Thursday, March 4, 2010

Powerful Presentations

Mark Shead at Productivity501 provides some tips for developing Powerful Presentations

Here are some of the principles I try to follow in creating presentations. Your mileage may vary, but this is what seems to work well for me.

Focus Attention

I like to use the visual presentation to focus people’s attention on what I’m saying and to help keep myself on track. If my slides make people stop listening to what I’m saying, they aren’t helping me. I keep my slides very clear–a white background and no header or footer. I’ve been debating whether or not I should add my company logo to each slide, but so far I’ve decided to leave it off in the interest of keeping everyone focused on what I’m talking about right then.

Minimal Words on Slides

Most of my slides contain a single word. A few contain a single sentence. This is very different than most presentations where the presenter seems to think they get paid more by fitting more words on a slide. My slide deck for a 60-minute presentation might be 50 to 70 slides long and only contain a total of 100 words.



I use images where possible. Sometimes I use them in addition to a word on the slide and sometimes I simply use an image. For example, in a recent talk, I wanted to give an example from the management practices of a casino. I could have had a slide that said ‘Casino Example,’ but instead, I just used a photo of a slot machine. It helped get people’s attention and I don’t think adding text would have made it work any better. What I think would have been worse is to say ‘Casino Example’ and then try to fit a couple hundred words on the slide of what I planned to tell them in person.


Anchoring and Context


At the very beginning of a presentation, I like to lay out a general plan of what we are going to discuss. For example, the plan might be:

  • Introduction
  • Foundational Principles
  • Strategies
I actually do this before the introduction–before I’ve even really introduced myself or the topic if the audience already has an idea of the content. That way when I do the introduction and then move on to the next section, we have already established a pattern and expectations. In the example above, if I’m going to discuss 6 foundational principles, I will probably put a slide at the beginning listing all the the principles I want to cover, and then again at the end. That gives people an easy way to see exactly what is coming and helps bring closure to that topic by reviewing it before moving on to the next topic.

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