The Write Way: 5 Techniques to Improve Presentation Writing

Most people begin preparing for presentations by working on their PowerPoint slides.

While a well-designed presentation deck is certainly important, they’re skipping on the most crucial part of the process—presentation writing.

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Visual aids will enhance your presentation, but the content of your speech is truly its heart and soul. Take note of these techniques to improve your presentation writing skills.

Start with an outline

Create an outline of your presentation before you begin writing your content. This way, you’ll be able to follow a structure and avoid going off-tangent.

Identify your main points and see if your ideas fall into broader categories. For a concrete example, take note of the WWDC keynotes by Steve Jobs.

Use the active voice

Consider the difference between the two following sentences:

  • Amy is preparing for a business presentation next week.
  • Next week’s business presentation is being prepared by Amy.

Which one is more straightforward? Which one is easier to say out loud?

The first sentence in the example is written in what Grammar Girl Mignon Fogarty calls the active voice. Use it for presentation writing to ensure that your sentences are clear and discernible.

Use imagery and metaphors

If you think using imagery and metaphors are only for poets, think again. As determined by a research published by The Leadership Quarterly, people find speakers more charismatic when they integrate images into their speeches:

A former US president’s inaugural address was rewritten to create low and high imagery versions, and audio recordings of the two speeches were made. Participants were randomly assigned to high or low speech imagery conditions. After listening to the speech, they provided ratings on various summary leadership measures. The high imagery speech resulted in higher ratings of charisma than the low imagery speech. 

Apart from the visuals in your PowerPoint deck, you should also integrate mental images to your speech. Elaborate points with metaphors that your audience is familiar with.

Clarify points with stories and examples

Great presentations can impact audiences on an emotional level. You see this happen in TED Talks when presenters share personal anecdotes that are relevant to their discussion.

If you have a point you need to clarify, consider sharing stories and examples from your own experience. Your audience will appreciate a relatable presentation.

Be an editor as well

Presentation writing requires that you also take up the role of being an editor. Once you’re done organizing and writing your content, try to identify the parts that you can cut out.

You should also look for parts that feel like they need more clarifications or examples. Keep rewriting your content until you strike a perfect balance.

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