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How To Write Engaging Content For Your Slides (15 Simple Presentation Tips)

by Adam Noar

Great presentations have two key elements …

1)    Good design

And

2)    Powerful content

Over the last few months I’ve shared lots of presentation tips on how to handle the “design” part by showing you how to create awesome PowerPoint images, and also where to find good stock images, and presentation templates.

In this post I’m going to be focusing on the “content” piece by sharing 15 writing tips that will help you choose the RIGHT WORDS for each slide.

Follow these writing tips, and you will be well on your way to producing effective presentations that will leave your audience with a strong impression.

But first, I’ve got to let you in on a little secret …

You don’t have to write like Ernest Hemingway to produce KILLER presentations.

All you have to do is connect with your audience by delivering your information in a concise yet emotional way.

On with the writing tips!

Presentation Tip #1. Plan, Plan, Plan

Planning out the content for your slides is essential.

It is the difference between producing an effective presentation versus a boring one.  Although planning or crafting the design of your presentation is important, it’s just as important to spend time planning and writing your presentation.

As you all know, producing a presentation can be quite time consuming. So, if possible, choose a topic that will keep you interested and stimulated during the planning and actual presentation. Once you have identified a topic, start brainstorming ideas and taking down notes. Consider creating an outline of your main talking points to help with the flow of your presentation. This will also help you plan the order of your slides.

Here are a few things to consider before you get started with the writing process of your presentation:

  • What kind of presentation do you need to give?
  • Who is your audience?
  • How much does your audience already know about your topic?
  • How much do you already know?
  • What are you trying to achieve?

Remember, every audience is different. Therefore, it’s important to learn as much as you can about the people you are going to be presenting to and then custom tailor your slides to that audience.

By answering the questions above you will have a better idea on how to craft your content for your specific audience.

You may be tempted to skip this step and go straight into writing your slides …

Don’t!

By thoroughly doing your research in advance, you’ll save time in the long run by knowing exactly what to write for each slide.

Presentation Tip #2. Use Simple Words

You don’t have to be a literary genius to produce effective presentations.

In fact, you are doing a DISSERVICE to your audience by being too eloquent or wordy. Use accessible and easily understandable words, such as those you would use in a conversation.

Otherwise, prepare to have your audience tune out!

Presentation Tip #3. Avoid Corporate Speak 

Use YOUR voice.

There are good reasons why corporate speak should be avoided in your next presentation, mainly in order to prevent confusion and boredom.

Buzzwords, jargon, and acronyms may be familiar to YOU but often times they can be foreign to EVERYONE ELSE.

So, unless you are speaking to a specific group of people who are familiar with your industry, avoid using highly technical or industry-specific language.

Remember, clear and precise communication will always achieve the best results.

Using words that will resonate with your audience will make your message more comprehensible and memorable.

Unlike jargon, ACRONYMS could be quite useful ONCE YOU’VE DEFINED THEM FIRST. Be sure to use the entire name first to give acronyms meaning.

If you find yourself using acronyms without explanation, then most likely your audience will stop listening and following. If you’re presentation is lengthy, you might benefit from sprinkling in a few acronyms here and there. However, I recommend you use the full name occasionally, such as in a slide transitioning to a new section.

Although jargon and the use of acronyms have become increasingly popular on social media, it doesn’t make it acceptable to use them on a presentation. Simply, it is not professional.

One way to cross check this by recording yourself talking (when you’re ready to rehearse your presentation). When you play back the audio you will get another feel for how your slides are coming across. If it doesn’t sound like a 5th grader would be able to get what your saying go back and see where you can re-write things to make it more relatable.

Presentation Tip #4. Present In Threes

People remember the points in your presentation better if you speak in threes.

Consider such well-known phrases:

Duty, God and Country

Faith, Hope and Love

Up, Up and Away

The list goes on FOREVER.

Presentation Tip #5. Write Shorter Sentences

Don’t overload your slides with too much text or data.

Less is more.

You will be talking through your ideas and you want your audience to be listening rather than reading.

If your audience is reading the slides than most likely they are not paying attention to you.  Remember, getting your message across is the main goal. So, eliminate long sentences and stick to a few key words.

Too much text makes the slides unreadable. Therefore, keep your sentences short and their structure simple.

Note: If you want to see some good examples of how to create slides with minimum text check out my Twitter IPO presentation review.

Avoid writing lengthy sentences. In order to captivate your audience and keep them engaged, stick to a 5th grader’s reading level and vocabulary.

Remember, your writing needs to be readable and understandable. The key is to write shorter sentences that are easy to follow. I can assure you that following this writing tip will not take away from your writing and presentation having flow, style or purpose.

Presentation Tip #6. Use Power Words

Using the RIGHT CHOICE of words can be very powerful.

They have the ability to inspire, motivate, and persuade. Commit to using power words into your writing and you’ll instantly produce more effective presentations.

It’s important to choose your words wisely because they will either help or hinder the delivery of your message. Specific words have the ability to tap into your audience’s emotions, a powerful tool for persuasion.

So, learn to engage your readers emotionally. Make your audience feel something!

Great presentations engage the audience emotionally while emphasizing the message with key words.

Here are some ATTENTION GETTING WORDS to help you deliver a PERSUASIVE message:

Advice, Afraid, Astonishing, Awesome, Beware, Bottom Line, Breakthrough, Competitive Edge, Cutting Edge, Daring, Dirty Tricks, Discover, Eliminate, Elite, Enhance, Expert, Facts, Favorable , Free, Incredible, Learn, Naked, New, Opportunities, Poor, Required Knowledge, Reveal, Secret, Sex, Stronger, Survive, Taste, Threat, Tools, Triggers, Trap, Unexpected, Victim

Presentation Tip #7. Use Startling Statistics

A great way to get you audience’s attention is to hit them with a surprising statistic.

Just remember to include ONLY the numbers and statistics that are necessary to make your point.

Also where possible, round to the nearest whole number.

A good examples was found with Twitters IPO presentation that had a slide that read

“350B Tweets published since being founded”

This is the type of statement that grabs your attention and makes you want to continue listening.

Presentation Tip #8. Use Repetition

We learn through repetition.

Habits, beliefs, values and self-image have been learned through repetition.

So, make sure to repeat key words and phrases throughout your presentation when appropriate.

Just remember to be creative when doing this to avoid frustrating your audience

Here’s one approach …

First, start each speech with a story that links naturally into your subject. People love stories and will hang on every word.

Second, pick a powerful statement or quote and repeat it throughout your talk, inviting the audience to repeat it along with you. As they say, this gets everyone in the group singing off the same page of the hymn book.

It is very powerful.

Presentation Tip #9. Use Powerful Headlines

Put effort into making compelling and concise headlines that will speak directly to your audience. Remember, headlines are the first impression, which must entice your audience to continue listening to what you have to say.

Here’s an example of a compelling headline:

“The World’s Thinnest Notebook”

Steve Jobs used this concise and to the point headline to introduce the MacBook Air in 2008. As you can see by this example, Job’s language was remarkably simple, yet powerful.

Like Jobs, be sure to dedicate time to craft headlines that are quick to read and easy to remember. Use everyday language that paints a picture for your audience to visualize.

For more examples of how Steve Jobs used compelling headlines and content for his presentations I recommend checking out Carmine Gallo’s book The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs.

Writing powerful headlines for your slides takes some thought. But with just a little practice, you can be on your way to creating compelling headlines that sell your story to your audience.

Presentation Tip #10. Use Analogies And Metaphors

Analogies and metaphors permeate our lives.

Advertising uses analogies and metaphors to get attention and further understanding.

Analogies and metaphors can be single words or expressions. The more complex your subject, the more important it is to use analogies and metaphors.

Just make sure that your analogy or metaphor actually helps your presentation. Using a complex analogy to support complex material is frustrating for your audience.

Presentation Tip #11. Use A Storytelling Approach

You probably already know that telling a great story is a powerful presentation skill. The way you set yourself apart and make your presentations more memorable is to use a storytelling approach.

Be sure to incorporate your facts, images, statistics, and points into relatable stories that your audience will remember.

And don’t forget to make it flow!

However, be sure to avoid independent, disconnected bits of information and images. Show that you know what your story is and tell it clearly by putting together a logical sequence of ideas.

Always follow the sequence of beginning, middle, and end throughout your slides.

Remember, your goal is to get your audience to continue to listen to what you have to say and to show that it will be worth their time. For more storytelling tips check out my article on how to tell a story.

Presentation Tip #12. Involve Your Audience

Be sure to involve your audience when telling your stories or utilizing power words. You can do so by addressing your audience in second person, and using the pronouns “YOU,” “YOUR,” and “YOURS.”

Be sure to use a conversational tone rather than a formal tone. This will significantly impact your audience.

Another way to involve your audience is to simply frame your headlines as a question.

By asking questions, you deepen audience understanding and conviction. The best questions are ones that get your audience thinking, shock them to attention or get their agreement.

Involving your audience engages them directly and makes it more likely they’ll continue to listen to what you have to say. Otherwise, your audience will most likely tune out and fail to absorb your ideas and insights.

Presentation Tip #13. Sprinkle In Some Alliteration

A sequence of words beginning with the same sound seems to register with people.

Here are some examples

“Big, Bold, and Beautiful”

“Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers”

“Life is like riding a bike”

You get the idea.

Presentation Tip #14. Communicate Confidence

Do you want to impact people with your presentation?

Then be direct, passionate, and unyielding. Take a stand with your words on each slide.

Don’t hedge. Don’t use the passive voice.

Nothing will help your presentation more than communicating your passion and confidence. So be sure to be firm and purposeful in your writing and presentation delivery.

For example, never include words like “in my opinion.”

Your audience already knows it’s your opinion.

Rather, write with certainty and your audience will recognize your belief and confidence. This will add credibility to your message or story. Remember, you are the EXPERT.

Your audience deserves a confident message. If you don’t believe fully in what you’re presenting, then why are you presenting at all?

Presentation Tip #15. Don’t Forget To Take A Break

Taking a break is actually a useful writing technique that is often overlooked. You may be wondering, “How exactly can taking a break from writing help your writing?” Well, research indicates that taking a break is good for mental energy. You need mental energy to write creatively in a simple, clear, and direct way.

Taking walks or going for a run before I start working on my slides gives me a creativity boost and helps focus my thoughts. I find that shaking up my routine has sometimes led me to write some of my best material.  Sometimes great ideas come to mind when I’m not even writing. Rather, I’m walking my dog, exercising or taking a shower. So remember, it’s okay to take a break!

Conclusion

Memorable presentations are the combination of beautiful visuals and carefully crafted content.

Coming up with engaging content takes planning and precision.

Your audience will notice and appreciate the extra time you spent refining your words.

Here’s my question for you

Now that you have learned a little bit about writing tips for more effective presentations, do you think that you will try using these presentation tips? Why or why not? If you already use these tips, which ones do you find most helpful?

Please try to be as specific as possible.

One Last Thing

Do you have a friend that is in need of presentation tips and could benefit from learning about these writing tips? If so, send them a link to this article by using the sharing buttons below.

Finally, if you found these presentation tips helpful, please remember to like and share using the sharing buttons to the left!

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Image Credits: Typewriter by Nada AlYafaei from The Noun Project

Presentation tips  - Check out my ebook Slides Made Slimple Now!

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  • Mary

    Excellent. I am a great believer in tip #6 (power words) and make a habit of writing and rewriting my presentation before giving it. Thanks for the tips. Great post.

    • Thanks Mary. Glad you enjoyed it :) While we all want to power through our slides in one take, doing rewrites is often necessary to make sure we are connecting.

  • Becky R

    Very informative post. I really appreciate your work. Helpful tips throughout the article. Good job Adam.

    • Glad to help Becky. Let me know how I can help in the future

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