Perfect PowerPoint Procedures

I’m conflicted by PowerPoint.

It certainly has its virtues, but it has a Mr. Hyde side lurking in dark alleys.  For my own use, PowerPoint is a great cue card that helps me make presentations with less anxiety.  But, I use as little of it as I can.  Most people, however, use as much PowerPoint as they are able to jam into a presentation. The result is often poor communications, presentations that go on longer than they have to with less real connection between the presenter and the audience.

Recently I helped a client with his PowerPoint.  It was quite long and packed with clip art, catch phrases, a dozen typefaces and no design scheme to the information.  It was a dog’s breakfast, as the Canadian’s like to say.  I went through the slides and eliminated a dozen, consolidated more, removed most of the clip art, standardized the fonts and design, and eliminated duplicity.  The client, upon seeing the slides said that they didn’t excite him.  There was no “pizzazz”.  Which brings up an observation about PowerPoint.  You are the star of your presentation, not the slides.  You are the excitement of the pitch, not the PowerPoint.  You are the pizzazz.

PowerPoint is not there to be the comedian that gets a chuckle from the audience from some obscure photo or clip art,  or a cartoon of a man sticking his head in the sand.  If you’re taking up the audience’s time, give them value. If they want chuckles, they can watch Curb Your Enthusiasm.

PowerPoint has made us lazy presenters.  We think we’re working hard as we churn out a hundred slides for a 50 minute presentation, but the opposite is true.  Our real message is now buried in some obscure slide that has a rainbow and elves running around on it.

Slides need to communicate.  They need to help you make your point.  Steve Jobs did it with one or two words on a slide and spectacular photography.  My guess is that you don’t have the same art department and the same resources to create the perfect visuals for your slides.  Better then to not use any visuals.  All-type slides are fine, as long as you haven’t stuffed each slide with hundreds of words.

PowerPoint made us lazy because we no longer think about what we want to communicate, but how.  The “how” is certainly important but it should come into play after you know what you want to say and why you want to say it to a specific audience.

Unfortunately,  when people are told they have to make a presentation, their knee jerk reaction is to start by building a slide deck.

Instead, let’s start by identifying what your message is to the audience, and how can you best package that message so that it is an obvious benefit to everyone listening, because…the bigger the benefit it is to them, the more they will listen and the more they will respond and the more they will hire your firm.

Ask yourself this question as you begin to think about your presentation.  “When the presentation is over, what one thing do I want the audience to remember after I’m gone?”  Make sure that one thing is a benefit to the audience.  Now package that one thing  – the takeaway  –  into the open and close of the presentation. Use the middle to demonstrate the importance of the takeaway.

DO NOT USE THE POWERPOINT TEMPLATE YET. Sketch out the presentation on paper as you visualize the information being dealt out to the audience. Visualize how the audience reacts to that information. Visualize yourself telling them that information.

When you have the paper version where you want it, start to transfer it to the PPT template.  You don’t need to do it word for word.  Think of a single word or sentence that captures the gist of each major point.

I won’t bore you with all of the rules of effective PowerPoint, but keep the word count low, the font size large, and clip art nonexistent.  If you have strong graphics that truly add to the presentation and demonstrate the point you are making, by all means use them.  If they are really strong, they probably don’t need any other thing on the screen but the picture.  If you still have to add words to the slide, perhaps the graphic isn’t as strong as you thought.

Try to stick to Guy Kawasaki’s 10/20/30 rule.  No more than 10 slides, presented in 20 minutes.  The font size on the slides is at least 30 point type.

Consider opening your presentation with a black screen.  The reason this is effective is because when slides are on the screen, the audience looks at the screen.  When the screen is black, the audience looks at the presenter.  What a great opportunity to connect with the audience and deliver your opening.  Likewise in the close, go to a black screen again and sum up your presentation, then go back to the slides to ask for some action step.  Most remote control slide changers have a button that allows you to go to a black screen.  If not, simply hit the letter “B” on your keyboard and the screen goes black.

Finally, have a vanity monitor in the room so you can see the PowerPoint without turning around after each slide to see where you are.  This will make you appear to be in complete control of the presentation, which in turn will make you look confident.  People tend to agree with others who they think are confident.

Put your energy into the content and into identifying what the audience values.  Don’t spend too much time on the PowerPoint.  The less you use, the stronger it becomes.

Check out my web site for lots more PowerPoint suggestions, including these:




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