Power Up Your PowerPoint: the heart of the art

The Software

Even if you are not a technical whiz, PowerPoint is a cinch. You open it. You choose a background you like, and you are presented with an array of options for layout. All you need to do is insert your pictures and fill in the blanks. It’s painless. But you already know that. What you may be wondering is if there is more to creating a powerful presentation than that. The short answer is: no. There is less.

It doesn’t matter that PowerPoint makes it easy to insert, write, whirl or twirl. Just because you can do it does not mean you should do it. It doesn’t matter that you can have sentences dance across the screen. Good slides don’t have sentences. In fact, the busier your slide, the more likely it is that your audience will tune you out completely.

The Power of PowerPoint

The power in PowerPoint comes not from the all tricks it can do or from all the words you can jam onto the screen. It comes from the technology’s effectiveness as a conveyor of images. As a visual aid, PowerPoint gives you the opportunity to be a great presenter. As a visual adjunct to your presentation, it can enhance, simplify, emphasize, entertain, underscore or highlight what you–the presenter–are saying. But as an information vehicle, it fails miserably.

I know. When you look at the PowerPoint templates, they practically beg you to begin typing. Resist! Think visuals, not text, because the more text you have, the more tedious your presentation will be.

If you want power in your presentation, if you want your audience to be excited and persuaded and ready to buy, the source of important information must be you–not your slides. Indeed, if you expect your slides to be anything other than a visual aid that reinforces your message, you suck all the potential power dry.

The Truth about Visuals

Presentation power comes from the emotional connection you make with your audience. Visuals are a major stimulus to an emotional response and it is a mistake to underestimate their value.

Whether you want to excite your audience or move them, delight them or disturb them, great slides enhance an emotional connection. Bad slides interfere with it. Your choice.

Perhaps you’ve heard me say it before, but it is a truth worth repeating. Your PowerPoint is not the presentation; you are. Put another way, PowerPoint is the icing; you are the cake.

So here it is in a nutshell. The stronger the image, the more powerful the slide–and the more effective you can be as a presenter. The more words on the screen, the less effective the slide–and the weaker your presentation.

As in many things, less is more. In the case of PowerPoint, less stuff on the screen = more impact on the audience.

How to Improve Your PowerPoint

Look for original images that convey a strong message. Search the professional photo sites to find high impact pictures. Think of words that describe the emotions you want to provoke in your audience and use those words in your keyword search.

When you find a picture that knocks you cold, buy it and use it as your background template. Then look for additional images that build on the theme of the first one and use them where appropriate–perhaps to define your topics.

Once you have your new images, you’ll need to rethink and reorganize the whole show. When you do, be sure your visuals are strong enough they help you tell your story–and keep your audience emotionally engaged from beginning to end.  If you’re stuck with a template from ”marcom” that leaves you cold, you can bet your slides do nothing to help you win the sale. And when you own the sale, well… 

The Heart of the Art

Can you do the slides yourself? Maybe. Maybe not. Manipulating images to create high impact slides requires some serious technical expertise and the eye of an artist to get it right. You may need to hand off this piece of the work, but powerful slides produce powerful sales results. And that’s the heart of the art of presentation.

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