. That leaves you with 40 minutes of actual presenting time. You will fill it with information that your audience will benefit from.

For planning purposes, assume that presenting every slide will take you 2 minutes on average. Then your presentation will be about 20 slides long, including the title slide and perhaps the last slide (contact, thank-you etc.) I simplify the estimation on purpose: It is probable that something will cause a delay or slowdown. That can push out and negatively impact the end of the presentation – usually the most important part. However, if the opposite happens and you are a few minutes ahead of schedule, nobody will complain; so this approach helps to build in some safety.

3. Start with a storyboard

If you create the presentation with a team, use the whiteboard; if you are working alone, a sheet of paper will do. Draw 20 rectangles – your future 20 slides. On these rectangles, you will place key points and graphs that you plan to present to your audience.

The first slide is the title slide, the last one is a thank-you slide (optional). You may also mark right away the “call-to-action” slide, where you will clearly sugget the expected decision.

4. Put your thoughts on paper

Distribute your message across the remaining slides. You should not have more than one subject per slide, perhaps with three to five bullet points supporting the subject. When writing up the bullet-point text, make it short. Text-heavy slides are depressing and make it difficult to keep your listeners focused on the message.

5. The looks

With the presentation’s space and time aspects defined, you should now pick up a template. If you are in a corporate environment, you do not have much choice there. If you do not have to use the corporate template, selecting a template will always make sense because this will create a consistent look and feel, so that your slide deck visually represents one continuous story. Apply the selected template, and now your presentation is almost done. You will need to adjust individual slides so that the content fits well with the applied template. Some of your points may read differently now and may require some editing, but the number of slides and the information in them will not change.

6. Special note on the presentation ”aesthetics“

Graphic design is an art, and not everybody will excel in it. To ensure that your slides look professional and improve your chances of achieving the goal (having the audience convinced and committed), remember: with slide decks, less is always more. Just Google for “[major consultancy] presentation template” – and you will see “About 500,000 results” confirming the following basic rules:

  • simple background – or no background at all;
  • only one or two fonts throughout the presentation;
  • no fancy bullets or fonts;
  • presentation color palette has 2 colors, with colors 3 and 4 used only for a special reason;
  • no entertaining graphic elements, only graphs, charts and tables proving your point;
  • only simple charts are used; they may have been redrawn in order to be “readable” and consistent with the presentation looks;
  • no “on-tap” clip-art, not even one, period;
  • no animated transitions between the slides; sometimes the same basic transition is used throughout the presentation;
  • animations are used ONLY when they specifically help the narrative (and the presentation is NOT to be available in hard copy).

7. Final bits and pieces

  • Proofread your presentation (at least keep the spellchecker on at all times).
  • Make sure that every slide shows a number (helps a lot if you drop your hard copy).
  • Make sure that the slides have the right size and aspect ratio.
  • Have the version number “embedded” in the presentation and reflected in the file name (if appropriate); this helps to avoid confusion when changes and corrections are introduced into the slides.
  • Save and distribute the file in .pdf format; that will ensure that everybody gets the same output on their monitors or when they print out a copy; bonus: you do not have to delete your personal notes.
  • Have the presentation ready and sent out to the audience at least one full working day before the event.

Although these rules sound simple and obvious, only professional presenters remember to observe them. Follow these rules, and I guarantee that your next presentation will stand out.

If you have an important presentation coming, get in touch with me here or on LinkedIn for a quick confidential assessment and feedback.

In the meantime, I will go through these steps with my client.

Next week we will talk about the second pillar – delivery.

See you then!

Please, be generous, do not forget to share this knowledge with your network.