Designing and Delivering Non-Linear Presentations; Issue #156 April 1, 2008

PowerPoint Tip: Designing Non-Linear Presentations

Yesterday I posted a new article on the site that gives best practices for designing sales presentations to be delivered over the web. Web delivery of presentations is growing rapidly and these tips will help your next web presentation be a success. At you can read the full article. (if the link doesn't work because it is too long, just go to the articles page on the web site and you'll see it there)

In today's tip I want to expand on one of the ideas I mention in the article: non-linear presentations. Whenever I discuss this in my workshops it is one of the ideas that my audiences find the most intriguing. You can deliver a non-linear presentation in person or over the web. Let me start by recapping what it is before I give you some tips when planning to present this way.

A non-linear presentation is one where you give the audience control of the sequence of topics. Instead of going through the topics in the order you have planned, you give them a menu of topics and you ask them what order they want you to proceed in. It is totally focused on the needs of the audience at that moment in time and I think it is the future of presentations. Decision makers are fed up with having to listen to reams of irrelevant data before the presenter gets to the one point that they came to hear.

To create a non-linear PowerPoint presentation, there are three different ways you can do it - hyperlinks, slide numbers or link to module files. If you want to learn how to implement these techniques, get a copy of my Guide to Advanced PowerPoint Techniques e-book at . Today I want to focus on three design tips before you get to implementation. First, design your presentation in modules that can stand independent of each other. This means you should collect related information into some logical groupings. This is similar to creating an agenda for your presentation, but takes more thought because it is not just a list of slides. Think of how your audience groups the information to decide on the modules (ie. product benefits, pricing, delivery schedule, setup and support, etc.)

Second, assume that each module is the first module you present, and that the audience has not seen any preceding information. This will require you to include a slide at the start of the module that summarizes the key points from other modules that relate to what you are about to present. If you have not presented some of the points, it gives the audience context for what you are about to say. If you have covered the material, it serves as a recap and reminder of relevant points.

Finally, prepare at least twice as much material as you would normally for the time allotted to your presentation. Since you are giving the audience a choice of topics, chances are you won't be going through at least half of the material. Instead of guessing which half they won't need to see, prepare everything and let them choose.

Now that you’ve designed a non-linear PowerPoint presentation, you have three choices as to how you construct and deliver it.  First, you can use hyperlinks within a single PowerPoint file.  You create hyperlinks from shapes or text that allow you to move from the menu of items to the starting slide for each module and then back to the menu.  Second, you can jump to each module and to the menu by typing the slide number of the appropriate slide on your keyboard during the slide show and pressing the Enter key.  Finally, you can create each module as a separate PowerPoint file and use hyperlinks to start the module file.  When you are done with that module, you press the Escape key to return to the main presentation file that contains the menu of items.

Non-linear presentations help you stand out from the crowd and get noticed by decision-makers because it values their time and shows you are prepared to serve their needs.