by Adam Noar
There is nothing more exciting than presenting your pitch to a group of VC investors, your customers, or fellow colleagues in your industry. Conversely, there is also nothing more terrifying than getting up in front of a big audience and knowing that what you say or do in the next ten minutes could make or break your career. So many possibilities are present, and that is why it is up to you to optimize your PowerPoint presentation to woo your audience and make them excited about what you can offer them. Whether you have the next big app to pitch, offer the cure to cancer and world hunger, or perhaps just want to share some of your favorite recipes with some friends (although there are probably better ways of doing so than using PowerPoint), you will definitely benefit by keeping these nine dos and don’ts in mind when you create your presentation. And most importantly, you will beat the competition!
Craft one sentence that sums up your proposal and wins over your audience
Any good copywriter will tell you that if you can’t sum up your idea in one sentence, you probably will not go very far. When it comes to delivering a great presentation, the same is true. Sure, there will be room for exploring some of your key ideas in depth. But especially at the beginning of your presentation and also once in your conclusion, you need to be able to condense all your brilliant ideas into one concise and perfectly weighted sentence. This sentence will be the bedrock of your presentation and at the core of the content you offer up to your audience.
Here are just a few good examples of what that might sound like:
- “This plugin has helped our current clients see their conversion rates increase by 20%.”
- “Using our software has enabled local businesses to save $10 million in annual online marketing campaigns.”
- “My strawberry rhubarb pie is guaranteed to satisfy your sweet tooth and make you feel happy.”
You get the idea—practice writing a few sentences that sum up your message. If you’re still having trouble with it, remember to ask yourself what your audience would want to hear.
Use stunning, beautiful images to inspire your audience, but don’t let them distract from your presentation, either.
One of my favorite moments about designing presentation slides is when I create the presentation design scheme and have to curate a set of images that will complement the topic at hand. In case you have been under a rock, there are so many different, amazing free image databases where you can download commercially available, hi-res photos and images to use in your presentation.
You should definitely go ahead and use an image every slide or so to help set the tone, emphasize your ideas, or simply to provide visual relief against your text. But you should also take care to not go too overboard when you select an image to use in your presentation.
It is a good idea to pick images that match the theme of your presentation, both in terms of the topic at hand and also in terms of the aesthetic. If you are offering a premium service and want to be taken seriously, you want to use images that convey the seriousness of your brand. Likewise, if you are positioning your company as a disruptive, revolutionary force in the market, you want your images selection to reflect that—go for bright or bold colors as well as strong vertical lines when looking for the right image. For more tips on how to pick images for your slides click here.
Whenever possible, use subtle visual cues to express ideas
Such a great way to reduce useless verbiage is to express ideas visually rather than with words. What does that actually mean, in practice? Think of your slide as an infographic, and try designing it accordingly. For example, use icons to illustrate an idea, or insert one or two arrows pointing to the next body of content to guide your audience along visually as you move from one idea to the next. If you do this properly, your presentation will look much less cluttered and you will also be able to save valuable time explaining concepts to your audience because they will already be depicted on the slide. Some other great visual concepts that will help you out include highlighting important ideas in bold, using different colors for key words, or blurring background images to emphasize content in the foreground.
Use the Goldilocks ratio of words – not too many, not too few, just right
A big problem with presentations is that people sometimes get a little too aggressive with their words. All of a sudden, what was supposed to be a quick and short bullet list of three major product features becomes a seemingly endless essay. Before you know it, your audience is asleep and you basically failed.
Generally speaking, less is more, especially when you are writing slides for a presentation. A good tip to follow is to write a complete slide, then review it and take out 20% of the words. Then go over, read your presentation again, and do the same thing one more time, subtracting another 20% of the copy. This will help you achieve a much leaner format and ensure that your ideas are honed into the finest points possible.
On the other hand, it is also crucial to remember not to be too zealous about cutting words. Don’t become some savage word slayer, either! While it is tempting to piece together minimally-constructed talking points, you are not writing a haiku, either.
Use the language your customers are using
This is one of the most underrated ideas in copywriting and sales in general, and there is no reason why you can’t do it with your slide. So do it! The benefits to using the language that your customers, or even your competitors’ customers, language, to describe the features of your product or services are multiple.
First of all, it is always easier to let someone else do the heavy leg work for you, so using language swiped directly from testimonials or product reviews will save you a lot of time (and probably money if you normally pay someone to write your slides). But using customer language is also a really effective way to appeal directly to your audience. Nothing will sound more convincing than reflecting the same words (edited for clarity, of course) right back at your clientele. It will make your audience feel like you empathize with them and are paying attention to their problems. Which, let’s not forget, is the major reason why you are in business in the first place: because you are offering a solution to a problem that other people have. If you write your presentation slides with your customers’ actual words—or at least keep them strongly in mind—it will send a strong and positive message that you listen and you care.
Don’t overdo it with fancy fonts and designs—if in doubt, stick to a minimalist, flat-design aesthetic.
People get a little too design-happy with their presentation slides sometimes; it’s just a fact of life. But it is important to not get too carried away with all the different choices available. There are plenty of really great sources for free fonts that you can use to design beautiful and functional presentation slides. For starters, Adobe Typekit is an excellent resource for downloading elegant fonts that are sure to impress your audience. If you are going to combine multiple fonts, you can check out the marvelous, 100% free app Type Genius, which creates font matches made in Heaven. If you want something a little bit more bold and daring, you can also peruse the lovely variety of fonts on display at Font Squirrel, where all fonts are free, downloadable, and available for commercial use. Here are some nice fonts to get you started.
As for design, there are plenty of great design trends that you should consider following if you are stuck for ideas. Try to stick with balanced color palettes when you create your presentation design scheme because a color combination palette that’s all over the spectrum will be too uncomfortable to lay your eyes upon. A great way to avoid messing up your color selection process is to use the Adobe Color Wheel. While it’s fine to use a few symbols or other graphic design elements to embellish your work, don’t get too aggressive with them—let your words and images speak for themselves. You should also take care to avoid clashing styles from one slide to the next; the more visually unified your presentation appears, the more professional it will look. And the more professional your presentation looks, the better your chances at delivering a winning pitch, convincing customers, or impressing your colleagues (maybe all three).
Don’t lose track of your focus.
There is a great TED talk that you should watch if you ever want to remind yourself why you’re doing what you do. It’s by a guy named Simon Sinek, and it’s called “Start with Why.” Your presentation should answer the question of why—not necessarily each bullet point, but certainly there should be a consistent and overarching answer. Why are you in business? Why is your product or service better than what the competition is offering? Why is your recipe for apple pie so much better than anyone else’s in the neighborhood?
Asking yourself this question will keep your presentation focused like a laser beam on delivering you to your goal, whatever it may be. Why are you reading this article? Because maybe you needed a reminder of how to create a great presentation, obviously! Ask “why” for each slide you add to your presentation and make sure you can answer it—because if you can’t then your audience won’t be able to either.
Don’t forget to talk about you.
Your audience wants to know who is behind those great ideas you are sharing with them. So do not hesitate to share your story and give yourself a bit of character to help paint a fuller picture of your company or product. These days, who you are is almost as important as what you’re selling, so take the chance to write a quick intro slide that tells your audience who you are and why you decided that you wanted to do whatever it is that you’re doing. Introduce your team if you have one, and give them a quick dose of the spotlight as well. Putting faces to names is a great way to persuade people to work with you or choose your product, so if your audience knows a bit more about you that might prove to be a difference-maker.
Don’t freak out too much!
Keep calm and if you have any doubts, remember that there are tons of other great presentation resources for you here at Presentation Panda. And don’t forget, you didn’t get this far by luck. So hold your head high, follow these tips, and you’ll surely get the results you are looking for.
Coming up with a better, clearer presentation to win over your audience shouldn’t be so daunting anymore, should it? With the right application you can design beautiful and compelling slides that tell your story and beat the competition.
When you design your slide for a big presentation, what are some steps that you take to ensure that you are delivering the best possible pitch? Are there any design dos and don’ts you’d like to share? Let me know what you think below and please try to be as specific as possible. Sound off in the comments below!
Lastly, do you have a friend that could benefit from learning about these presentation design tips? If so, email them the link to this post.
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