How to do better PowerPoints

Estimated read time: 3 minutes

I’ve presented with PowerPoints and without them. And trying to do better PowerPoints is always top of my mind when I do use slides.

Of course, what does that even mean is up for debate. One conference organizer ones told me that basically better PowerPoints have more stock art images. Images engage people. That’s debatable. Relevant images engage people – sure. But, do I need a picture of a random car on a PowerPoint slide when I’m talking about cars? I would argue no, but let’s hear from a PowerPoint expert with some tips.

I invited Fiona Walsh, a design pro, onto the Business Storytelling Podcast to give us tips on PowerPoint quality. You can listen to that episode here.

Advantages of PowerPoints or no PowerPoints

There are certainly advantages and disadvantages to both. Let’s look at a few.

With PowerPoints

  • Allows us to present visuals
  • Allows us to stay on track
  • Can be shared with audience members
  • Slideshare allows us to share our PowerPoints online and is a quite effective tool to continue sharing our message. To participate there, we do need a PowerPoint deck.

Without PowerPoints

Allows us to not be so tied to slides. The story’s presentation still needs to be practiced (assuming here that everyone practices their PowerPoints).

Read next: Virtual presentation tips: Keep these things in mind when presenting virtually at conferences

Some conference setups are just horrible to have an interactive presentation. You have to continuously look back (and away from the audience) to see what slide is up. That’s not good on many levels. A monitor in front of the stage can be super helpful here.

Not using PowerPoints can also give you some room to be creative in other ways – like what I did during a workshop: How to do a 2-hour workshop without PowerPoint

The evaluation

The presentations I’ve given without PowerPoints have been far and few in-between, but I’m a fan of considering what the best option is for that particular presentation. And, some events require PowerPoints.

But, PowerPoints are not the starting point in our presentation planning. They are a tool when necessary. And they aren’t always the right tool!

My process to determine their use:

  • Determine audience (what do they know and what are they likely to want to know from me)
  • My topic and specific expertise to share with this audience
  • Length of presentation
  • I then create an outline and in my head walk through the pieces, including what stories, examples and jokes (as applicable) I will share.
  • If there are some authentic and original photos or images that are absolutely necessary, I might create some slides. Sometimes slides work well for dramatic effect, in which case I might use them even if there are no other slides.

Also, keep in mind that it’s not either-or. You could have some slides to show some visuals as necessary and other parts of the presentation have no related slides with additional information.

Some conferences, like the Virtual Insight Summit, actively promoted not allowing PowerPoints, which is discussed in this podcast episode.

The decision point needs to be: Do I really need slides? How will they help me? And if they will help and make the presentation better, just make sure they are engaging! And of course, keep your end goal in mind. If you have a good following and have seen success on SlideShare, you need slides for that medium as well.

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