How to Create A Great Slide Presentation
Creating a great slide presentation does not need to be difficult. It simply takes some focused thought and a little creativity. Having a clear, strong set of slides to accompany your presentation can make a good presentation great. Use the following guidelines to help you create a killer set of slides.
1. Identify Your Message – The first step in creating a great set of slides is to identify your objective and purpose. What message are you trying to deliver? Is the message based on data, is it intended to trigger a reaction and an emotional response? Is it intended to drive or sway a decision? If you are trying to sway a decision, for example, the message should promote the decision you seek. The content of your slides must bolster your message and support the objective. You are making a presentation for a reason. Ensure you are clear on the message you are trying to deliver.
2. Identify Your Audience – Identifying your audience requires you to evaluate who the message is intended for. Are you presenting to a potential client? Are you presenting to your company’s board of directors? Are you presenting to your own employees? Just as your slides must portray your message, your message must be meaningful for your audience. If you are presenting to your board of directors, for example, interest in the raw data is unlikely. Rather, you should focus on the main take-aways. By identifying your audience, you can better curtail the message and the content of your slides.
3. Identify the Proper Amount of Information – Failure to provide the proper amount is the primary reason why many presentations fall short. This means that one can include too little or too much information, thereby weakening the message. The proper amount of information is the byproduct of the understanding your target audience. For example, executives will not want to see the detailed calculations, just the results. By contrast, a potential client will want to see several detailed examples of your successes in order to justify the value you bring to them. A good way to assess the amount of information for your slides is to ask yourself: “What does this audience care about, and how much time will they give me to make my case?” Often times, less is more. You can always pull up back-up slides if more data is sought, or simply take actions to dig up additional information for follow up. By presenting too much all at once you may lose the attention of your audience.
4. Use Back-Up Slides – If you are uncertain how much content to include in your presentation, consider using additional back-up slides. The back-up slides should be placed after your final slide, and only used to help address questions or comments, as appropriate. Back-up slides are there to provide you with additional, relevant data at your finger-tips.
5. Revisit Your Presentation Before Hand – When preparing for a presentation, be sure to revisit the slides a few times before the actual presentation. Slides are a visual medium to support your message. Revisiting them a few times will not only help you memorize some of the content and sequence, but it will also let you revisit some of the key wording, the graphics to help you fine tune the slides.
6. Consider an Executive Summary – Depending on the setting and the audience, consider adding an executive summary at the beginning of your slides. An executive summary provides the main take-away of your slides, and is best used for presentations in which you are sharing research data or are making a recommendation based on your slide content. By sharing an executive summary up front, you offer the audience the opportunity to assess the points you make throughout the slides as they support your recommendation.
7. Value White Space – Your presentation slides should emphasize your talking points; not the other way around. Again, less is more. Be sure to keep your slides clean and dedicated to the main points. Keep the text of each point to a single line as much as possible. Rather than clutter your main slides with excessive data, use back-up slides to keep the data close by. Too much activity on your slides may distract your audience.
8. Avoid Sentences – From the perspective of the audience, reading full sentences consumes energy that should otherwise be directed at you, the presenter. Further, using full sentences places additional text to your slide that may distract you as you glance at your presentation for reference. Using bullet points and short statements instead of full sentences permits rapid transfer of information. As an example, instead of saying “The data in Q4 suggests that November is the best month to launch a new product,” use an abbreviated statement like “Q4 data identifies November as best for product launches.” Seek to deliver you points in the fewest words possible.
9. Use Images as Talking Points – Effective slide presentations will often contain a single image on a page, which is used to make a main point. Graphics should be used to provide visual explanations of your talking points. Using supporting graphics and cartoons keeps the audience engaged and will offer a break for slides with extensive text.
10. Add Transition Slides – Regardless of purpose, most slide presentations will include several topics as part of delivering the overall message. Use a single slide to transition between your topics to help your audience make their own mental shift between topics. Transition slides also offer a natural opportunity for you to take a sip of water, and to ask for audience questions.
11. Highlight What’s Important – On your slides, you may find the need to present a large table of information and data. Place a colored box or circle around the column or row that is significant. For example, if your table contains 24 lines of data and line 14 is the most important, highlight this row somehow to allow viewers to clearly identify the information you are discussing.
12. Draw the Conclusions – To emphasize your message, draw conclusions based on the data you present. Many presentation slides will offer colorful tables and graphs, but frequently do not offer an interpretation of the data. Since your audience may be seeing the information for the first time, it is always a good idea to offer your assessment of the information. As a simple example, you may wish to say something like “As you can see, the data shows that our performance is improving.”
13. Close with a Summary – At the end of your slides, close with a summary of your main points and why the information you presented is significant. In a sales setting, for example, the summary slide should highlight the benefits your firm offers. If you are meeting with potential investors, your summary should capture the key reasons why your firm will provide them with a safe and sound investment. Offering a summary presents the audience with your closing remarks, and signals the conclusion of your discussion.