Can you remember the last three presentations you saw? What have you kept to this day? When I think about it, I usually have few pieces of information stored away that I found particularly interesting and important. As a rule, it is the quintessence of a presentation that is ultimately remembered. It might look like this: Peter Müller gave a presentation on the topic of condominiums as an investment. He said that you should definitely do XY in the next two years. Usually, only a few messages remain in the long-term memory of the audience. Your presentation should take this fact into account.
How much information can a good PowerPoint presentation handle?
The presentation should support the speaker and emphasize his messages. However, speakers often think they are playing it safe by reproducing everything they want to say during the presentation on the slides. The fear of forgetting something is the reason. This quickly leads to the individual slides being completely overloaded and the audience having to endure 60 or more slides. Hardly any viewer can bear that. It eventually shuts down in the face of a barrage of information. Literally hiding behind your many slides will lead to poor presentation results.
Astronomer and author Clifford Stoll wrote in an essay, “The PowerPoint Plague,” that “PowerPoint is the enemy of any good presentation. […] As far as public speaking goes, PowerPoint is the coward’s choice.”
In a good PowerPoint presentation, the individual slides support your work
The individual slides help you get your message across, but they don’t do your job. If you want to present with success, think of your slides as amplifiers of your talk. If you do, the slides should meet certain requirements. Get to the point and focus on the essential content.
Present like Steve Jobs or Garr Reynolds
Watch a presentation by Apple founder Steve Jobs on YouTube. What do you notice about it? Steve Jobs uses the screen presentation as an amplifier of his lecture. He usually uses only one image or a few keywords per slide. This allows the audience to follow his explanations effortlessly. The slides only clarify what he is saying. He doesn’t pack in text clutter or complicated graphics, but simple information that can be grasped at a glance. The audience can listen to Steve Jobs without stress and process the images as additional information. You can hardly get it any better than that. In the 10 best tricks of Steve Jobs, we show you how to present like experts.
This concentration on the essential content is becoming increasingly important in modern presentations. This is also shown by many book publications. Garr Reynolds has hit a nerve with his book “Presentation Zen.” As with Japanese Zen gardens, Reynolds emphasizes clarity, simplicity and precision in presentations. No frills and unnecessary content. His books have been a great success worldwide and show the direction in which presentations have been developing for several years. Simple and clear content is of great importance for good PowerPoint presentations today.
What are the key messages of your presentation?
It is not necessary, nor is it at all useful, to write everything you know about a topic on slides. Before you start the PowerPoint program, think about what information you absolutely want your audience to take home. What are your most important key messages (consider how much individual information your audience can really process)? Once you’ve found messages, think about how to design your slides to serve as reinforcers.
Tips for more clarity in your slides.
A good PowerPoint presentation is clear and simply structured. You grasp the content and meaning of each slide at a glance. They reinforce the core elements of your presentation. In addition, three tips:
- If you have a text that you think is important, ask, what is the crucial word or words in that text? Write only this part of the text on a slide. These important words are read by your audience as context comes through your presentation.
- Your part in the presentation and your slide set are two different parts of the presentation. The slides are not an end in themselves. They are there to support you so that you succeed in convincing and inspiring your audience
- Try to present only the really important slides. However, it can’t hurt to have additional slides ready to elaborate on one or two points in case of audience questions.
Try to develop a sense of what information is really essential and what additional information is better left out. Of course, this requires some experience. If in doubt, ask a good presentation agency for some assistance to ensure the success of your presentation. A good PowerPoint presentation sometimes needs the trained eye of the presentation professional to fix weaknesses.
Reduce content to the essentials
Speakers quickly run the risk of overloading their PowerPoint presentation with information. This quickly overwhelms and confuses the audience. The art of a good presentation is to filter out the important messages and present them convincingly.
When you prepare your presentation, you usually start by searching for information. Depending on the topic, large amounts of data can quickly accumulate.
You may find that many aspects are important to your presentation and should actually all be shared with your audience for the sake of completeness. But how do you get all that info into a set of slides? Either you can create a huge amount of slides to include all the important messages in your presentation. Or you need to try to include as much info as possible on every single slide. Neither strategy will excite your auditorium much. In the first case, viewers must often endure a seemingly endless series of slides. I’ve seen presentations before, in which over 100 slides were shown. No one can or wants to remember that. In the second case, the slides are completely overloaded with information. But if you have to concentrate on the data on a slide, you only listen to the speaker with half an ear, and if you concentrate on the speaker, you cannot read texts, understand tables and interpret diagrams on the side. In either case, you will eventually lose your audience because the “overkill” of messages will cause people to lose their train of thought. Better focus on the core messages of your presentation and try to bring them out convincingly in your presentation.
Focus on the critical information
Hand on heart: when you listen to a lecture, can you remember everything the speaker says? After a few days, do you still know what was on each slide? You will probably take away some essential information for yourself from a presentation, but not all the details presented. This is completely normal. But if the audience is unlikely to remember the entire presentation anyway, it would still be important to influence what “sticks” with your auditorium in the long run. So what should your audience definitely take away from your presentation? When designing your presentation, focus on the info that really matters to you.
Have the courage to allow free spaces on your PowerPoint presentation
Modern presentations are often characterized by a certain minimalism. In most cases, only one message or statement is used per slide. In this way, the slide looks tidy, clear and optimized for essential messages. These can be captured quickly. This allows the reader to focus on this one important piece of information on the slide while effortlessly following the speaker’s explanations.
How do I find the key messages for my PowerPoint slides?
What absolutely has to be on a slide and what can be left out? Anyone who has ever asked themselves these questions knows how difficult they often are to answer.
The following questions may help you in your selection:
- Does the audience really need to get all the information, or is less input enough to capture your message? What do you want your audience to take away from your presentation? Try to summarize the most important key messages and present them in your slide deck. How can these key messages be conveyed succinctly? What could help (photo, graphic, etc.) to clarify your message?
- Can a message be reduced to a key phrase or explanatory graphic? Slides are often used to map information in long passages of text. In this case, the viewer must simultaneously read, listen to the speaker, and synthesize the information for him or herself. This is exhausting and can eventually lead to complete abandonment. Your messages are unlikely to be received this way.
- Does the slide content reinforce what I am saying in my presentation? Ultimately, your slides serve to impressively underscore the theses and messages you formulate during your presentation. They better not succumb to the temptation to use your slide set as a source of additional information. In that case, your audience will have to decide whether to focus on you or study your slides.
A presentation expert discovers even small but perhaps significant errors
The effort to create a professional presentation is enormous. It is therefore fatal if your messages are not or only insufficiently grasped by the audience. In case of doubt, it is better to have your concept checked by experts from a presentation agency. Small mistakes often creep into the presentation structure, but they can have fatal effects on the overall result.
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Dipl.-Wirtsch.-Informatiker Matthias Garten as the expert for multimedia presentations and professional PowerPoint presentations knows about the art of professional slide design. He is an entrepreneur, speaker (TOP 100 Speaker), trainer (TOP 100 Excellence Trainer), multiple book author, presentation coach (presentation training), member of the GSA and Club 55, organizer of the Presentation Conference, Presentation Bootcamp and Presentation Rocket Day. In addition to PowerPoint and presentation training, he inspires and advises companies to present themselves even more effectively and thus stand out from competitors. He is the business owner of the presentation and PowerPoint agency smavicon Best Business Presentations and with his team has created over 10,000 professional PowerPoint presentations for over 150 industries since 1993.