Think back on all the presentations you have ever sat through. Which presentation comes to mind immediately, and why was it so particularly impressionable? In which phase of your life did you encounter it, and was it effective in conveying its message?
In the digital age where technology practically enables our everyday lives, making a PowerPoint presentation is almost effortless — but an effective one? That takes practice and most importantly, a keen understanding of how to do it.
Making Your Best PowerPoint Presentation — The Ultimate Guide
In this guide, we will be breaking presentations down into the two key components to be considered: content and visuals. Most people get carried away with either, but for a PowerPoint to be sufficiently informative and impressionable, these two must complement each other in order to achieve the perfect balance.
Understand Your Audience
We sometimes ask our clients to think of a PowerPoint presentation as a gift you’re preparing for someone. When selecting a present, you have to keep in mind his / her general background, preferences and needs.
The same goes for creating a presentation; it is essential to familiarize yourself with the style of your audience.
Flashy slides and dramatic transitions may work well with children but not with adults. As such, before you begin working on anything, take a couple of minutes to think about the people you are reaching out to. It will help you determine how important it is to impress them, and how much consideration you’ll need to give to your presentation.
a. Set a purpose and objective
Spontaneous presentations are fun (try them out sometime!), but chances are, if you’re reading this, you’re creating a presentation for a specific task.
With that in mind, ask yourself what you hope to accomplish. Is it to deliver your content in 15 slides, or 20 minutes? Is it to achieve a certain conversion rate after the presentation? Knowing and keeping a clear idea of what your goal is can help you measure the success of the presentation, and gauge what is required to fulfil your objectives, which can be a huge time-saver.
To put it simply — if there is no purpose or objective, there is no reason to give the presentation.
b. Use Ethos, Pathos and Logos
Language is a powerful medium through which ideas are conveyed, and one good way to manipulate it is through the use of Ethos, Pathos and Logos. Ethos calls upon the ethics or values of the speaker, Pathos evokes emotions in the audience and Logos relies on logic by using evidence and facts to persuade.
While a delicate balance of all three is the ideal scenario, it is likely that there will be one aspect that warrants greater attention. For instance, if you’re giving a talk at a university, an appeal to ethics and boosting your credibility as an established figure is what will hook your audience’s attention and convince them that you are worth listening to.
On the other hand, if you’re a representative of a non-profit organization calling for donations, pathos would appear to be the most significant tool, as the most important thing would be to move the hearts of your audience, compelling them to take action.
Work on Your Content First
When you begin developing your presentation, it’s easy to get carried away with designing; who doesn’t like pretty images? While it is cool (we love our jobs!), try focusing on getting your content right first, as it will influence your layout to a certain extent. Generally, we recommend starting with understanding your objectives and the audience who will view your presentation.
Then arrange your presentation in a coherent and compelling manner; we usually do this through a storyboard, but you can do it in any way that works for you.
Once you’ve got a general outline down, work on selecting your main visuals and the overall look of the presentation such as the colour, fonts, and background. You can then put it all together in PowerPoint based on what you’ve planned.
Prepare Detailed Handouts or Publications for Your Audience
Regardless of the size of the audience you are addressing, PowerPoint presentations with too many visuals and too little text can be virtually meaningless without the speaker’s narration.
Most people are aware of the benefits of having more visuals than text, but what they don’t know is the importance of putting in the effort to create a detailed, written handout as a takeaway from the presentation for the audience to reflect on and refer to.
There is, unfortunately, little point in having your audience remember the stunning graphics you had but not the main points of your sharing.
Be sure to spare a few more minutes and include the key points of your presentation in the handout so that it does not become a fleeting work that will not survive beyond your vocalization of the points. This is especially important when your presentation is packed with essential information that you want the audience to retain.
The creation of detailed handouts also serves another practical function, which is to cater to any interested parties who might have missed the presentation due to various reasons, or for audience members who attended your talk to spread the word. The space to absorb the information conveyed in your
Presentation through a written handout also caters to people who are more used to reading on their own — just like how some people prefer to sit in for lectures, whereas others prefer to do their self-studying in peace and quiet. Regardless, having these handouts ensures that no one is neglected.
Create User-Friendly Exports
With technology being ingrained into our everyday lives, you may find yourself in a situation where you are asked to send an online copy of your PowerPoint presentation to someone else. While that sounds easy, measures should be taken to ensure that the version the other party receives and looks through is how you want it to be seen.
Never assume that your deck will look the same on all platforms; if the other party does not have PowerPoint installed on their computer or is using a completely different version of it, it might very likely result in your slides appearing differently. This means that your alignment might be off, fonts are not displayed correctly, or worse, that your speaker’s notes are clearly seen in the presentation file.
Thankfully, there is one easy solution to prevent this — export your presentation as a PDF so that everything will remain as it is, and no changes can be made to it. This can be achieved through File > Export > Create PDF.
Remember: You may have the best PowerPoint presentation, but you still need to be prepared for all possible scenarios as much as possible!
Familiarize Yourself with the Functions in PowerPoint
If you’ve ever faced the problem of Googling repeatedly to locate several functions in PowerPoint, you may not be making full use of the convenience that this beautiful program offers.
There is a ribbon, or a toolbar, that runs along the top of the PowerPoint window which contains most of the commands that are used frequently. The ribbon is organized into tabs, and each tab contains a group of related sources. For instance, in the “Review” tab, you can find some of the most commonly used tools that may be useful, such as checking for spelling and grammatical errors or activating the thesaurus.
Before you start working on your presentation, take a few minutes to run through the functions available again. Afterward, you will find that your process becomes much more efficient, as you won’t have to waste time searching for a particular function. The same goes for keyboard shortcuts; using Ctrl / Command + c & v is much faster than using your mouse to search for the copy and paste functions. Moreover, learning about the different functions that exist may just get your creative juices flowing as inspiration can come from that knowledge.
In addition, PowerPoint also has a Quick Access Toolbar which can be placed in two possible locations, depending on your preference. It is a customizable toolbar containing a set of commands that are independent of the displayed ribbon. Buttons that represent commands can be added to the Quick Access Toolbar, and this toolbar will always remain visible, which means your creation process will become that much simpler and more efficient.
Create a Captivating Cover Title
Picture your presentation as an advertisement. Summarize your entire presentation in a phrase, 7 words or less, that you want your audience to take away. The key here is to make it a compelling one — for instance, benefit statements such as “Boosting Sales Through Technology” for a sales pitch will work well in helping your audience understand the most important message being conveyed in the presentation.
We recommend introducing the phrase right at the start so that the audience has ample time to familiarize themselves with the goal of your pitch.
Use Impactful Closing Techniques
Depending on the presentation that you are giving, a strong ending is pretty much the cherry on top, and it determines whether your audience walks away with a good impression of your presentation. There are multiple closing techniques and choosing one mostly depends on the sort of presentation that you are giving.
Here’s a general guide based on the three most prominent styles of presentation — persuasive, informative, and introductory:
For persuasive presentations, where your main aim is to convince your audience to believe in the argument that you are making, offer a new perspective or angle for your audience to contemplate over. While your ending slide should definitely reiterate your overall points, offering a new perspective or angle would give your audience an opportunity to reflect, as well as provide an impression that you have looked at the issue at hand from a myriad of perspectives.
For informative presentations, it would be ideal to end your session with a Q&A session. Give your audience members a chance to clarify any questions they might have on the spot and at the same time, present a reliable image of yourself by being familiar with the content of your slides. If you’re thrown a question that you can’t answer, don’t panic! Thank the audience for his/her question and say that you will look into the matter before getting back to him/her. Be sure to do so, else you’ll lose your credibility. While you should know the topic like the back of your hand, there will be times where we’re offered a perspective or question that we’ve never considered, and that’s alright- just remember to remain calm and collected.
For introductory presentations such as business pitches, end off by including a call to action. Offer them a good reason to take action and be clear with what you’re trying to accomplish by bringing it forward in your last slide. Practice delivering your conclusion and engage the audience with eye-contact and emotions as you wrap up for a strong finish.
Choose the Right Visuals
Less is not always more, but when it comes to a PowerPoint presentation, less is definitely more. In order to convey a clear and memorable message, it is essential to ensure that your presentation relies on a simple visual system. Focus on simplicity so that your audience will not be distracted by visuals.
Think of their attention span as limited — use only a few colours and fonts that are pleasant to read to keep them there with you. Ensure that your brand or message remains consistent throughout and one way to do that is through understanding colour psychology.
Studies have shown that our brains are generally more inclined to prefer recognizable brands, which makes colour incredibly important when creating a brand identity. Bolder suggestions that highlight the importance of new brands using the loco palette colours that ensure differentiation from entrenched competitors have been made as well. Aside from simply standing out, surveys conducted have also shown that different genders are actually more receptive to certain colours. As such, you might want to consider doing a little bit of research yourself and recognizing which gender you would like to place greater emphasis on before choosing a colour scheme.
The general guideline is that men seem to prefer bold colours while women prefer softer colours. Also, men were more likely to select shades of colours as their favourites (colours with black added), whereas women were more receptive to tints of colours (colours with white added).
However, this differs from case to case and in different cultures as well. As such, the main takeaway is that colours play a greater role than you can ever imagine, so do not neglect its importance in the difference it can make in your presentation. Do a little more research on your own before you decide on your colour branding.
Organize Your Presentation
PowerPoint has multiple features that will allow you to reconsider the order of your slides and convey the essential information in the simplest way possible. Think of your presentation as an argument — it has to flow coherently so that your audience can follow through without feeling confused or overwhelmed.
The Slide Sorter View function is a great way for you to run through everything that you have on hand and decide the following things: whether there is any information you can afford to omit or have missed out, and how you can rearrange your information in a way that is smooth and easy to follow. Read through your slides again as if you were looking at them for the first time and read out the information as you would when presenting.
At the same time, pay attention to the details in your visuals and ensure that the alignment, colours, and fonts are consistent. The key is for the presentation to be informative but not overwhelming, and eye-catching but not to the point of it being distracting.
To take it one step further, there is an art to how you should organize your material as well. Masterful presenters deliberately arrange their presentation in a specific order that motivates the audience to take action. Just like in an essay, your presentation should always be ordered in this format: problem, solution, and call-to-action.
Start with the problem by pointing out what your audience is currently facing without your product in the case of a sales pitch, then go on to present your product information as the solution.
You should be targeting their pain points; giving them reasons why they should hear you out and show them that you can make their lives better with your solution. In the last section, motivate them to take action by providing details on how they can do so, such as including the price of your product and a contact number they can reach to obtain any clarifications.
Lastly, to boost your overall credibility, it would be ideal to include good reviews that can serve as reliable testimonials and lock in your audience’s desire to do whatever it is you are encouraging.
Bonus: The Importance of Good Work Ethics
Creating your best PowerPoint presentation takes time and effort, and good work ethics serve as a guide in helping you achieve it. If you want a TLDR (too long; didn’t read) version of this article, read this section, as it serves as the foundation for what we’ve shared throughout. Think of it as three P’s: preparation, productivity, and priorities.
We’ve seen clients attempt to rush out presentations last minute hoping to achieve miracles — some do, but many ultimately fall short of expectations. A compelling presentation doesn’t happen overnight; even we ourselves, after so many years of experience, cannot create one in such limited time.
This is why we emphasize the necessity of having good work ethics which helps to keep you grounded and focused on creating the best you can. Before you even begin developing your presentation, it is important to acknowledge that preparation is key to creating a compelling one.
Constantly remind yourself of this as you go along as if you try to ‘wing it’, you’ll find yourself producing lacklustre results that not only reflect badly on you but also on your organization.
Regardless of why you’re creating this presentation, you’ll likely have other tasks on your plate. Managing your time is incredibly important, as it is easy to lose track of time and find yourself rushing through slides last minute. If you rarely do presentations or this is your first time, plan carefully the steps you’ll need to take. Decide how much time you can and should spend on each step, then start working on your presentation. Diving in without any planning in advance will cause you to waste time not really doing anything.
Understanding what your priorities are for the presentation helps in increasing your productivity. For example, think of the standard your presentation must achieve before you can share it. Your utmost priority is to ensure that your presentation reaches that standard minimally. Even if things go wrong, having a presentation that is good enough is better than having none.
The making of a great PowerPoint presentation is not easy and we know that. We’ve worked on countless presentations over the years- yet from time to time, we still face difficulty in trying to present our clients’ materials in the best way possible. What helps us is a set of tried and tested methods that serve as our foundation, some of which we’ve shared with you today. The tips offered in this guide are not overly complicated and should be mastered so you can work towards creating your own set of compelling and effective slides. We believe that with practice, you too, can create your best PowerPoint presentation effortlessly. Good luck!