Great public speaking skills can only get you so far. Whatever your presentation’s purpose, your structure and content should put it to action.
Redefine your slide deck as a visual aid – it’s actually a vehicle for your message to get across and convince your audience. Unfortunately, presenters often make the mistake of relying on the slide deck to cater to needs and fill in for flaws. The true secret is to design your slides with your audience in mind.
But don’t worry. Getting there isn’t as hard as it seems. Here are the three most important foundations for creating professional PowerPoint designs.
1. One Message Per Slide
Scientists like to compare the human mind to a machine or a computer. This doesn’t mean you should treat your audience like a network of robots. Not everyone can retain chunks of new and unconnected information in the span of a pitch.
Avoid needlessly padding out your deck. Unless your purpose is to confuse your audience, then keep your slides clean, with only one main point in each one. This ensures that the crowd won’t be too tired from seeing oversaturated slides while giving them more time to digest your message. The less an audience needs to understand, the more likely they are to understand it.
2. Show, Don’t Tell
This has worked for novelists and filmmakers alike. As visual learners, people are more likely to retain information when presented visually than verbally.
Why resort to words when you can tell a story with a single picture? Whenever you can, replace text with visuals or graphics, including charts, graphs, and diagrams. Here’s a warning, though: don’t overdo it and keep adding photos and graphics for no reason.
Visuals are best used as a tool to support your points and to accomplish your set goals.
3. Keep the Fluff Out
We can’t stress this hard enough: simplicity is key. Take a cue from Professional PowerPoint designers who do this for a living. Having extra information doesn’t add any credibility, and can unnecessarily drag out your deck.
Novice presenters often cram their slides with information so that they can use the deck as speech notes. Your PowerPoint deck is tailored for your audience to better understand what you’re trying to say, not to act as your cue card. Let your core message come through with the absence of extraneous clutter.
Whatever your purpose is, simplify your structure to best inform, engage, and persuade. The most common culprits keeping you from succeeding are the ones we’ve just discussed. Put only one message per slide so that your audience doesn’t get overloaded with information.
Use images wherever possible to represent your ideas or data, as visuals have been proven to be more effective for information retention. Lastly, keep your slides simple to save yourself and your audience time. This lets you remove any distractions from your pitch’s core message.
No matter what happens, consider your audience as the primary benefactors of your deck to better interest and convince them.