PowerPoint slides can be very helpful in presenting technical information. The challenge, as a speaker, is not to allow the content of the slide deck to overshadow your work as a presenter. The process below will sharpen your focus for any presentation and help you increase your audience’s level of interest, awareness, understanding, and application of the information you present.
Using your own personalized notes will allow you to use each slide as a memory prompt rather than a makeshift teleprompter. As we know, the #1 complaint with the use of PowerPoint is when a speaker reads the slides. The process below helps reduce that natural tendency. It also increases the speed and efficiency of your preparation, tightens up your content, boosts your recall of key points and phrases you want to use, and provides you with a personalized set of notes for use during a presentation.
- Study the entire deck for yourself first, pausing at each slide to think about why that slide is important and what information seems to be most meaningful.
- Decide on a clear, overall purpose for your presentation. While keeping your audience’s needs in mind, ask yourself, “What am I trying to accomplish with this presentation?” Think of this as your Big Idea.
- After determining your Big Idea, decide on the additional objectives or outcomes you hope to accomplish. Most audiences respond best and remember more when you limit your outcomes to 1-2 per message. Here are five of the most useful objectives.
- Inform your audience: present information or data without adding your opinions or suggested action steps.
- Convince your audience: provide information and/or data and your interpretations or conclusions about the content. Typically, the audience in this context is already positive toward your topic and only needs to have certain ideas reinforced or explained further.
- Persuade your audience to change their minds: provide information and/or data as well as your interpretations or conclusions about the content while remembering that this type of audience is either neutral or opposed to your topic. The information you present will need to be backed up with additional data or insights that change their minds.
- Move your audience to action: after presenting information and/or data and your interpretations or conclusions about the content, add in your recommended action steps. This is often thought of as a “How To” section and is very practical. Always include your reasoning and suggestions to help the audience put your insights into practice.
- Please (encourage) your audience to get involved: provide information and/or data and your insights so that your audience feels good (or better) about your topic, organization, or situation you are speaking about.
- Look back at each slide and take notes about the key insights, data, conclusions, action steps, etc. that you think, as the speaker, need to be presented. Remember, each point should reflect your Big Idea and help you reach your key objectives.
- Using step 4 as your model, think about what you, as a member of the audience, would want or need to hear. Add those ideas to your notes.
- Print out the entire deck in the Handout Format with the “3 Slides per Page” setting. On each page you will see three slides, printed vertically, with lines on the right column of each page.
- Study the entire deck a third time, look at each slide, and make notes in the lines beside each slide. Your written notes will jog your memory about the most important ideas in each slide.
- Write your notes in short phrases, highlighting your key thoughts, especially if you think you might forget something you want to say in a particular way. Everything you jot down should flow from the content on the slide but does not actually have to be seen on the slide. Each idea you present should either be information/data, your interpretation of that information or data, illustrations/examples to help you explain your content (metaphors and analogies are sometimes useful here, too), and applications (“how to” steps). Have a variety of all four types of information. Technical, highly detailed presentations from PowerPoint have a natural tendency to leave out interpretation, illustration, and application points so study your presentation to make sure you incorporate all four types of points in your presentation.
- Try out color-coding. You may find it even more helpful, both for your memory and for your preparation process, to go back through the printed notes you have now developed and use colored highlighters to mark both the slides and your written notes. For example, use a blue highlighter to mark key slide titles, a pink highlighter to mark one or two of the most important data elements on a slide, an orange highlighter to mark your key applications, a yellow highlighter to mark your illustrations and examples. If you really like color-coding, you could even use green highlighter to mark bottom line statements or transitional sentences at the end of each slide to help you segue from slide to slide in a coherent, smooth manner. Always keep your Big Idea and outcomes in mind as you go.
- If interactivity and/or Q&A is appropriate for this upcoming presentation, write down questions you might like to ask your audience as well as questions you think they might ask you. Then jot down a few notes to help you remember what you might like to say. Include any slide numbers that help support your comments.