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Powerpoint Presentation Tips: How To Use PowerPoint As A Storytelling Tool

President Of TrainSmart, Inc.

Just as the guest speakers were ready to do their 90-minute presentation, the projector crashed. Two technicians and 15 minutes later, it was still a no – go. We decided to print out copies of the presentation to the 36 participants and requested that the SME’s (Subject Matter Experts) do their presentation sans slides.

To say that these C-level executives were cranky about the situation would be putting it mildly. Despite all that, they regrouped and started talking. 90 minutes later as we were debriefing, they said, “You know, we think this went better without the slides.”

It’s news to no one that PowerPoint slides – originally conceived to enhance presentations – now are often seen as a detriment. Complicated graphs, wordy charts, bullet point after bullet point in tiny type that few can read, it’s no surprise that the term “death by PowerPoint” is now part of corporate vernacular.

Instead of using the slides to help tell a story, presenters often use PowerPoint slides AS the story. By putting all key data on the slides, presenters focus less on how they are sharing information. Instead of learning the material and figuring out how the most dynamic way to tell their story, they just do a data dump on slides and go from there.

In most cases, PowerPoints are designed as a left-brained visual, using bullets and lots of data. The problem: people can’t read slides and listen simultaneously. Not to mention that slide after slide with bullets galore is really quite boring.

There is a scientific reason why slides full of text are not effective and it has to do with how much work it takes the brain to process words. Reading takes a lot of mental work. Looking at visuals does not. That’s one reason why watching television and movies is relaxing, it’s easier on the brain to comprehend visuals.

What does that mean for presentations? Using meaningful visuals lessens the “cognitive exertion and improves the overall experience.” What can you do? Try creating right-brained visuals. Lots of pictures that tell a story. Vision trumps all the other senses for helping to imprint a concept.

I use visuals that show faces. Don’t be afraid to use humor and look for slides that demonstrate the beauty and dramatize your concept. And then, tell your story as if the projector broke and you had to talk without any notes.

If the goal is for your audience to learn and remember the key points of your presentation, remember that great visuals also help improve memory recall.

“A picture can enhance the ability to remember concepts and details, and such an effect tends to increase over time. One study showed that illustrated text was 9 percent more effective than text alone when comprehension was tested right away, but that it was 83 percent more effective when the test was delayed, thus implying the reader’s ability to remember the information better later, because of the illustration (Rusted and Coltheart, 1979).”

Interested in learning more about creating visual presentations?

1. Presentation Zen – Garr Reynolds
2. Beyond Bullet Points – Cliff Atkinson
3. Slideology – Nancy Duarte
4. Why Most PowerPoint Presentations Suck – Rick Altman
5. Visual Slide Revolution – David Paradi