How to Keep an Audience Awake During Your Next PowerPoint

Let’s imagine that you are presenting a strategic option to your executive team. You will have some standard topics to cover, say, the business issue, some supporting data, the options you considered, and your recommendation.

This could be a recipe for tedium. But it doesn’t need to be.

Far too many presentations rely on paragraph-length bullets and detailed charts and tables. We are going to move away from that.

Start by developing your basic story line: We face Problem X, we have Options 1, 2, and 3, and we picked Option 2. Here’s the Happy Ending!

You could make a movie with this core narrative. So, have some fun as you think about the message you need to send.

A good story has conflict. Define the essence of conflict in your situation. Environmental shift? Competitive threat? Internal rivalries?

Then play around with finding analogies, for example, in nature, human dynamics or other sources.

You can, and even should, be a little silly at this stage. You will have time to dial it back.

But honestly, if you are talking about a competitive threat, wouldn’t you rather listen to a voice-over on a powerful image of lions confronting prey in the jungle than see wordy bullets on a page?

Plus, the strength of your image will help cement attendees’ recall.

You will also need to communicate supporting data. Again, go for impact.

How often have you seen a full table of numbers on a screen with the two relevant figures circled? Ever ask yourself why all the other clutter was there, distracting from the message?

Instead, think visual. For example, you may want to say “with Option 2, revenue will go from $x million to $xx million.” On screen, show just these two figures with an arrow driving up, showing the impact of Option 2. Shout your message!

Worried that people will miss having the details? That is what appendices are for. You can also provide a pre-read that is at a more granular level of detail.

This is a big shift, especially upping your game on the visual side. Spend time watching TED talks.

Your goal will be to absorb how visuals support the messages. Also search online for powerful presentations and look at resources on design.

You might also enjoy moving beyond PowerPoint to open new graphic options.

It will require practice, as your emphasis will be on you as the center point, not dry visuals.

Bottom line, create a strong story through pictures, and add words and numbers to emphasize your points.


(Article written by Liz Reyer)