You don’t need to say a word. Everybody struggles with creating presentations at first. This is nothing that some people have a talent for that others don’t have. Over the last decade, I built many “decks,” as they are called in some areas.
I also noticed that over time the types of presentations have split into presentations that are combined with a speech and the type that is just sent around by email for the audience to read it. The latter type sometimes needs a little bit more text in it, but usually, I’d suggest using as little text as possible and full-screen-sized photos that go along with your slides.
Please consider this article as a guideline, that I based on my experiences, there are certainly many ways of creating presentations and communicating a certain message, and there is no single right way. Have fun!
Before you start
Here are some pointers to consider before you start building your presentation deck:
- Define your audience: who are you talking to?
- Adapt language and style to match the audience
- What’s your story? What are you “selling”?
- Are you holding a presentation or will the presentation be read only?
- Will you need to follow a style guide or corporate identity?
- Will you allow people to ask questions in-between or not?
If you think about these aspects first, your presentation will be a lot more efficient in comparison to neglecting same.
What’s in a presentation?
Indeed, you don’t need to adapt to this structure 100%. Think of it as a guideline. If you can’t use something because it doesn’t make sense for what you are doing, just discard it. If some aspect should be larger, to support your message, make it larger. It’s your presentation, and I merely hope to inspire you with these bullets.
Slide 1: Cover slide
Make sure you prepare a compelling cover slide to start your presentation with. You’ll absolutely need to capture the name of the author, that would usually be yourself, as well as the title of your presentation. File version information and presentation data are considered optional and “nice to have,” depending on the occasion. If your organization doesn’t dictate a certain cover slide, you could add your own visual elements here to keep things interesting.
Slide 2: Table of contents / Agenda
This slide gives an overview of what you are about to present. You should add a numbered list to introduce the following slides. Here’s an example:
- This is who we are
- Our problem
- What we want to do
- This will work because…
- What you need to decide
Slide 3: Tell the story
Your idea has a background and a story to it. Share that story with your audience. Make sure they feel it as if they were directly affected. Use abstract personas if it makes sense.
Slide 4: Explain the problem
Now you need to give some details on what is currently undesirable. You can define the shortcomings of the scenario and describe how this is a problem to you, others, the company, or the whole world.
Slide 5: Introduce the solution (options)
Tell your audience about your ideas. What have you been thinking about? Who was involved in the ideation? What option(s) have you come up with to address the problem of your presentation.
Slide 6: Back it with data
Did you run some reports? Have data to back your case up? Simplify the outcome in a visual way. Indicate why your problem should be addressed and why your options should be considered. Keep it simple here but do offer details of your data. Perhaps you can add a link to the related report to make sure that everybody who is interested in that, can actually review your numbers. Help them to make a good decision.
Slide 7: Call to action
Now you need to formulate what you want your audience to do. If you have more than one option (there usually is), make them decide for an option. If you need any kind of approval for what you are planning to do, this slide is imperative for your projects to get carried out. Don’t leave anyone behind thinking, “…so …what?”.
Slide 8: Thanks and Q&A
Make sure you don’t terminate the presentation with the bleakest blackout screen. Communicate a positive sense of continual improvement and positivity. Keep the dialogue open and allow people to ask questions or add their ideas. Instead of a “the end” this should be your “what do you think” slide. Keep this open until all is over. Don’t go beyond into the black. It would disconnect the audience directly as you do that.
Make sure you do some reviewing of your work. Show your deck to someone else and ask them for feedback. Do some iterations and pick the one with the best flow and effect. You should also check the following:
- Check for typos and issues on every slide
- Run through the deck in presentation mode
- Is the call-to-action clear to the audience?
We love to play with animations. But for the sake of being professional, I recommend you to follow the following practices. Simple is beautiful. You’re not producing a blockbuster movie, you’re just explaining your ideas.
- Little to no animations
- Place large visuals
- Default fonts only
- Bullets, no novels
- Be consistent with your layout and styles
- White background, black text
- No bold, italics, underlined text (use colors to highlight text)
- Add credit and source info
- Add full-screen photos in between the slides for a kick
I am primarily addressing decks built with PowerPoint from the Microsoft Office suite, but you can just as well use another software for building presentation decks. There are many alternatives available from which some are free, and others cost money. Check out “The best free alternative to PowerPoint 2017” by Cat Ellis if you’re not sure what to choose.
This guideline article has a focus on building the presentation and preparing slides of your deck. If you’re looking for help on presenting and speaking, watch the TED Talk “Giving Presentations Worth Listening To” by Gordon Kangas.
I prepared a free PowerPoint template for you to use. You can review it as an inspiration or just remove my text and add your own. You can take it and do with it whatever you want, whether you’re a student or doing it as part of your job.
The layout and design of this template are pretty basic and open for you to make changes. As the focus of this guideline was the structure of an effective presentation, you can follow your own creativity as far as visuals go.
Bonus for you
I’m sure you know TechAcutie Silvia Spiva, who regularly publishes pieces of her column here on TechAcute. Her approach is also quite interesting, modern and equally effective. Her presentation style works really well with actually holding the presentation along with a speech. She says:
How to build a structured PowerPoint presentation? Don’t! Make use of pictures and make sure you limit the number of slides (Overload Alert!). If you absolutely need to use text, use only titles and large fonts. Here’s an example of my work from a little while ago. Avoid “Death by PowerPoint” at all cost! What do you think?
If you take away even only a single point from all of this, it should be: Use as least text as possible. Make use of photos and other types of visuals but stay professional when doing the layout. Best images have a resolution beyond your screens native resolution so you can go full-screen without worrying about poor looks. Good luck with building your presentation!