Ten steps you can take to improve your PowerPoint presentations in 2019; Issue #430 January 8 2019

It is the start of a new year and people often take this opportunity to consider what changes they will make to improve their lives. In this article I share ten steps you can take to improve your PowerPoint presentations this year.

Step 1: Adopt a new philosophy

Instead of doing things the way you’ve always done them, choose a new approach. In this article I describe how I think making deliberate decisions about everything in your presentation will lead to more effective presentations.

Step 2: Document, presentation, or both?

One of the biggest issues identified in my last survey was that presenters are creating documents and projecting those documents on a screen, thinking that makes them a presentation. In this article I suggest eight considerations you should think about when deciding whether you are creating a document, a presentation, or both.

Step 3: Plan your message using the GPS Approach

Too many presenters use what I call the Grab and Hope approach to creating the content for their presentation. They grab previous slides from different sources and hope somehow it will come into a coherent message before they present. I suggest you use a GPS approach instead where you determine the Goal, evaluate the Present Situation, and plan the Steps to move your audience to the goal. This article compares the two approaches and includes a video overview of the GPS approach.

Step 4: Address information overload

Regardless of what industry I work with, information overload is the single biggest issue in presentations today. Presenters mistakenly think that the audience wants to see all the data. They don’t need to. They only need what is relevant to their area or role. This article explains how a presenter can provide additional information to the audience outside the slides and have a more focused presentation.

Step 5: Use headlines on your slides

Participants in my customized workshops almost always say that using headlines instead of titles on slides is one of the key takeaways from the session. Headlines are summary sentences that give the audience context for what you will explain on that slide. I find that most presenters already have the content for the headline buried somewhere on their slide and this article shows you four places you can find the headline content in existing slides. This article gives my recommendation on capitalization of headlines.

Step 6: Focus graphs by using an All Others category

Graphs can be a great way to visually show a comparison of values. The challenge comes when the dataset contains many values that are small and not the focus of the analysis or message. This article suggests a rule to use in consolidating those small values into an All Others category so you have a more focused graph.

Step 7: Save time with pre-made slides or content

Don’t create a visual or part of a visual from scratch when you can start with pre-made content that saves you time. This article describes how you can download and use 77 pre-made timeline and calendar visuals, this article describes how you can download and use hundreds of pre-made sequence or relationship diagrams, and this article explains how you can find and use vector icons in your slides.

Step 8: Make text slides more visual

Audiences are so used to seeing every text slide as a list of bullet points, often organized as a higher-level bullet with sub-bullets. This article shows you ways to make this common type of text slide much more visual by using text in shapes instead of the default bullets.

Step 9: Save time and effort with Custom Shows

If you present similar information to different audiences, you will find the Custom Shows feature in PowerPoint a huge time saver. This article describes how it works and includes a video tutorial so you can start using this feature right away.

Step 10: Use Speaker Notes

If you have heard advice to never use notes when you speak, please ignore that advice. There is nothing wrong with using notes and it often reduces your stress and allows you to deliver a better presentation. This article gives you different options for creating and using notes when you present.

Where should you start in this list? Whatever step you feel will make the biggest impact in your presentations. If you want to go deeper in learning how to create effective visual presentations, consider my online course or talk to your organization about bringing me in for a customized workshop. Here’s to better presentations in 2019!

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.