Do you tend to over clutter your slides with too many points? Does your presentation leave people scratching their heads, wondering what you’re trying to say? Read on and you’re welcome!
Once your structure is nailed (Step 1. Create a clear and logical structure), then you’ll obviously want to start building your content (duh). Typically, there are two camps of people when it comes to planning presentation content. In Camp A, we have those people who already have a lot of existing content that can be recycled, so they’ll open up 10 other PPT presentations, and start copying/pasting slides and charts across. “Woohoo! I’m on a roll and I’ve barely written a word! I’m a presentation genius!” Then there’s Camp B, who will look at a blank screen with an empty white slide, on their fourth cup of coffee, wondering how the hell they’re going to have enough content to make a 30 min presentation. “Please Inspiration, come to me! Ooh, Tim Tam.”
Obviously, we’ve just made this up. Not everyone falls into just two camps of people. In fact, we’re sure you’ll fall somewhere in between these two extremes. But wherever you are along the content-building continuum, we swear the following technique will help you out. It’ll ensure you’ve not just shape-shifted an old presentation into a new one hoping it meets the brief, or that you’re not getting drunk on copious cups of coffee at the eleventh hour because you’ve only created five slides (and they don’t actually communicate what you want to say).
So, before you start tackling the meat of your content, we recommend that you employ a rarely used technique called storytelling headlines. A storytelling headline is exactly what it sounds like: a headline at the top of each slide, summarising the main thing you want to say. It commits you to just one key message per slide (you don’t want anymore than that because people just can’t read and listen at the same time) and helps focus the rest of your content on that slide. Don’t overload your audience with multiple points per slide – you will lose them.
In today’s world of shortened attention spans, you literally have seconds to grab someone’s attention. According to Facebook research, people consume mobile content on their newsfeeds in just 1.7 seconds. Staying focused to your one key message per slide is the only approach that works.
We also recommend trying not to have more than five overarching ideas in your entire presentation. People can only absorb so much in one sitting. Five ideas are more than enough to give you sufficient bandwidth to expand on them throughout the rest of your deck.
So, what do we mean by storytelling headlines?
That’s it – that’s the message.
If the audience reads just this one headline, they’ll know exactly what point you want to get across without any ambiguity or crazy charts where people have to squint hard to work out what you’re trying to say. In fact, even if they don’t look at any charts or numbers on the rest of your slide, they’ll get what you’re saying immediately. How much clearer is that than just the words, “2017 Profit”?
You don’t need to be perfectly rote with this rule, but it’s a great way to stay laser-focused when crafting your content. It’s also particularly useful for your audience as it summarises your one point per slide very clearly and succinctly. This method is especially useful if you need to email your presentation to someone else – they’ll be able to immediately understand it without needing your voiceover.
Once all your storytelling headlines are done, try giving it to someone else to sense check. Does it make sense to them? Does it pass the “Mum test”?
Once you’re happy, then you can start filling in the gaps with stats, charts, quotes, imagery and infographics to drive home each point. Now you can go ahead and reach for that Tim Tam – you’ve earned it.
Move on to Step 3. Hey Mumbo! Drop the mumbo-jumbo!