All professional presentations I have attended or set up for myself last years used Powerpoint –Microsoft‘s ace program for schematically setting up your ideas on animated templates for public presentations– or something like it as an integral part of them.
Nothing peculiar as every single day there are thirty millions of Powerpoint presentations all over the world –add all these cheesy .ppt out of puppies, sunrises and moving melodies that friends send you to make you reconsider your insensitive way of life!
In accordance with such a profusion there are lots of guidelines about Powerpoint presentations. I have a problem with them: everytime I read the usual ones I think they focus too much on visual, technical or expositive aspects but don’t care so much as needed about its previous ideological and argumentative structure. The approach I miss and favour can be introduced according to the following points.
① Please let aside all visual aspects of your presentation and put your six senses on focusing on what is the main idea or target you want to communicate –image and design are crucial indeed but second to it! If possible, don’t start doing templates yet and just use a humble piece of paper or a blank word document.
② Think in one of your favourite work felows or friends, smart and informed enough to understand what you want to communicate but with no particular idea about your target, and take her as a mental reference all along the setting up.
③ Strike up an imaginary chat with her so natural and smooth as possible. Pen down all crucial steps and essential ideas and information you need to provide while mentally talking with her, and try to forecast and manage her possible reactions and objections.
④ In doing so, and all along the setting up, remember one of our previous posts and never ever forget the K.I.S.S. Principle: keep everything so simple as possible! Human attention is much more limited than assumed: every unnecessary step or information you provide will blur the picture you’re trying to offer!
⑤ Weight all essential ideas and information and try to settle some kind of argumentative schema or tree with crucial steps and relations among them.
⑥ Use argumentative or inferential marks so much and so visible as possible: expressions like ‘if… then’ or ‘therefore’ are ideological signal posts that guide your public’s attention in the right direction without unnecessary effort.
⑦ At every crucial step, take stock of previous steps briefly and make explicit the relationship among them, even if you think everything is pretty settled and clear.
Now that you have the ideological content and the argumentative structure of your presentation, it’s time to work with templates.
⑧ When designing templates, remember again the K.I.S.S. Principle: the more you enrich and complicate visual or media aspects, the more you run the risk of distracting your public’s attention –while they think you’re a cool guy indeed, they will loose your train of thought!
⑨ If your topic allows graphical representations and quantification, use them so much as possible. Always remember the old telling: ‘A picture is worth a thousand words’. Never forget that the most powerful bussines argument is a sales figure!
⑩ When you finish your Powerpoint file don’t rely very much on it: it is a nice means of articulating and exposing your ideas but just a means after all. While actually presenting it, avoid focusing too much on it and try to follow pieces of counseling in our previous post.
Having a B-plan is fine but take into account that the best B-plan in the world is yourself: if you work on the argumentative structure of your presentation, as I’m suggesting, you can expose your train of thought for yourself even when any B, C, or D-plan fails!