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POWERPOINT PRESENTATIONS THAT SELL
By ADAM B. COOPER
The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.Copyright © 2009 Adam Cooper
All right reserved.
Chapter OneIntroduction: Creating Presentations That Sell
Experience can be a double-edged sword. In the work-place, it is often what you need to gain confidence in using a specific tool such as a business system or more traditional software such as Microsoft PowerPoint. However, gaining experience takes time, and time is at a premium in today's workplace, where things are expected to be delivered faster with a leaner staff and fewer training resources available to employees.
This book seeks to close the experience gap and bring you up to speed on the fundamentals of using PowerPoint and other similar presentation products to sell your ideas more effectively. This book will give you a set of simple techniques to plan, design, and deliver presentations that get results and get you noticed among your peers and managers. You do not need to have experience with PowerPoint to pick up this book and immediately put its lessons to use.
This book is written from the perspective of someone giving advice over your shoulder to serve as a guiding hand as you begin to organize your project's activities and then ultimately create a PowerPoint presentation. Regardless of what part of an organization you belong to or are considering joining, you can use this book at any stage of a project and learn slide structuring techniques and speed shortcut tips that are instantly applicable. The book offers both conceptual and tactical approaches to plan, design, and deliver presentations that get results (see Figure 11).
As you can see in Figure 11, the pages in the rest of the book after this introduction are written as an actual PowerPoint presentation. This reinforces the book's recommendations on every single page (the book practices what it preaches). I believe it is easier to learn new ideas when they are in the form of the desired end product. Thus, it is easier to learn about creating better presentations by using a book written as a presentation. Whether you're just starting a new job, working on a new project, or have a meeting at the end of the week, this book will help you create presentations with confidence.
This book also is intended to serve as a combined PowerPoint tutorial and business communications resource. Similar to a basic how-to book, it will offer tips and tricks on how to format slides, create objects (e.g., shapes, text boxes, and data graphs), and use helpful shortcut keys. It then goes a step further and provides recommendations on how these slides and objects can be organized to emphasize your story within a slide and across a presentation.
This book is structured to give you a start-to-finish approach not just for an individual slide or a presentation but for an entire project. For example, Part I of the book helps you use a storytelling mindset to structure your project's activities more efficiently and address audience needs at the beginning of a project. Once you've structured your activities and started your research and analysis, Part II helps you use smart slide structure to communicate your findings and actionable recommendations. Part III then provides speed tips and techniques to create slides faster, and Part IV illustrates this entire start-to-finish approach in a case study.
You do not have to read this book from cover to cover. It is designed so that you should be able to go directly to the area you are most interested in or where you have the most immediate need and instantly apply what you have learned. For example, if you want to understand how to
Improve presentation of data, refer to Chapters 6 through 8, which help you decide which graph type to use, create graphs from scratch, and improve the formatting of the way the data is presented.
Learn speed techniques, refer to Chapter 9, which details instructions on finding and using speed toolbars.
Create and/or edit shapes and text boxes, refer to Chapter 10, which provides step-by-step instructions.
Improve slide structure, refer to Chapter 5, which outlines how to structure a slide's content.
Save time during the project, refer to Chapters 3 and 4 to learn how to use a storytelling mindset and storyboarding to structure your project's activities more efficiently.
As you can see, you can pick up this book at the beginning of a project to help structure your activities, again when you're trying to decide how your project's findings link together as a single coherent story, and then when you're working on the final slides.
This book will bring any PowerPoint user up to speed, allowing you to take full advantage of what PowerPoint has to offer. Pick up the book at different stages of your presentation preparation and practice its recommendations to become more proficient at creating presentations to sell your ideas more effectively.
Chapter TwoSave Time by Using a Storytelling Mindset
As discussed in the Chapter 1 introduction, the book is structured in three parts, followed by a case study so that you can test and apply what you have learned in your own project setting. Part I focuses on structuring your project's activities and presentation more effectively. Often the most challenging part of a project is knowing where to start! Chapter 3 shows how to use a storytelling mindset to structure a project's activities and analyses from Day 1, before you even turn on the computer. This is extremely valuable because it forces you to think through what the decision makers in the presentation meeting will need to be convinced of and guide your thinking toward this end at the very onset of a project. In other words, what is "mission-critical" to this project? What information will you have to gather and then present to meet expectations? The storytelling approach helps you map this out from the beginning of a project so that you are working efficiently and are focused from the onset on the major deliverables.
Several techniques are introduced to help you use a storytelling mindset in the following chapter. One way to do this is to agendicize your project's story. To agendicize means to write out a list of research areas you want to investigate during a project. Creating this list helps structure your thoughts at the onset of a project and keeps you focused on which items are critical throughout the project. It also helps you work efficiently, as it can prevent you from investing large amounts of time in collecting data that is not relevant or of primary importance to the project.
Chapter ThreeOutline Your Presentation through Storyboarding
Another technique introduced to help you use a storytelling mindset is storyboarding slides before going to the computer. Storyboards are handwritten visual illustrations of what your story's path could look like in PowerPoint. Creating a storyboard allows you to translate your agendicized thoughts into handwritten slides. Although completing this means you have to invest some time up front, thinking through how you want to present your content saves a lot of time in the long run. It is always easier to edit than to create, and if you visualize your story presentation from the beginning, it is easier to modify and adjust as you move through your research. If part of the story seems awkward or out of place, this is the time to eliminate or modify the information to prevent you from completing too much research on a noncritical topic. Storyboarding can save you from spending time collecting information that will not make it into the final presentation. Although a presentation is a working document and it is not always possible to know the entire story at the beginning, being mindful of this storytelling mindset and taking it one step further to storyboard your slides can help you remain focused on the most important information to collect, ultimately making you more efficient.
Rationale for approach
Ensures that slide's message is relevant to audience and action-oriented
Forces you to prioritize the most important information to present
Provokes better conversation during the presentation rather than at the end of the meeting
EXERCISE: Try drawing a storyboard!
Think about the last project you worked on or the last presentation you created. Focus on just one of the sections of that presentation and draw a very basic storyboard by using the following steps:
1. Take a blank piece of paper and draw a horizontal line and a vertical line through the middle to create a grid with four boxes (see image below)
2. Think about four brief sentences that tell the story of the section you selected
3. Starting in the top left box, write with pencil or pen the first sentence that begins your story. Then write the remaining sentences in the other three boxes
4. Congratulationsyou've created your first storyboard!
EXERCISE: Draw a more detailed storyboard with mini-stories
Now, for a project you're currently working on, draw a four-page storyboard with sentence headers and one or two pieces of information you want to include on each slide:
1. Handwrite four sentences with a pencil or pen at the top of each box
2. Think through the content you want to put on each slide (your mini-story) and decide how to structure the thoughts (Part II will provide more guidance on structuring a slide's content)
3. Handwrite your ideas within each box to give you a starting point before you approach the computer
Chapter FourSmart Slide Structure Techniques: Think Left to Right
Part II focuses on structuring a slide's content. This is often an area professionals struggle with: "I know what I want to say, but how should I say it?" This part provides simple techniques to structure your slides to design and deliver presentations that get results. For example, one technique is to consider structuring a slide's content from left to right (rather than from top to bottom with bullets and dashes). This is the way people commonly read, and it makes the content more easily digestible for the audience. A left-to-right format can engage readers more easily because it serves as a natural guiding hand as you take readers from point A to point B. It also can allow you to fit more information on a slide while making it actually look less cluttered.
The main goal of Chapter 5 is to move you away from using only the top-to-bottom long list of bullets and dashes that we all use way too often. Chapter 5 takes you through the steps of how to start thinking from left to right, and then Part III details how to create the shapes and text boxes necessary to use the left-to-right structure. Don't be discouraged if you think the examples in this chapter look too complicated to create on your own. Chapter 10 in Part III has simple step-by-step instructions with illustrations to create these shapes and text boxes.
Exercise: Now try cutting unneeded text!
Find a slide you created recently that has a set of bullets with a lot of text (four or more lines) and try to eliminate unneeded text by recalling the key questions:
1. What is the main point I'm trying to make with each bullet?
2. Is each word necessary to make that point?
3. If I wanted to cut half the words, which ones would I cut?
EXERCISE: Now you try it!
Find a slide you created recently that looks like the top-to-bottom slide below on the left and convert it to the slide below on the right in the left-to-right format by using the following steps:
1. Handwritea one-page storyboard of a left-to-right slide based on the content in your original slide
2. Create actual slide by using geometric shapes, text boxes, and other tools from the "Draw" menu, as detailed previously and in Part III
3. For additional tips on how to create slides quickly, see Part III
Chapter FiveSelecting the Right Data Graphs
The second half of Part II addresses one of the most common struggles in preparing a presentation: how to select and create compelling charts that use data. The first thing to remember about presenting data is that you should seek to answer your audience's questions on data slides before the audience has a chance to ask them. In other words, the audience should not have to guess what information is on a certain slide or make their own calculations; this should be done for them by creating clear slides that articulate calculations and sources of information. A three-step technique is introduced in Chapter 6 to help you do this: introducing, revealing, and supporting your story. This section explains how a slide title can be used to introduce a story, saving space for the data you plan to present on the actual slide and providing insight into why this slide is important to the audience. It can also help to pique the audience's interest in the information about to be shared. This section also outlines the most effective way to structure and format a slide when you are revealing key learnings as well as maximize the impact of presenting data to support your story.
Make the slide title meaningful and pique the audience's interest in your story
Think of your title as the audience's first impression of a slide (remember, you get only one chance to make a first impression!)
Try to avoid generic titles because that wastes valuable "real estate" on the slide and the title is your chance to introduce the story before the audience reads the rest of the content
Learnings tell audience members what they need to knowinteresting insights and action items from the slide's mini-story
You should be able to cover the data on the slide and leave the audience with sufficient information
Use short, bulleted phrases (three lines or less if space allows)
See Chapter 10, "Quick Hit FAQs," for instructions for creating bold headings and bulleted text box
Chapter SixCreating Compelling Graphs with Data
Chapter 7 provides specific step-by-step instructions for creating data charts and understanding which chart is optimal, based on the type of data you are presenting. It addresses common scenarios, or message types conveyed in presentations, such as using data to make a comparison, illustrate distribution or process flow, or show how something changes over time. Screenshots are used to illustrate ways to create and format graphs in Excel and then paste them into PowerPoint.
CH7[ Improving Presentation of Data
Chapter 8 offers over 20 "emphasizing" and "formatting" principles to improve the presentation of your data. Emphasizing principles, which are categorized as "learning callouts," "attention grabbers," "guess prevention," and "data accents," are meant to draw audience's attention to most important information on a slide. Formatting principles, categorized as "clutter reduction," "descriptive," and "eye pleasing," help you simplify the presentation of your data to focus attention on the slide's key information. At the end of this chapter, there is one page for each principle detailing specific recommendations with before-and-after illustrations. ]CH7
CH8[ Speed Tips to Create Slides Faster
Part III explains how you can accomplish all of this and still be home in time for dinner by using PowerPoint speed tips and "Quick Hit FAQs." The first recommendation is to leverage slides you've already created and reuse them rather than creating slides from scratch every time. The rest of Chapter 9 details instructions on finding and using speed toolbars and shortcuts, such as aligning text boxes and copying and pasting shapes in a way that saves you time. ]CH8
CH9[ Quick Hit FAQs: Answers to Common Questions
Chapter 10, "Quick Hit FAQs: Answers to Common Questions," provides step-by-step instructions with corresponding visualizations for over 25 topics to help you execute the book's recommendations.
Excerpted from POWERPOINT PRESENTATIONS THAT SELL by ADAM B. COOPER Copyright © 2009 by Adam Cooper. Excerpted by permission of The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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