Stand-alone presentations; Issue #274 November 13, 2012

This summer one of my clients asked me how to make stand-alone presentations effective. They often have to send their PowerPoint file to a prospective client without ever getting the opportunity to deliver the presentation in person or via web meeting. Since PowerPoint slides are supposed to be used to enhance the speaker’s message and not be a substitute for the presenter, I needed to look at this request in a different way.

This use of PowerPoint is not a typical presentation situation, so I turned to the experts at creating stand-alone presentations, those who use slideshare has been allowing people to upload PowerPoint files for years and they have even held contests for the best presentations. For most of the presentations, all the viewer sees is the slides, there is no narration for them.

These contests attract top presentation designers and the resulting slides are very effective. I reviewed many of the contest winners and all-time most popular presentations to see what they had in common. I came up with seven ideas to make stand-alone presentations effective. When I shared these with the participants in the workshops for my client in July, they responded very positively, so I want to share these ideas with you in this article.

Idea #1: Only include the essentials
Someone will not flip through slides for 30 minutes. You need to filter your message to the essential points. You may get emotional about cutting points out, but you will have to. Outline your message so that it flows well.

Idea #2: Give them a roadmap
Manage audience expectations by giving them an idea of what you will cover early on. One easy way is to use an agenda of your points.

Idea #3: Use title slides for each main point
Since the viewer can’t hear you transition between points, you need to give them a way to know that you are moving to the next point. Use a consistent design so they recognize it each time.

Idea #4: Recap the key points at the end
Since most people won’t take notes as they flip through a stand-alone presentation, you need to recap the key points at the end so they remember your message.

Idea #5: Use large visuals with explanations
If you don’t have great visuals, just create a Word document and send it instead. If you are using PowerPoint, make the photos, diagrams, or graphs fill the screen. Add explanatory text so the viewer understands the point.

Idea #6: Use narration slides
Not every point can be made with a visual. Sometimes you should use a text slide to keep the story moving along. It doesn’t need to be a transcript, just the key phrases that move the viewer along.

Idea #7: Build your points
A stand-alone presentation typically has two to five times the number of slides as a delivered presentation. Each slide delivers one point and this keeps the presentation moving along at a good pace. Either use the PowerPoint animation effects and send the file as a PowerPoint Show file so it opens in Slide Show mode, or create the builds over multiple slides.

A stand-alone presentation will deliver your key message, but you will likely want to direct the viewer to more detailed information at the end, such as other attached files, or online files or pages that contain more details. The stand-alone presentation builds interest and directs them to the next steps. You can also use a stand-alone presentation as an introduction for a website or blog to captures a visitor’s attention.

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By Dave Paradi

Dave Paradi has over twenty-two years of experience delivering customized training workshops to help business professionals improve their presentations. He has written ten books and over 600 articles on the topic of effective presentations and his ideas have appeared in publications around the world. His focus is on helping corporate professionals visually communicate the messages in their data so they don't overwhelm and confuse executives. Dave is one of fewer than ten people in North America recognized by Microsoft with the Most Valuable Professional Award for his contributions to the Excel, PowerPoint, and Teams communities. His articles and videos on virtual presenting have been viewed over 4.8 million times and liked over 17,000 times on YouTube.