Many articles online provide profound insights on how to charm your audience, retain attention when speaking in public, or create the best presentation for the right purpose. And for the most part, there have been similarities that can be seen in almost every piece. One of the many from presentation experts is: “Don’t ever use bullet points. You don’t need them.”
What warranted the general avoidance? Is it because it’s primarily considered the reason for death by PowerPoint (DbP)? If you consider bullet upon bullet in different slides, then sure, you can call the whole thing as walls of text. Given that humans favor the visual over the textual, audiences will be bored by all the reading.
But did you know “death by bullet points” exists? Symptomatic, not synonymous, to DbP, overuse and misuse of bullet points have always been every audience member’s nightmare. And it has happened more than once, much to the annoyance of the crowd. Does that mean that bullet points should be avoided?
Not necessarily. Bullet points are useful in specific situations, and in the proper context, they’re your best tool. Here are a few reasons why they matter.
Reading can be strenuous for the eyes, especially when you have a big block of text in one slide. While seeing this word wall can be intimidating for some, others would just outright not read it. Those who attempt will find themselves blinking more since their eyes dry out from, unsurprisingly, not blinking (because they’re reading).
Bullet points put line breaks on long passages, not just with the negative space from the background but also with clear markers on where a specific item begins and ends. Shorter bits of text are more welcome since they’re easier to understand, digest, and remember. Any form of relaxation is pleasant for your eyes.
In the same way that your eyes need a break, your brain also needs a breather when trying to comprehend a long paragraph—much less a lengthy sentence. This is where bullet points shine.
Dissect the text, then separate and summarize the main points. Those summations can then be what you can put on your bullets. That brevity is already a big plus; how much more if they’re fascinating?
Think of bullet points as the “too long; didn’t read” (TL;DR) version, the abridged edition, of your long paragraph. By bulleting the main points, you can shorten a sixty-word section to merely a fraction of that, saving your audience’s time. Plus, they get to listen to you more.
Which would you rather see: a big block of words or a bulleted list? Which of the two is cleaner and easier on the eyes and is therefore more readable? Most, if not all, would say the latter, especially when the layout is planned properly. With the former, you risk instances of misreading since there are too many words and lines all bunched up in one place.
Keep your slides neat and tidy by having few words—and relatively fewer bullet points—in them. Prevalent enough is the 6×6 rule, stating that you should have no more than six bullets with six or fewer words each in a slide. There’s also the “three words and four bullets per slide” rule.
The Last Bullet Point
There’s a reason why bullet points are overused, and consequently are now being mistreated for it. Just like the Comic Sans fiasco, most people are tired of seeing bullets in almost every presentation they attend. However, that’s not a reason to ignore and neglect the importance and benefits of using this tool.
Of course, you should always exercise moderation; there is such a thing as death by bullet points. A good way to avoid that is by not overloading your slides with bullets, which can be just as bad as a wall of text. In short, know when and when not to use them.
Your slides are your visual aid, so making them clean is on you—and for your audience.
Bruce, Robert. “8 Quick Tips for Writing Bullet Points People Actually Want to Read.” Copyblogger. February 7, 2012. www.copyblogger.com/writing-bullet-points
Clark, Brian. “Little Known Ways to Write Fascinating Bullet Points.” Copyblogger. October 23, 2006. www.copyblogger.com/little-known-ways-to-write-fascinating-bullet-points
Crerar, Paula. “PowerPoint Bullet Points: Do We Need Them?” Brainshark. January 24, 2012. www.brainshark.com/ideas-blog/2012/January/powerpoint-bullet-points-do-we-need-them
Paradi, Dave. “How to Write Powerful Bullet Points.” Think Outside the Slide. n.d. www.thinkoutsidetheslide.com/how-to-write-powerful-bullet-points
“10 Ways to Avoid Death by Bullet Points.” Presentitude. March 4, 2015. www.presentitude.com/10-ways-avoid-death-bullet-points
“Comic Sans: Why All the Hate?” Snapily. January 8, 2013. www.snapily.com/blog/comic-sans-why-all-the-hate
What’s one of the best ways to convert potential clients into paying customers? Aside from presentations where you get to wow your audience, there’s another scenario where you can achieve the same results. Imagine it: You already have a prototype of the product you’re trying to market, and you’re looking for people who will gladly take your offer; you think an amazing deck won’t be enough, so you decide to take things up a notch and do a demo.
However, you don’t know the first thing about product demos. Sure, you’re a rock star when it comes to presentations and public speaking, but demonstrations can be different. For one, instead of handling two important elements—yourself and your deck—you add one more: your product. And balancing that act can be stressful, especially when you’ve got hundreds of eyes staring at you and you know that a lot is at stake. Another is that there’s a new dynamic in audience engagement, a level that places you closer to them—and them to you and your product.
Look at the bright side, though. If you do remarkably well, then you’re sure that your audience will take a good, long, hard look at your product. And when they like what they see, they might just want to have your offer. Then, you’re on your way to closing deals left and right. But that is if you do remarkably well.
So, how do you go from A to Z of a product demo? What can you expect from showing off your product in front of a live audience? Are there even benefits to doing so? How do you even begin preparing and how do you start off a demo? Let the following infographic tutor you on the basics of a product demo, and the dos and don’ts during the proverbial curveballs during your time onstage.
In today’s technological age, it’s impractical and unwise to confine a presentation to the four corners of a room. Whether you like it or not, the majority of your audience can now be found in digital nooks, where their attention is constantly being fought over by brands. If you haven’t explored this platform yet, chances are your competitors have already beat you to it. But not to worry, it’s not too late to set things right and keep abreast of the latest developments in the presentation industry.
Before you close the door to the digital option, hear this out first. Moving your presentation online presents a number of benefits, which ultimately enable you to become more productive, more practical, and more popular. Specifically, the following are the top three gains you can expect by simply going digital.
1. Maximize your audience reach
As a beginner, perhaps the most pressing issue you have in mind is, “Where do I start?” The good thing about the online platform is that it has many entry points. You can start by promoting your presentation on social media or by building a website that showcases your content. There is no one starting point. Instead, you have to find what works for you. The key here is to build trust among your audience and familiarity among your colleagues. Once you have considerable experience, you can begin participating in trend shows and attending global conferences, but until then, you have to start somewhere.
Assuming that you’re still a budding speaker exploring the digital field for the first time, the easiest and most practical route for you is through social media. After all, more than half of internet users nowadays have five social media accounts on average. Facebook alone has more than 1.7 billion monthly active users, according to Statista. This social media giant is a market leader not only in terms of reach but in scope as well.
There are many ways to share PowerPoint presentations on social media, including turning a deck into a video presentation or a gallery of slides. As long as you do it right, you can’t possibly fail. Indeed, it pays to know what works and what doesn’t. When choosing platforms, make sure to consider the number of users, reach, scope, and compatibility with presentation documents.
2. Make your content accessible
If you want your presentation to stand the test of time and survive your audience’s memory, there’s only one way to go: DIGITAL. After every presentation, make it a point to upload your main ideas online so that your audience and other business prospects can have better access to your content.
Also, when uploading a copy of your presentation, make sure to leave notes where they’re warranted so that readers can better understand the hard parts. As much as possible, include additional sections like Notes and Appendices, where you can clarify and expound on important points. By going the extra mile with your online presentation, you’re showing your target audience and potential clients that you’re serious in promulgating your message. This will draw them closer to you and take you more seriously.
3. Connect with more audience prospects
Expanding to the digital platform is not only a way for you to reach your target audience but also expand your market and widen your reach. Since a good number of your audience are already online, your chances of forging new connections are higher. As long as you have good and accessible content, you’ll have no problem gathering a loyal following.
Indeed, it pays to be open to different methods of reaching out to people, regardless if they are your target audience or not. Going online welcomes new opportunities to grow your brand as a presenter.
Establishing an online presence can go a long way to making your brand known to the world. The online realm makes it more possible to reach your target audience as well as other business prospects. The business industry is getting more competitive day by day. This is why it would only be wise for you to explore every possible opportunity to expand your reach. It would certainly take time for you to get used to new changes, but with dedication, you’ll be able to see your hard work pay off.
Finkelstein, Ellen. “Why You Need to Get Your Presentations on the Internet—And How.” Ellen Finkelstein. June 19, 2011. www.ellenfinkelstein.com/pptblog/why-you-need-to-get-your-presentations-on-the-internet-and-how
Knight, Stormy. “20 Reasons to Put Your Business on the Web.” Net 101. n.d. www.net101.com/20-reasons-to-put-your-business-on-the-web
Mander, Jason. “Internet Users Have Average of 5.54 Social Media Accounts.” Global Web Index. January 23, 2015. blog.globalwebindex.net/chart-of-the-day/internet-users-have-average-of-5-54-social-media-accounts
“How to Share a PowerPoint Presentation Online.” iSpring. June 5, 2015. www.ispringsolutions.com/blog/how-to-share-a-powerpoint-presentation-online
“Most Famous Social Network Sites Worldwide as of April 2017, Ranked by Number of Active Users.” Statista. n.d. www.statista.com/statistics/272014/global-social-networks-ranked-by-number-of-users
“Number of Internet Users Worldwide from 2005 to 2016.” Statista. n.d. www.statista.com/statistics/273018/number-of-internet-users-worldwide
“Number of Social Media Users Worldwide from 2010 to 2020.” Statista. n.d. www.statista.com/statistics/278414/number-of-worldwide-social-network-users
In 2005, presentation pitch deck consultant Cliff Atkinson published his bestselling book, Beyond Bullet Points, which revolutionized the way people used PowerPoint. Atkinson was one of the first presentation gurus to displace the bulleted list by introducing a more viable alternative. It’s a principle called “the first five slides.”
Atkinson claimed that a presenter only needs the first five slides of a pitch deck to hook the audience. But the real question is, “What exactly do these slides contain, and what effects do they have on potential clients?” Let’s find out.
A Story Only Slides Can Tell
The premise of Atkinson’s book is the ability of the first five slides of a deck to tell a good story. Stories are easily relatable, and they’re more effective in evoking emotions compared to plain facts. A good narrative can help you create an emotional bond that will get your audience to empathize with you and see things from your perspective.
To lay out your deck in a narrative form, make sure that the order of your slides fall within a good story arc. You can do this by establishing the setting and the protagonist in the first two slides of your presentation. The setting should clearly define the business environment you find yourself in, and the protagonist, naturally, should point to your audience.
In the third slide, establish the imbalance that your protagonist encounters in the setting. What problem is your audience experiencing? What incident is weighing them down? You may outline an existing dilemma that your business aims to solve. Before you can present the solution, however, you need to establish a sense of balance in your fourth slide. What’s the ideal situation that your audience should aspire for? How good should the state of affairs be for them to achieve a sense of fulfillment?
Once you’ve successfully presented these four elements, it’s time for the most important part: the solution. The fifth and last slide should contain your proposal to the audience. What can you do to alleviate their discomfort? How can your business help in addressing their concerns?
Your business pitch should always focus on your audience. Customers are interested in what you can do for them, so bank on that.
The Supplemental Nature of Slides
A common misconception presenters have about PowerPoint is that it can replace their presence during a live pitch. However, because your deck’s main purpose is to serve as a visual aid, loading each slide with too much information can burn out your viewers. People aren’t wired to process information in bulk, so break things down into bite-sized pieces to help them remember your points better.
Divide your hook into five brief statements that focus on specific aspects of your pitch. Establish your credibility by forming a personal connection with your audience. Each slide should have one topic that you can expound on. In terms of design, place only keywords and powerful images related to your message, and leave the rest for your verbal explanation. After all, your audience went to hear your pitch, and not to see your deck.
The Ultimate Investment
Although the first five slides might be the most important in attracting your audience’s attention, they only serve as the first act of an elaborate performance, as your fifth slide acts as the end of your opening credits. The next step is to convince your listeners to invest in you.
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After drawing people in, give them a good reason to stay. Walk your audience through the succeeding chapters of your pitch. Refer to your earlier slides, particularly the existing conflict in which you have a unique solution to. This is your opportunity to present your products and services, your business strategy, and your current standing in the market. While emotional appeal works in hooking your listeners, giving actual facts and data will help strengthen your pitch.
The Power of Five Slides
Every good presentation has a clear structure with an effective hook, line, and sinker. Take inspiration from Cliff Atkinson’s best-selling book and drop the bullet points. Focus on your first five slides to draw in prospects.
Your pitch deck is a story waiting to be told. Make sure it’s worth every minute of your audience’s time. Keep in mind that your job doesn’t end in hooking your audience—it’s still a long stretch from there. Your first five slides are only the beginning of your winning pitch deck.
When someone says the word “marketing,” the initial thoughts that come to people’s minds are sales talking, customer service, advertising, and/or social media and blog posts, or any combination thereof. It may not be wrong, but surely the concept has deeper roots than just getting a “come on” for people to trade their hard-earned cash for a product or a service.
For the better business-minded people out there, the focus of the game has shifted to customer experience, the concept that looks at consumer interactions and how your potential leads form a relationship with your brand. Extending that logic, forking cash over doesn’t terminate the connection; sure, it may be the end of the transaction, but it’s just the beginning of the experience. There’s still the post-sales service (via customer service), trust and loyalty maintenance, etc. It’s kind of an “It’s not about the destination but about the journey” thing.
True enough, the most memorable relationships continue after you receive the customer’s money.
But how do you start getting those people to show even a bit of interest in your company? It’s not like you can do so much after traditional marketing, right? Right?
As it turns out, there’s one avenue you may not have thought of but works because of its uniqueness: PowerPoint. It’s one of those functions that the software wasn’t intended for but still amazingly works given its nature.
You know where this is going: a public speaking arrangement where you can use your deck as a tool for your sales pitch. But what benefits would that bring? Won’t it be just like how you started your whole enterprise, only your audience are executives instead of potential customers?
There are a few more things you can do besides showing off your products and offering crazy sales. Conversations, arguably the best sales pitch ever, become more than just pitches. Check the following infographic to learn all about the advantages you can get from using PowerPoint presentations when it comes to gaining more leads.
Barr, Corbett. “The Best Sales Pitch Ever.” Fizzle. November 16, 2016. www.fizzle.co/sparkline/the-best-sales-pitch-ever
Zwilling, Martin. “‘Customer Experience’ Is Today’s Business Benchmark.” Forbes. March 10, 2014. www.forbes.com/sites/martinzwilling/2014/03/10/customer-experience-is-todays-business-benchmark/#50113f125011
Whether your business is small or multinational, one thing will always be present. Barring the basic constants (employees, profits, losses, gains, etc.), in one way or another, you’ll always find yourself in a meeting room, giving or receiving a pitch. With the former, how well you do could spell the survivability or demise of your startup company or the guarantee of funds for your next big project. It doesn’t need saying, but a pitch is an important step toward success.
This is why you’ll more likely fret over nailing your pitch the first time rather than wait for a redo. You’ve got the public speaking skill to charm your audiences, but of course, a good support will take you further. That support is your investor pitch deck. You’re already aware of what makes a PowerPoint presentation powerful. At this point, what you need to know is what makes your presentation—and by extension, your business—the winning choice.
Major Paradigm Shift
When technology advances as quickly as one can say “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” the world changes as well. Take for instance the evolution of news material from the invention of the printing press to the few short years after online articles became a thing; today, print lags behind digital.
In the same way, figure out what paradigm shift is causing the problem you’re trying to solve. In Andy Raskin’s article, he says Zuora, a software company, has the “greatest sales deck” because they start off framing a change that not only arrests attention but also puts in perspective how the “shift affects [the audience], how it scares them, and where they see opportunities” all at once. During that fleeting moment, you hint where your pitch is going without saying it outright, but just enough to spark curiosity.
One thing that pitches always highlight is how a product works vis-à-vis a solution. “My/Our product can do this and that with these features and those upgrades. I/We believe it’s something that can help people.” There’s nothing wrong with that; in fact, it’s basically a must. If you truly think your business is something that can be beneficial to your target market, or even society, then you would spill your heart out on why your interpretation of a solution is better. But a more general question to ask is, “How bad or big is the problem?”
Put as much flair and buildup into the problem you’re trying to solve as much as you do into your solution. This will give your possible investors a glimpse of, if not completely understand, how said challenge affects people on a larger scale, how your product addresses that, and even your motive and drive to continue working on your proposed solution. Doing so will put into context your enthusiasm during your pitch. It will then be more memorable, and they’ll realize you’re the correct choice.
Before you even started your business, you already researched extensively on your target demographic, logistics, and the many other particulars for your enterprise. Then you release your product, even if it’s an alpha or a beta demo, and gather your results. Keep those numbers and feedback in hand; you’ll need them just as much as the initial research because that’s what you wow your pitch audience with.
Figures give a more concrete achieve and set a more realistic standard than hypotheticals, especially when accompanied by testimonials from customers. Framing and hyping the climax of your pitch is a method of romancing the audience that makes them want more. When you’re done setting up the real numbers for a “hypothetical” product to get their hopes up, that’s when you take them by surprise (but not really, given that you’re pitching something to them) and introduce your…
This is the first time they’re hearing about your actual product. All the data and testimonials you’ve thrown to your audience now have something to fall on—a kind of “a name to a face” logic. You already went all-out with your first few slides, so it’s time to let your proposed solution stand on its own. Don’t just focus on the features that people loved; show and tell what sets you apart from your competitors and why investors should pick you.
Since this is the crux of your pitch, continue with the same level of eagerness you had in the first part as you go for the last stretch. Just because you’re ending doesn’t mean you can let up. If anything, a better conclusion results in a more powerful impact that can guarantee your cashflow and move to a brighter future.
Pitches shouldn’t be necessarily difficult, but when you consider the pressure you feel because of the supposed “life-or-death” outcome of either a small business or a project, the stakes become higher. Don’t let yourself buckle down because of the pressure though. Once you ace this, you’re on your way to more exciting prospects.
Remember what you need to focus on and emphasize on your deck. It’s about your company, your product, and your passion. You may be out looking for funds, but it’s only a step toward your larger goal: solving a problem you know society shouldn’t deal with.
Chuang, Alex. “The Quick and Dirty Guide to Creating a Winning Pitch Deck.” Startup Grind. n.d. www.startupgrind.com/blog/the-quick-and-dirty-guide-to-creating-a-winning-pitch-deck
Eckler, Daniel. “How to Design a Pitch Deck: Lessons from a Seasoned Founder.” Medium. n.d. www.medium.com/swlh/how-to-design-a-pitch-deck-lessons-from-a-seasoned-founder-c816d1ae7272
Harroch, Richard. “How to Create a Great Investor Pitch Deck for Startups Seeking Financing.” Forbes. March 4, 2017. www.forbes.com/sites/allbusiness/2017/03/04/how-to-create-a-great-investor-pitch-deck-for-startups-seeking-financing/#db6b7f62003e
Lee, Aaron. “30 Legendary Startup Pitch Decks and What You Can Learn from Them.” Piktochart. n.d. www.piktochart.com/blog/startup-pitch-decks-what-you-can-learn
Lenaerts, Sven. “10 Presentation Design Tips (for the Best Pitch Deck).” Envato Tuts+. May 25, 2016. business.tutsplus.com/tutorials/10-presentation-design-tips-for-the-best-pitch-deck–cms-24860
Raskin, Andy. “The Greatest Sales Deck I’ve Ever Seen.” The Mission. September 15, 2016. www.themission.co/the-greatest-sales-deck-ive-ever-seen-4f4ef3391ba0
Welton, Caysey. “Across Age Groups, Print Lags Far Behind Digital and TV as a News Source.” Folio: Magazine. June 21, 2016. www.foliomag.com/across-age-groups-print-lags-far-behind-digital-and-tv-as-a-news-source
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We can no longer ignore the growing hype around videos. These electronic media are gaining traction, and it wouldn’t be surprising if they soon become the most popular type of content, since more social media channels are popping up to underline their importance. Today, the effectiveness of videos in capturing people’s attention is apparent. In YouTube, for example, 400 hours of videos are uploaded every minute and almost 5 billion are viewed every day. These staggering statistics show that we create and consume video content in a rapidly increasing rate.
Still, while all this hype around videos is nice, we can’t really claim that it’s something new. Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple Inc., included this medium in his presentations as early as 1984. The potential of videos as the trendiest type of content will continue to grow, so if you haven’t explored the possibilities of video marketing, now is the time.
The Purposes of Using Videos in Presentations
Isn’t it ironic that although most marketers recognize video content as a powerful tool, only four percent use it religiously in presentations? That leaves a glaring 96 percent in the dark, stuck in traditional methods that are only half as effective as video marketing. This isn’t to say that you should add a video in every presentation—of course, if it isn’t appropriate, do away with it. But if you find an opportunity to use this type of content to support or highlight your message, why not grab it?
Here are the four main purposes of adding videos in your presentation:
To explain a complex idea. It’s hard to explain a technical idea to a group of people who know nothing about it. Sure, you can put that idea into words, but you can’t guarantee that your equally perplexing explanation will translate into something cohesive in the audience’s mind. If it’s too complicated to grasp, why not find another means of expressing it? Perhaps a video could render it more comprehensible?
To engage the audience in discussion. Videos have a certain pull that makes them effective in grabbing people’s attention. A relevant video presented at the right moment can keep the audience bolted to the screen. Make sure that the video you use can establish an emotional connection with your audience and can generate a meaningful discussion that will fire up their energy.
To break the monotony. You can’t expect the audience to listen to you for hours on end. Their attention is bound to wane at some point, and one way to recapture their interest is by giving them a break in the form of a video to watch. If possible, inject humor in your presentation to lighten up the mood and make room for a seamless transition.
To help in memory retention. An experiment conducted by Dr. Richard Mayer from the University of California, Santa Barbara revealed that people immersed in “multi-sensory environments” had better recall even years after a presentation. This is because when the human brain builds two mental representations of something (i.e. a verbal and a visual model), it typically results to better memory retention.
Things to Remember When Adding Videos to Your Slides
You’d think that adding a video to a presentation is a piece of cake, but some people still seem to miss the basics. To make sure that you do things right, take these pointers:
1. Embed the video in the presentation itself
Think of how unprofessional it would look to show the audience a video separate from the original presentation. You’d look like an amateur who didn’t bother to assemble your knowledgebase in one place. Plus, it would be inconvenient on your part when switching from one to the other, so it’s only practical and professional to insert the video in the presentation itself. In PowerPoint, you can embed a video directly in the slides to make for a smoother transition.
2. Keep it short and simple
Videos are meant to enhance your presentation, not replace it. That’s why you should only designate a short chunk of time for this type of content. Otherwise, you’ll lose your connection with the audience and destroy your momentum. An effective video presentation shouldn’t make the audience forget that you’re the main source and “relayer” of information.
3. Lean towards the authentic
People are more interested in realistic videos that reflect genuine experiences than in corporate ones that are too alien to relate with. To add a dab of authenticity in your videos, you can use testimonials that feature real customers who truly value and uphold your brand. Testimonials, especially when unsolicited, are a persuasive tool for inviting more people to consider your message.
4. Check its relevance to the topic
Relevance is the number one criteria when adding video clips in a presentation. You can’t just throw in anything that doesn’t relate to the points you’re trying to make. Every video clip must have a purpose—and that purpose should have something to do with underlining your core message.
5. Use narratives to draw emotional responses
Everyone responds to narratives. Stories have a certain quality that evokes emotional responses from people. A video content structure that follows a narrative can make for a more compelling presentation that will allow the audience to make sense of abstract ideas that would otherwise be lost in translation.
Now you know the secret to making your next pitch stand out. Use videos more wisely in your next presentation, and see the difference in your audience’s level of energy and engagement.
Bell, Steven J. “Using Video in Your Next Presentation: A Baker’s Dozen of Ideas and Tips.” Info Today. n.d. www.infotoday.com/cilmag/jul10/Bell.shtml
Blodget, Henry. “The Lost 1984 Video: Steve Jobs Introduces the Mac.” Business Insider. August 25, 2011. www.businessinsider.com/video-steve-jobs-introduces-mac-2011-8
Boone, Rob. “How and Why You Should Use Video in Your Next Presentation.” Live Slides. January 22, 2016. www.liveslides.com/blog/how-to-use-video-in-presentations
Gallo, Carmine. “Four Easy Tips on Using Video to Make Your Presentation Stand Out.” Forbes. January 31, 2017. www.forbes.com/sites/carminegallo/2017/01/31/four-easy-tips-on-using-video-to-make-your-presentation-stand-out/#2ed99f26e3a0
Marshall, Lisa B. “How to Use Video in a Presentation.” Quick and Dirty Tips. August 9, 2012. www.quickanddirtytips.com/business-career/public-speaking/how-to-use-video-in-a-presentation
“3 Reasons to Add Video to Your Presentation.” Meetings Imagined. n.d. www.meetingsimagined.com/tips-trends/3-reasons-add-video-your-presentation
“36 Mind-blowing YouTube Facts, Figures, and Statistics 2017.” Fortunelords. March 23, 2017.
Business communication is a skill that, simple though it may appear, takes a lot of effort to master. Every professional, regardless of rank or specialization, ought to learn the basics of delivering presentations, as this skill can come in handy when relaying a new business opportunity or spreading news about the success of a new initiative.
If your career leans more towards the technical side, it’s all the more important for you to grasp data storytelling at its fullest. It’s true that numbers and graphs can lend a credible air to your presentation, but wouldn’t it be a whole lot better if your audience can understand the information you feed them? The goal of business presentations after all is to inform, not to impress.
Pointers on Data Storytelling
Data storytelling takes a lot of practice to master. The following list can be a good starting point towards understanding the full power of this skill.
1. Know the story behind the data
It’s unfair to expect your audience to make sense of hard data when you yourself can’t comprehend it. As a presenter, it’s your job to dissect a piece of information before presenting it to your listeners. Most importantly, as a data storyteller, you must learn how to extract convincing and relatable stories from hard numbers. Don’t limit yourself within technical bounds—instead, try to capture a creative idea or insight that will best communicate your message. By harnessing the power of storytelling, you can encourage your audience to be more engaged and cooperative.
2. Provide context when going technical
One of the common mistakes that presenters make is plunging right in on the actual data. Amateurs often don’t bother constructing a logical structure that allows for the smooth transition of ideas. If you’re serious about being an effective data storyteller, keep in mind that your main goal is to make sure that the audience finds meaning in your presentation—they must be able to translate the data you give them into their everyday lives. To make that happen, you simply need to provide context when treading on technical subjects. If you try hard enough, it shouldn’t be too difficult to make a connection between numbers and reality.
The last thing you want to see is a roomful of people wearing befuddled—or worse, indifferent—looks. Your data-heavy presentation might make sense to you, but you have to assume that the audience are utterly unfamiliar with the concepts you’re sharing. As much as possible, veer away from technical language and use layman’s words instead. Try to strike an emotional chord with your audience. Yes, it’s a business presentation, but a little touch of personality won’t do any harm. In fact, if you employ the right strategies, pulling at your audience’s heartstrings can be more beneficial than you think.
3. Let your message sink in before advancing
Racing against time is not a viable excuse for rushing a presentation. Most time constraints are declared beforehand to allow presenters to work within those limits. By being mindful of your boundaries, you can control the flow of the presentation while still letting stories unfold from the numbers and figures. Remember, haste makes waste. For your message to sink in, you need to give the audience ample time to digest it. Rushing through it will only do harm and no good. Speak slower and pause for good measure. Let the audience meet you halfway at their own pace.
4. Make an important detail prominent
The audience won’t remember everything you share them, so it’s important to underline the key points you want to impress on their minds. For maximum impact, capture, package, and present the core message in a moving and unforgettable way. You can do this visually by giving a core idea a slide of its own or by iterating it throughout your speech. To better highlight your message, eliminate everything that distracts from it. Clutter will only confuse your audience, so make a final run-through before presenting to ensure that only the most important elements will reach the audience.
5. Use imagery to paint vivid pictures
One of the factors that can redeem a data-heavy presentation is aesthetics. While there’s some truth to the general notion that no one listens to a business presentation unless necessary, the experience needs not be unpleasant. You can mute the dullness and bring a little color to your presentation by, well, literally bringing color to it. Use visuals where appropriate to make the data more appealing. Also, be mindful of the font sizes and styles you use. By being conscious of your slides’ design, you can guarantee that the visual elements of your presentation clarify your message and not hamper it.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with using charts to communicate a message, but you’d be wise to remember that there’s always a better way when presenting things. Don’t settle for cold and intimidating numbers; instead, delve deeper and find the story beneath them. Use data to weave a story that paints the bigger picture. When all’s said and done, there’s no reason why math and storytelling should be two different things.
Crooks, Ross. “7 Ways Data Can Tell Your Story.” Visage. October 7, 2014. visage.co/7-ways-data-can-tell-story
French, Katy. “11 Design Tips for Beautiful Presentations.” Visage. November 24, 2016. visage.co/11-design-tips-beautiful-presentations
Ravilochan, Teju. “6 Principles for Making Your Pitch Unforgettable.” Unreasonable. July 31, 2013. unreasonable.is/6-principles-for-making-your-pitch-unforgettable
Samuel, Alexandra. “How to Give a Data-Heavy Presentation.” Harvard Business Review. October 16, 2015. hbr.org/2015/10/how-to-give-a-data-heavy-presentation
“Presentation Ideas: When Presenting Data, Get to the Point Fast.” Duarte. n.d. www.duarte.com/presentation-ideas-when-presenting-data-get-to-the-point-fast
Has it ever happened to you that, when crafting slides for a great presentation, you’ve got multiple objects to select, copy, paste, move, etc. And working with your mouse is slowly but surely becoming tedious, exhausting, and time-consuming? To be fair, it’s not limited to just PowerPoint.
In almost every program on desktop, and even the operating systems (Windows and Mac) themselves, there are specific sequences and/or combinations of keyboard presses that correspond to functions and commands, called keyboard shortcuts.
Ever wondered what the keys on the bottom row are for, specifically the Ctrl (Control) and Alt (Alternate) keys? They’re integral to keyboard shortcuts. If it’s not Ctrl plus a key, then it’s Alt plus another key—or both Ctrl and Alt. To give you an example, if you’re a Windows user, then you’re familiar with the desktop shortcut “Alt + Tab” for cascading through different active windows/open programs. There’s “Ctrl + Alt + Del” as well, opening a Securities Options menu where you can choose Task Manager, among other things.
In short, keyboard shortcuts give you access to functions that are usually hard to access by mouse. But they don’t stop there. If efficiency didn’t cross your mind the first time you read the phrase “keyboard shortcuts,” since they make a certain number of functions faster to do, then how about health? Repetitive strain injury (RSI) has been linked with too much computer mouse use. Although extended keyboard use has also been linked to RSI, an average person uses the mouse more than a keyboard. At least with keyboard shortcuts, you’re balancing your use of both computer accessories with less risks involved.
Now, when creating those enticing slides, what shortcuts are available to you? Check this gifographic to learn what you can train yourself to use and share with your presentation friends. You can bet that experienced presentation designers and public speakers use the hotkeys below to help them go through their PowerPoint files quicker and better.
Jones, Steven C. “Computer Work Postures and Injury: The Stress of Reaching for the Mouse, a Doctor’s Perspective.” Business Know-How. n.d. www.businessknowhow.com/manage/computer-mouse-injuries.htm
Klosowski, Thorin. “Back to Basics: Learn to Use Keyboard Shortcuts Like a Ninja.” Lifehacker. December 20, 2012. www.lifehacker.com/5970089/back-to-the-basics-learn-to-use-keyboard-shortcuts-like-a-ninja
“5 Reasons Why You Should Be Using Keyboard Shortcuts.” Shortcut Keys. n.d. www.shortcutkeys.net/why-use-shortcuts