There’s a lot going into creating a compelling presentation. From planning to creating and delivering, and you should tackle each process accordingly.
Planning your story
A good exercise is to sketch your story as a timeline. I’d say 99% of presentations tell a story, either if it’s a sales deck, a startup pitch, a business report or even a thesis; you are always walking your audience through a story.
Once you sit in front of your presentation software and start adding slides you will be terribly distracted from the story; this is why paper, I believe, works best. This is a great guide that you can follow, I often use it for my investor and sales decks.
Notice how presentations can adapt to this structure easily. All throughout your deck you are building up to a climax, which is the moment when you can sell your product, say how much money you are raising, or do what I call ‘The Ask’, whatever that may be.
FIRST ACT: ORIGIN/PROBLEM
It all starts with connecting with your audience. Humans are emotional beings and empathy is a weapon(?) you should use to your advantage. Find that thing that you have in common, a pain point, a shared interest. If you don’t have anything in common (unlikely), then make sure that they can connect with you personally, that your passion for whatever what you are doing is reflected here. If you don’t empathize with your audience at this point, you probably won’t be able to do it later.
SECOND ACT: STORY DEVELOPMENT
The second act of any story starts with a the Turning Point and ends with the climax. This is when Don Corleone gets shot in the street in The Godfather (if you haven’t seen this movie, please, stop reading and go watch it), or when Jack meets Rose in Titanic. It completely changes the direction of the story.
For you, this is when you introduce your product, your company, your solution or again, whatever it is that you are presenting about.
Now you get to talk about what you are doing, who is/was the team behind it, and why your solution is the best. Start with facts/metrics/breakthroughs (if you have any) and as you build towards the climax move into your vision, what you expect this to become and especially how can that change the status quo for your audience, or for the world.
THIRD ACT AND CLIMAX
This is it. The Baptism scene or the Titanic sinking. It’s the absolute moment when your audience is at their top excitement and if you’ve handled the storytelling correctly, the perfect moment for The Ask. This is when Steve Jobs used to announce the price of the new iDevice and everyone’s hand was already on their wallets.
The third act concludes with wrapping up your story, questions and such. You and your audience are back with their feet on the ground, just finalizing the last details.
Creating the Presentation
Now to slide creation. Once you have a story that makes sense and that actually feels exciting, it’s time to move on to creating.
What you are (or should be) doing now is just moving your sketches and dribbles to your computer. Here are a few tips so that your slides look great.
Your slides should reinforce your message
Remember, you are the one telling the story, not the slides. Your presentation should be there only to support and reinforce what you are saying. Do not type everything on the slides, rather, use only keywords to help the audience (and yourself) keep up with your story.
“If your slides stand by themselves, then why the heck are you in front of them?” — Garr Reynolds, Presentation Zen
If the presentation you are making needs to be sent out by email (you would not be able to walk your audience through it), then avoid ending up with a Presdoc instead of a presentation. Presdocs are a non-ideal way to send information, they are neither documents nor presentations and don’t fulfil either task very well; in that case, you are better off creating one pager or an executive summary. It will take far less time to create than a presentation and be significantly more understandable.
ONLY ONE IDEA PER SLIDE
The slide on the left is an actual slide from the NSA. Look at the (useless) logo decoration on the top right, and notice how unreadable the text becomes.
The world seems to have become accustomed to overcrowded presentations, where people literally cram everything they can into one single slide. Please, don’t. There’s also no need to ‘decorate’ them; remember your audience will probably be reading from afar, and anything that’s too small will just become noise.
USE IMAGES. A LOT.
People don’t really like reading that much anyway. Many messages are transmitted much better with imagery or visual aids like charts.
You can add short sentences or titles on top of your images, just make sure that the color of the text is clearly readable over the image itself.
QUOTES ADD CREDIBILITY
Using somebody else’s words to support your message is another great tactic to make your content more compelling. If it’s either a quote from your customers, your co-workers or Einstein, it helps, trust me.
Use a quote that really relates to you. If you pull it off, it will prove that you actually read and listen to other people’s advice to perform your work better.
COLOR AND DESIGN
Most of the people that make presentations are not graphics designers.
If you still choose to go the traditional presentation route, make sure that you pick a simple template and a font other than the Windows default Calibri. I hate Calibri. As for the colors, I recommend that you find a palette in Adobe Color. Once you pick one, stick to it and you’ll be fine. Promise.
AVOID THE -THANK YOU- SLIDE
It’s absolutely unnecessary and cliché. You don’t need it; you can actually speak the words yourself.
Ready to get started?