March 28, 2014

PowerPoint Surgery: Tips to create presentation slides that make your message stick, not suck -- Guest post by Lee Jackson

There are 300 million PowerPoint users in the world and it's estimated that there are a million presentations happening right now. But most of them are dull or even bad. It's bizarre, and it can really hurt your career.

But there is hope. There is a better way. Here are a couple of tips to help you stand out from the crowd.

Once you have got to the the core of your talk, i.e. what's the main message (what do I want them to take away?) then, and only then - turn to your slide software.

Then the key is to...

Think billboard, NOT document.

This is probably the most important thing I can pass on.

People simply try to do too many things with their slides. Fundamentally, slides are for the audience, not for us the speaker. Although I admit it's tempting, they should not be our crutch. Once we understand that they are for our audience, we design them in a bigger and bolder way.

Feel free to make a word document to hand out after your talk if you like (although no one ever reads those documents in my experience), but don't make your slides in that way. Build them for the bored bloke in row 33.

Nancy Duarte helpfully compared slides to billboards in her book Slide:ology. Imagine you are passing your slides at 50mph on a major road. Could you read them as you drive past? If you can't, they are too complicated and wordy. It's a simple but effective test for us.

Design your slides and, if appropriate, write some handout notes. But, just to be absolutely clear, they are two very separate things. If you're going to produce a presentation slide deck, then do just that - don't be tempted to make it into a handout with a slightly larger font.

Bullets kill.

Bullets don't just kill people, they kill presentations too. Sometimes when I see speakers present a slide with bullet points you can almost feel the people in the room deflate. They may not groan out loud, but they are groaning inside. I've heard it said to limit the words on a slide to 33. I'd say 3-12! Any more than that, then either rephrase, condense or add another slide. Be tough on bullet boredom and the causes of bullet boredom.

Follow these quick tips this week and watch your presentations get better and better. Tell great stories, be yourself and let your slides be your backdrop not your auto-cue. Enjoy.

This article is an excerpt from Lee's book "PowerPoint Surgery: How to create presentation slides that make your message stick," available from Amazon. Lee Jackson is a motivational speaker, PowerPoint surgeon, presentation coach and the author. He's been speaking up front for more than twenty years in many challenging situations.

As well as speaking himself, he loves helping other people to speak well too. He is a fellow of the Professional Speaking Association (PSA) and also the president of the PSA Yorkshire region. He supports the New York Knicks, is a former youth worker and was once an award winning DJ. You can get in touch with him here: via or twitter @leejackson.

On The Everything Page you'll find everything you need to build visibility, credibility and influence through engaging presentations that move your participants into action: freebies, low-cost products and courses, and 1:1 coaching!

2 comments. Please add yours! :

leejacksonuk said...

So true!

Lisa Braithwaite said...

Thanks for stopping by, Lee!

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