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How Show and Tell Sells: When to Cut Your PowerPoint Content

Some of the best PowerPoint presentations reject text-heavy slides and make use of visual prompts instead. According to Think Outside the Slide‘s Dave Paradi, using PowerPoint as a recall tool for your main points maximizes its original purpose as a visual aid.

In her article on The Herald, Jenni Sebora explains that people are more responsive to images and pictures. That said, using graphics strategically can give you better audience reactions.

However, people still struggle with deciding when to leave out information from slides. In some cases, a deck becomes a band-aid solution for bad public speaking skills and lack of planning. Poorly designed slide decks are often padded with unnecessary content and tend to do more harm than good.

Here are some instances when showing is telling:

Presenting Data

In this case, it’s alright to display the numbers on your slides. Once you get to the hard facts, your listeners might start losing interest. People’s attention spans don’t last very long, and if you start rambling about statistics not everyone will pay attention.

You could make use of a number of rhetorical techniques to keep people focused on what you’re saying. Or, you can also creatively explain statistical data. This is information that should leave an impression on your audience. Let them process it by adding it in your PowerPoint, but always make sure that it’s easy to understand.

Visual Prompts

People need to feel a connection with their presenter for them to invest in the speech. Creating a narrative for your presentation is an effective way of relating to your audience. If you’re planning to go off on a tangent and tell an anecdote, or provide a brief explanation, use a related visual prompt to start off your speech.

Using a prompt is a good combination of utilizing the audience’s visual memory while keeping the focus on yourself. People will be able to associate your story with images on the slide with minimal distractions. However, you still have to choose your graphics wisely.

Remember that your visual prompt should represent what you’re trying to say. If you’re having a hard time deciding on how to arrange your visual prompts, asking for the opinion of a presentation guru will help you plan your slides.

The Text Stigma

Text is the waterloo of presenters using PowerPoint. People tend to crowd chunks of written information in their slides, not realizing that audiences aren’t supposed to read an essay onscreen. But text isn’t always a bad thing. Used wisely, it can be just as useful as an image.

It’s the way you use the text that matters. Instead of copy-pasting from your original PowerPoint content, replace the block of text on your slide with a sentence or phrase.

Maintaining a healthy balance between image and text in your PowerPoint can still create a powerful and engaging deck.

In Conclusion

One of the difficult decisions presenters face when planning their PowerPoint is when to cut text and when to use images. Make sure to allot time to ponder over your presentation. It’s alright to create informative graphics when presenting data, but make sure to expound on the information you provide

Decide which points you want your listeners to remember, and create strong but simple visual prompts to complement your speech. Don’t be afraid of text, but don’t overdo it either. Moderate your use of words in your slides and, if needed, pair it up with an image.

Creating a good PowerPoint can get tricky, but pulling it off right has numerous benefits for your presentation.



Sebora, Jenny. “What type of Learner are You?.” Herald Journal. September 15, 2008. Accessed October 7, 2015. www.herald-journal.com/archives/2008/columns/js091508.html
“When Should You Use PowerPoint?” Think Outside The Slide. September 10, 2012. Accessed October 7, 2015. www.thinkoutsidetheslide.com/when-should-you-use-powerpoint


Featured Image: Imagine Cup 2012” by Imagine Cup on flickr.com

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