Image for Creating PowerPoint Presentations That Pop, Not Flop

Storyboards are a good way to ensure your PowerPoint presentation consists of more than a string of boring bullet points. Sketching how to show your story is the first step toward a presentation that pops.

Storyboards give your left brain a fighting chance to compete with your word-prone right brain. Starting with a storyboard, instead of typing a bunch of words in the outline format, is the best way to avoid the pitfalls of PowerPoint – death by bullet points.

You don’t need to be Picasso to create a storyboard. Use scratch paper to draw stick figures, make rough drawings or collect some inspiration images online that show your story in ways that will retain audience attention. If you have experience with PowerPoint, you can experiment in the program itself by creating a “look” and color scheme, identifying imagery, choosing a typeface and experimenting with design concepts.

There is no single formula to produce an impactful PowerPoint presentation, but they should always be tailored to impress your message on the collective brain of an audience. What will capture audience interest? What imagery can reinforce your message? How can data be presented so it is accessible and digestible?

Here are some basic principles to guide building a PowerPoint with fetching visual qualities and enough words to hammer home your key points:

1. It’s eye candy, not a teleprompter.  Too many presenters treat PowerPoint slides like a script scrolling on a teleprompter. Effective PowerPoints should smartly highlight your key points, preferably with an eye-catching visual display of your message. Keep in mind, the best PowerPoints are props, not scripts. PowerPoints are the sidekick that has your back and shows what you say.

2. Show what you mean.  An often-unexploited advantage of PowerPoint is its ability to assist you in showing an audience what you mean, rather than just telling them in words. You can insert memorable images, meaningful charts and explanatory videos that add depth while heightening audience interest.

A well-done, visually compelling PowerPoint presentation is the posterchild of Information by Design. It’s a secret weapon to etch your message on the brains of an audience.

3. Leverage a flexible, visual medium.  PowerPoints shouldn’t be CliffsNotes for your speech. They should be a visual reinforcement of your key messages. PowerPoint is a flexible platform that enables almost anyone to design and execute slides with some style and pizzazz. Slide after slide of bullet points won’t pass the test for style and pizzazz. The latest iterations of PowerPoint can suggest creative ideas for visual imagery and blending images with words.

4. Elegant, not dumbed down.  Simplified explanations or powerful imagery can greatly aid an audience’s understanding of what you say. Simplicity doesn’t mean bleaching out complexity It means finding elegant expression of the complexity. The goal isn’t to prove how smart you are, but to help your audience see the pith and wisdom in your presentation.

5. Package your information.  People today are sophisticated viewers of visual media. They have access to tons of data and expect presenters to package it in a way that is easy to grasp. PowerPoint slides should make it easy for the audience to follow and grasp your presentation, whether they are in a conference room or a conference center. A slide crammed with incomprehensible information, forcing viewers to squint, detracts from your presentation. A well-designed chart or other visual device that points to the key data enriches audience understanding – and appreciation of your speaking capabilities. A well-done, visually compelling PowerPoint presentation is the posterchild of Information by Design.

6. You are the main act.  Don’t fall into the trap of being the golf caddy for your PowerPoint, reading each slide. You are the main act. The presentation is your prop. What you say counts. Your PowerPoint’s job is to reinforce your key messages by leaving a strong visual impression with the audience. People remember far more of what they see than what they hear, so your PowerPoint is in effect a secret weapon to etch your message on the brains of an audience.

PowerPoint presentations can be re-purposed as videos or pdf documents, which can be used as shareable content for websites, blogs and social media. Their versatility and evergreen quality make PowerPoints worth the extra effort. And it is easier than ever to create PowerPoint presentations that pop, not flop.