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What Makes an Engaging PowerPoint Presentation?


Although there are many different technologies available today to use for presentations, such as Keynote and Prezi, PowerPoint is still by far, the standard for investor and corporate presentations.

The problem with this is that many presenters have been recycling the same PowerPoint presentation for months (years, even) with minimal updates and refreshes. Sure, the cover slide and numbers are revised for each new audience, but what about the visual elements that are critical to keeping any audience engaged with what’s being said? Do any of your powerpoint presentations contain:

  • Two (or more) main competing headings
  • Two (or more) competing images
  • Inconsistent use of “transitions” (fade, wipe, dissolve, flash, etc.)
  • Inconsistent font size and/or style
  • More than three bullet points on a slide
  • More than one chart/graph on a slide

What’s The Point?

It has been proven that your audience will not focus on, much less retain, more than three elements per slide.

Primary: The main point you want the audience to take away needs to be purposely prominent on the slide.

Secondary: This element supports the primary point, whether a background image, design element to emphasize the primary, or supporting content to enhance the primary point.

Tertiary: A subtle design element that lends balance to the overall look and feel of the slide without overpowering the secondary or primary items.

Get To The Point

The old rule of thumb “one slide for every 5 minutes of speaking” definitely does not apply to today’s information-saturated, instant gratification society. That means a “short, sweet, to the point and then move on” strategy.

If you have more than three bullet points on any given slide, and then attempt to address each bullet point with detailed verbal explanation, you are inviting your audience to lose interest.

Your engaging PowerPoint presentation should be so much more than slide after slide of bullet points. It is the compelling visual story of the dynamics of your company that sets you apart from the rest of the crowd. There are numerous ways to illustrate your message without relying on 10-year-old PowerPoint techniques of “stylized bullet points and dissolves.”            

Pictures are worth a thousand words — take a bit of time to consider using an image to convey a message, rather than words. Obviously, this can’t be done for all slides, but images sprinkled throughout shows your audience you’ve put some thought into what you’re presenting “just for them” (and they’re not busy trying to read a bunch of distracting words on a slide).

Design — a lot of time, the human eye can’t discern why they think something is visually appealing—it just is. Yes, PowerPoint slides need design consideration as much as your annual report or corporate collateral. Use of color, font and balanced placement go a long way in turning “ho-hum” slides into an engaging presentation. If you have never had your PowerPoint slide deck templates professionally designed, it is highly suggested.

Crib Notes—Not Cue Cards

PowerPoint slides should be designed to be a support to the speaker—not act as a crutch. Each slide should display just enough information to remind yourself of what you should say, rather than a word for word transcript. Not only does that technique insult your audience, but it implies your message is not fresh, current and specifically crafted to them.

Rather than “click – talk, click – talk,” have your presentation rehearsed and polished before stepping foot “on stage.” Successful presenters have every slide and every transition memorized and timed to keep the pace going throughout the presentation. They don’t need to continually look at the screen to know where they are in their message—again, they rely on their PowerPoint slides to enhance and support what they’re saying, not talk for them.

Even though PowerPoint has been around for a while, it can still be a viable tool to craft a visually engaging, memorable presentation—and that’s what the end goal is for any presenter!

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