15 Tips for Giving A Killer Powerpoint Presentation

How to give the best presentation (using Powerpoint) that your audience has ever seen

You’re days away from an important presentation on a subject. Like most people, public speaking makes you anxious. But you’re an expert on your subject — whether it’s social media, advertising, online video, consumer-generated media, new media, marketing, or some specific trend within. So if you believe in yourself, the audience will too. Trick yourself into believing your audience worships you (visually imaging success), and your confidence  — but not arrogance — will radiate your words and non-verbal behavior. If you’re not having fun, your audience will make grocery lists in their mind.

Maybe you’re a fellow procrastinator — our problem is that we have high expectations, so we delay because we want it to be perfect. In high school, we bought Cliff Notes the night before the final. That’s okay. This doesn’t have to take long (trust me, I’ve prepared many presentations using these tips in 30 minutes, and made it look like I spent days preparing).

You’re going to turn your presentation into THEATER. It will be the most memorable presentation your audience has seen, and will intrigue, inform, and persuades your audience. Getting some doubt about that? Don’t fight it, just set it aside for a moment. And no need to thank Uncle Nalts. He’s got your back. If you don’t look good, I don’t look good. I take pride in you. That’s a shampoo joke there, friends.

Note: Powerpoint is a useful and common tool for sharing ideas in person (and sometimes, but often poorly, electronically). But please don’t use it if you can avoid it. I’ve snoozed through many vendor capability presentations, but my brain goes technicolor if we’re discussing an idea that interests me. I like answering the “what keeps you up at night” question even if it’s a tired question. But I also loathe the “rapport building” script many follow. If you’ve followed these tips, however, then your computer can crash and you can still blow ’em away!

  1. Take 5 to write three things down: the target audience, the purpose of your presentation, and what the target will do or think when you’ve done your magic. If you have a broad audience (executives, marketers, eBusiness people, technologists) then specify the one that matters most or you risk being irrelevant to all of them.
  2. Create e a killer headline. “How x will impact our company” is  a start, but something like “experts agree a giant, razor-clawed bioengineered crabs pose no threat” is much better. Don’t be too outrageous or provocative, but I beg you not to bee too broad, abstract or boring. “An update on new media” is a loser. Put your name on it, but be sure to credit stakeholders so you don’t look like the presentation is about you. It’s not.
  3. Your introduction is best if it’s a story or anecdote that proceeds our intro slide, and then tell them the three things you’re going to discuss. No more.
  4. Vital one here… Avoid more than 20 words per slide, and no smaller than 20-40 point type. Seriously. This requires restraint, but you’ll simplify your message and dazzle your guests when they see you don’t need to read 4 bullets with subbullets. It’s okay if the deck makes no sense without your talking points, and if you can’t present without looking at your slide (reading bullets) you’re doooooomed. The BEST presentations I’ve seen from the masters (Covey, Blanchard, Peters) have a sentence, a picture, and a story. The worst have McKinsey slides, complex graphics, spreadsheets and look like a word document squished onto a screen.
  5. If you mention terms like “consumer-generated video” or “viral video,” don’t assume your audience knows what they mean. They won’t. Define words succinctly and use wikipedia for proper wording. Don’t say “Web 2.0” to senior executives without adding a simple definition like “technology that helps our customers and employees share and interact.” 
  6. Source each data point with small (14 point) text boxes, and not in the body copy. Don’t use a date that’s more than 2 years old if you’re talking about new technology. If it’s important, but dated… leave off the date or find a more recent source.
  7. If you’re citing more than 3 trends, then you’ll overwhelm them. Nothing bores and audience than 5-10 slides about the changing market. They need to see impact to their lives immediately, otherwise you’re academic. Trends set a foundation but can quickly bore or confuse.
  8. Analogies help people. If you’re talking about the evolution of online video, then provide an example… how radio and television progressed. People believe your predictions if you can liken them to realities they’ve seen and know.
  9. An eMarketer chart (free) will help show you’ve done your research but don’t let it live without a simple “so what” statement. If you have time, rebuild the chart in your own template. Don’t go nuts on these because they’re not as persuasive to your audience as you think. 
  10. Your hidden jewel is Slideshare. Some brilliant presentations are available for guidance and even download. Source them, so you reward this generous sharing. Slideshare is a wonderful example of social media’s power to accelerate ideas, and I plan to post more of my decks there. Once you find a good slide presentation, you’ll find related decks automatically (like Amazon’s “you may also like this product.”) Don’t get overwhelmed- just find a few important points, and avoid any cheesy clip art that screams amateur. You can also try searching Google and adding .ppt to your search (or .pdf). Be very, very specific with terms and you might find what you’re after. You could even add slideshare.com to your search. Remember- don’t get stuck here or download 10 decks. You’ll get overwhelmed.
  11. Pictures sell. Especially if they’re PEOPLE not company logos. Social media is about people not websites. You need visual examples that matter to your audience, and they’ll bring to life your data from eMarketer and other places. Don’t you dare “print screen” and import images into your deck (these make your file size huge). Grab images (or videos) with Snagit (which is a great tool for grabbing website images to support your case). I promise this software won’t overwhelm you if you can use basic Powerpoint, and it reduces file-size bloating. Google Images is a great resource, and if it’s a public presentation you can “go professional” with Getty One. If you register you can trial images for free (lower resolution), but you’ll want to buy/license them if the deck will be shared or used for commercial gain.
  12. Please don’t use any Powerpoint effects (moving objects or transition effects). They scream amateur, unless the movement has a purpose. If you’re considering clip art, then stop reading this post immediately. You cannot be saved.
  13. If you want to show a video clip, make it 30 seconds or less. I’ve made the mistake of playing a 2-3 minute video in a crowd, and it’s horrible (unless it’s customized for the audience and precedes your presentation).
  14. Have some “call to action” at the end, and list some simple baby steps. To help people appreciate social media, for example, I like to encourage audiences to find a topic they love (a hobby) and pursue it by searching blogs and videos on that subject. If they’re brave enough, I tell them to engage or create content around this hobby (even if anonymously). Otherwise you’re describing colors to a blind person.
  15. Close with a final statement or story. Use a dramatic pause before you share it (as if you’re searching spontaneously for it), and walk into your audience’s space. Don’t give them the “thanks for your attention” garbage. The best endings are those that point back to your introduction in a profound way. If you opened with a story of a problem or customer, then talk about how your solution will change that story (or did). Emotion here helps.

Good luck. I know you don’t like to comment, but please tell me how these tips work for you. And if you have some of your own ideas, please share!

Secrets of Viral-Video Marketing (final deck)

Thanks for your feedback on the attached deck. Here’s the final version, and now I have 3 minutes to get dressed and get to the meeting room. You can download it at Slideshare.