Most people that have ever sat through a long presentation or sales pitch have a love/hate relationship with Powerpoint. Many of the reasons for this can be tied to a few specific things that the presenter may of done wrong in the creation of the presentation. In most cases with a few tweaks the Powerpoint presentation could of been both informative and entertaining while getting the results that the presenter wanted instead of the crowd tuning out.

Over a good portion of my career I have spent quite a bit of time giving presentations, in many cases the marketing team at the company I worked for had created the slide deck, and in others I had to create the material from scratch. What I find is that in almost all cases if a marketing team created the slide deck I would need to modify the presentation quite a bit to make it fit my customers needs. The reason being is people want to try to get as much information as possible on every slide and try to have the presenter remember as little as possible.

That is a big mistake, the more information you put on the slide the less likely the crowd is to pay attention to the content.

More recently I have had to create several Powerpoint presentations from scratch, and in the past month and a half I have been working heads down on one that has really made me spend a lot of time thinking about the best way to create something that is both pointed but full of information at the same time.

So, all that said, here are several tips to help you create a presentation that will keep your crowd interested until the very last slide:

  • No more than 5 bullet points per slide. Period….
  • A related graphic per slide helps draw attention to the slide from the crowd, do not use clip-art.
  • Do not clutter the slides with to many graphics, typically I only have one graphic strategically placed to draw attention to something.
  • Numbers and percentages are great, but do not over do it.
  • DO NOT EVER be the person turning around staring at the screen to read the slides, know your material, the slides are talking points only. The crowd can read the slides, you are there to tell the story.
  • What ever template you use it should NOT look like it came from the mid-90’s. Clean and not to flashy should be what you shoot for. Colors that do not over power the message are important.
  • In most cases you should shoot for less than 20 slides (including summary and intro slide). At one point in my career I had set a rule for when ever I start my own company the sales deck could never be more than 15 slides, I have broke that slightly but in most cases I can keep it right around there.
  • As little slide animation as possible, marketing folks like to go crazy with slide animations and build outs, when done right they can have a great impact, when over done it just shows that someone read the latest book on Powerpoint tweaks.

Now for the flow of the presentation, and this works for both sales decks and seminar slide decks:

  • Intro slide – This is the front slide, simple, it should contain your company name, presenters name, and title of the presentation or company tag line, that is it.
  • Company slide – No more than 5 points, should include things like company vision and history.
  • If needed, and it is NOT always needed, a media and partner slide could be put after this. If you have had success winning awards that the audience may be familiar with it is ok to show that off. As far as partners, if it is an audience that will be familiar with the partners you have then this is a great place to outline who they are and what they bring to the table.
  • Create a problem – By create a problem I do not mean make something up, I am saying show market data of what is happening that you will be providing a solution too. You are setting the table for a solution to the problem…
  • It may be useful to show some independent market data after that slide showing trends, graphs, etc. Not to many numbers but a few that make the point.
  • Now is the time to setup for showing the solution to the problem, 5 points, generic ideas on how to create a solution.
  • Now you get to show your greatness, now that you have shown generic solutions to the problem, show what you have to hit EACH of the points that you laid out. It is important that if you laid out a problem you show a solution.
  • Examples, this is where many people fall apart, they either have no real successes to show, OR, they try to show too many. Done right you should be able to get the customers heads nodding with only one, maybe two, examples. If I had to pick only two slides from my whole presentation it would be my example slides.
  • Products – after you have shown your examples show what products relate to those examples.
  • Time for the summary, your summary slide should be the WOW slide. Show no more than 5 points that bring it all home.

Now, the one thing that should go without saying, when I keep hitting on 5 points, DO NOT try to fit a paragraph into each one. My goal is typically they should never line wrap around to be two lines. Sometimes that is necessary. Remember, the presenter should tell the story, the presentation is simply talking points.

Also, only if it is absolutely necessary should you use a slide for each and everyone of your products (unless you only have one product).

OK, now none of the above matters if you come in with a dry, no personality, pitch. You have to get there attention. When you first stand up it is ok to make some lighthearted comment to get a laugh or really anything to catch their attention. It is very important to do this. If you do not get their attention in the first 30 seconds it is very likely you will not get it the rest of the presentation either.

Every 15 minutes break it up, do something interactive, ask a question, do something not related directly to the slide. People will drift, it is built into the human brain (read the book Brain Rules by John Medina…).

Anyway, I hope some of these tips help. I have been trying to live by these for years and sometimes some of the rules have to be broke, but I always try to use these as my guidelines.