I don’t like to brag, but for better or worse, I am a true PowerPoint Ninja. In my role on the Cadient Business Development team, I have helped create literally dozens and dozens of PowerPoint presentations over the last few years. Truth be told, some decks have turned out better than others. Overall though, we have made some good progress from the days of bulleted lists towards a more visual approach to our slides.
Recently though—we have noticed that our audiences are more distracted than ever before. Between arriving late for meetings, playing with their phones, or simply sitting with their laptops up doing email—people make themselves right at home, treating the presenters and their PowerPoint as though it were a TV at the front of the living room. Sometimes it’s surprising they don’t walk out and go make some popcorn! While it’s great to know that people in the audience feel comfortable and productive during our presentations, it’s not so great for our getting our message across! So how are we adopting our presentations for audiences that are increasingly distracted? Allow me to share my closely-guarded Ninja PowerPoint Secrets.
Ninja PowerPoint Secrets for High Performance Presentations
1. Begin With Emptiness
Just like a baby knows the sound of its mother, you want the audience to focus on the voice of your leadoff presenter(s). Don’t fill the opening slides with lots of words for them to be processing. Yes, that means your lead presenter needs to have something to say and not be reading off the slides! But don’t worry—even the worst presenters can learn to tell a simple introduction story about what the presentation is going to cover, along with a compelling challenge, opportunity, and/or differentiator.
2. Charm Their Eyes
Once your presenter has captured the audience’s attention with his or her voice, use simple infographics and imagery to convey your key messages. If you have no other choice, considering using PowerPoint SmartArt to improve the look of your slides. However, there are a range of online services and tools now available to create infographics that are much nicer than SmartArt, including Canva, Fiverr, and DesignCrowd. In the best of all worlds, you should ask your design team to create custom images for your deck. The French have a phrase for window shopping—“faire du lèche-vitrines”—which literally translates to “lick the windows.” So here is a secret Ninja PowerPoint phrase to memorize—“faire du lèche-diapo”—“lick the slides.” Yes, that’s how good your slides should look!
3. Stay Agile
Contrary to popular perception, the ideal goal of a presentation is not for you to dump information on the audience, thereby impressing them with your genius. Instead, a successful slide presentation should spark a dialog around the idea you are presenting. That means if the conversation goes “off course” you should be ready (and comfortable) to skip some slides, skip ahead to other slides, or even go back to previous slides. A ninja presenter stays agile, and always has a stack of extra slides in the Appendix section just in case.
4. Keep It Short
Studies have shown that for most audiences, maximum attention peaks somewhere between ten to fifteen minutes into the presentation. So that means if you are still talking about your own company capabilities ten minutes into the presentation and not addressing the interests of the audience, you are in dangerous waters! Get quickly to the content and solution that they are waiting to hear! That means less slides about you, and placing your big “ta dah” slides earlier in the deck.
5. Finish Strong
Don’t let your last few slides become progressively sloppy and text filled. Either polish them up or dump them overboard. You want the last few slides to convey the same energy and excitement that you had at the beginning of the deck.
While we can wish that audiences would pay more attention to all of our wonderful slides—the reality is that most people have their own agenda running at full gear, even when they are politely sitting and pretending to be paying attention. As we’ve seen, in order to deliver high-impact presentations in an age of mass distraction, it’s time to break out your secret Ninja powers!
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