Tips to amp up your PowerPoint

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In 1989, Tim Berners-Lee submitted an information management proposal to his manager at  CERN, describing his vision of what would later become the world wide web. The feedback he received was a scribble with only these words: “vague, but exciting”

How often have we been at the receiving end of similar exciting concepts, but dismissed them nonetheless? According to experts, we do it when facts don’t fit our worldview. These knee-jerk reactions are extremely common when we’re vexed–something our familiar (and often misunderstood) friend, M.S. PowerPoint, has seen its fair share of. 

From retired army generals to leaders at Amazon and LinkedIn, the presentation software has left a sour taste in many a mouth. Presentations have been accused of boring or overwhelming audiences, and their use has even been banned by some organizations. 

But whether you hate it or celebrate the idea itself, there’s no denying the large impact PowerPoint has had on our lives. When used correctly, PowerPoint is powerful. 

The secret sauce to acing every presentation lies in understanding the tools. Keep reading for three tips on how you can take your next presentation up a notch. 

Prime your audience

Statistics show that viewers stop paying attention to presentations just 10 minutes in

It’s therefore important to do everything you can to keep your audience engaged–sometimes, a simple sprinkling of color or helpful visuals can do the trick. Taking the time to prime sustains your audiences’ interest in a non-intrusive, nuanced way.  

Priming your audience involves using specific words, images or even smells to elicit specific thoughts or feelings at a later time. In other words, it is the process of getting viewers into the frame of mind most conducive to a given presentation. 

If you present the health benefits of vegetables and are approaching a slide on kale, for example, introducing details that cue the vegetable on the slide prior will help the audience connect the dots. Components could include illustrations, green design elements or other simple visuals. Regardless of which element you choose, viewers’ minds will immediately make the connection when the slide on kale appears. 

Adopt the KIS approach

Say it with us–keep it simple and you’ll keep your viewers happy. This translates into limiting yourself to one key idea per slide. Not only will this allow you to inform your audience without overwhelming them, but it will also keep you from diluting the importance of each piece of information with tangents. 

This doesn’t apply to only text, though–crowding every corner with graphs, animations and (dare we say) logos prevent the key points from being communicated. As posited by Edward Tufte, “PowerPointPhluff” is a trap many presenters fall prey to, replacing serious analysis with chartjunk, over-produced layouts, cheerleader logotypes and branding, not to mention corny clip art. But with the KIS approach, you’ll be able to stay far from the Phluff. 

Pick the right picture

Most people are visual learners and tend to remember more information if it is accompanied with visuals–55% more, in fact. Needless to say, cueing in the right visuals at the right times goes a long way with information retention. This also allows the presenter to freely communicate, without being eclipsed by heavy text. 

Choosing the right color scheme can subtly supplement the visuals chosen, as well. In this vein, it helps to learn which hues best support the foreground elements

The next step 

We’re in a state of limbo, where WFH and online presentations stretch keenly into oblivion–meaning it’s the perfect time to learn and apply the tips that give your presentations a new lease on life. Treat it as your own little social experiment and watch the audience feed off your concise, crisp slides. 

And remember–if you’d like a hand with any of your PowerPoint presentations, sales decks, white papers or other design needs, SketchDeck is only a click away. 

Divya Mirlay

Divya Mirlay

Redefine what's possible with SketchDeck.

Related reading

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The sales presentation: guest blog by Jan Schultink
5 things to avoid when presenting to a large audience
3 strategies to 3x your B2B webinar presentations

Redefine what’s possible
with SketchDeck.