Powerpoint is a powerful communication tool that can be used to inform, teach and persuade. In B2B, Powerpoint is used in a variety of contexts, including:
- Sales presentations (e.g. presenting proposals)
- Getting teams on board with a new idea/strategy
- As an asset to share online with your audience/target market (e.g. on Slideshare)
As a general rule, Powerpoint presentations should be:
- Well-planned - even before you start building your Powerpoint, you should have a clear idea of the structure you're going to take and the story you're going to tell
- Relevant to the audience - content and design should adhere to the expectations/conventions of the audience
- Simplistic - don't try to cram too much information into each slide
- Engaging - employing a combination of visuals, multimedia (if relevant) and narration
Some quick tips from Presentation Advisors:
- Design with your big idea in mind
- Always ask 'Why?'. If you have no reason, remove it.
- Don’t try to tell them everything you know
- Know your content inside and out
- Practice, practice, practice
- Create an experience, not just a presentation
- Use full bleed (all the way to the edge) images when you can
- Understand the rule of thirds
- Include multimedia (but TEST it!)
- Avoid serif fonts
- Learn to love your hotkeys – they save immense amounts of time
- Videotape yourself and watch later
Different Powerpoint styles
BBP: Beyond Bullet Points by Cliff Atkinson
At the essence of BBP presentations is the notion of telling a story. The BBP style uses storytelling to help create presentations that are engaging and memorable. Audiences can only process a limited amount of information at a time, and according to Cliff Atkinson, many presentations overwhelm audiences by presenting too much information on a single slide. According to Cliff, bullet points are the main culprit behind boring, easily-forgettable Powerpoints, because presenters overuse them.
The BBP style advocates removing bullet points completely, and simplifying slides to only the key elements, i.e.:
- Headline - 1-2 lines at then top of the slide to summarise the key point of the slide
- Narration - the presenter explaining the headline in more detail (spending no more than 1 minute per slide)
- Visual - an simple image, video, chart or diagram to support the narration
By doing this, presenters will break information down into smaller, digestible chunks that will be easier for audiences to remember. These 'chunks' should string together to tell a single, coherent story that takes the following structure:
- Set the scene to grab audiences' attention by:
- Defining their situation - what's happening in their environment, and what's their role in all of it?
- Define their problem - what is the challenge they face, that your presentation aims to help them with? Think of this challenge as Point A.
- Define what they want to be - i.e. Point B. What is the ideal situation for them?
- Give them a call to action by telling them what they need from Point A to Point B
- Support your call to action with 3 key points - these will form the focus of your presentation
- Clarify each of your 3 key points with explanation slides - if you need to provide more detail with case studies, examples, or charts, do so in additional slides
- Conclude by restating your call to action and 3 key points
More resources on creating BBP, including storyboard templates to help you structure your presentation, are available here. You can also purchase the eBook here.
Seth Godin uses a presentation style very similar to BBP, with an example available here.
10/20/30 Guy Kawasaki method
Guy Kawasaki applies the 10/20/30 rule to his Powerpoint presentations:
- 10 slides, because humans can't comprehend more than 10 concepts in a meeting
- 20 minutes to deliver your entire presentation. If your meeting is an hour long, leave 40 minutes for discussion
- 30 point font minimises the amount of text placed in the slide, making it easier for audiences to comprehend
A presentation using Guy Kawasaki's method is available here.
Larry Lessig method
Larry's Lessig presentations consist of a quick, rapid progression of images. He narrates over these images, letting the pictures and words work together to tell a story. His style is fast-paced and highly engaging.
See him presenting a Ted talk using his style here.
This method once again focuses on simplicity. It advocates the visualisation of messages in graphics wherever possible. However, it also recognises the importance of context (e.g. less technical topics may benefit more from simplicity than more complicated ones).
A couple of examples around how to apply the 'Presentation Zen' style to slides are available here.
Other examples of good Powerpoint presentation designs are available here.
Enhancing your presentation
A number of devices can be used to support your presentation to make it more engaging, including:
- Multimedia (e.g. video, audio, live demos)
Slides can be enhanced with images, photos, graphs and diagrams. A list of stock photo sites (both free and inexpensive) is available from Presentation Zen.
Some good free stock photo sites include:
You may or may not decide to use Animation (some argue that animations are distracting, while others argue that they make presentations more engaging). If you do decide to use them, a tutorial on creating them is available from Microsoft Office.