“Presentations” are Stories Too

A lot of people have trouble with PowerPoint presentations.

The first problem isn’t with the slides.  The first problem is that people think that “making a presentation” is something other than storytelling, and that their goal is something other than connecting with the audience.  Do yourself a favor: the next time you have to “present” something, DON’T start with a blank page in PowerPoint.  And don’t start with a few slides that you have pulled together for some other purpose.

Instead, take out a sheet of paper (or open a Word document), figure out what you want to say, and write it down.  Keep it simple and stick to the main points.  Make sure someone who hasn’t been elbow deep your work would understand and care about what you’re saying. Avoid acronyms and abbreviations.  Give specific examples.  Use anecdotes.  Tell stories.  Share of yourself.

Once you’ve figured out what you want to say, start writing slides.  Use pictures.  Don’t write out full sentences.  Take most of what you want to say and put it in the notes section as a script.  Then learn the script.

If your slides would make sense without you presenting them, then they’re not slides, they are handouts.  These are two very different things.

If the presentation matters, practice giving it a few times before the big day.  The point is for people to listen to you.  The slides are supporting you and the story, they are not the main attraction.

There’s a lot out there about making good PowerPoint slides, and a lot of it is instructive.  But no amount of slide-making wizardry will help you if you don’t know what point you’re trying to get across, what story you’re hoping to tell.

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