• James Walton

How to Fix a Bad PowerPoint Deck

We've all been there. The presenter is reading from 10pt text on a PowerPoint slide, back to the audience. All the attention in the room is elsewhere, but the presenter soldiers on, having confused reading a slide with effective communication.

There's a better way.

Here's the most important thing you can remember about PowerPoint slides:

The slide is there to enhance the speaker's message, not explain it.

As your audience, we're hoping for human connection. We're hoping to brought through a story arc. We're hoping you care enough to capitalize on our attention to spur us to change our thinking or behavior.

Preparedness Crushes Complexity

There's usually an inverse correlation between the speaker's preparedness and the density of their slides. High density text suggests the material hasn't been rehearsed enough to be internalized.

For instance, review any one of the Apple keynotes Steve Jobs or Tim Cook have done. The material on the screen enhances the message they're communicating by highlighting the key data one idea at a time. And the presenter's eyes aren't on the screen, they're on the audience. They know their material and their deck so well they can focus on creating connection with the audience.

Of course, this level of preparation and panache is difficult and time-consuming. But preparation is a generous act, and one that serves your audience well and increases your likelihood of obtaining the outcomes you seek.

Three Rules for PowerPoint Decks

  1. The slide is there to enhance your message, not explain it.

  2. No more than 5 lines of text per slide, preferably 3. Five words or less is best.

  3. One idea per slide.

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