People often ask me how to create persuasive slides for everything from strategic presentations to boardroom briefings to pitch packs.
It’s true that PowerPoint has become so common place in today’s workplace, it’s a basic skill we all are required to learn. For many, writing slides can feel like hard work. But it doesn’t have to be.
I view PowerPoint as a canvas to create good communications. Whether using paper-and-pen or slides, I would use exactly the same process.
Try it yourself. Forget about the clipart images and fancy animations. Start instead with a blank A4 page, just turn it to landscape.
Everyone has their own process for creating compelling communications. In this post I share my process for going from an idea to polished materials suitable for everything from boardroom briefings to business plans.
1. Consider The Audience for Your Slides
The first thing I do is consider the audience. Is the audience made up of executives? Are they marketers or analysts? Different audiences like different styles of presentations. An Executive might like an Outcome listed at the top of a slide. An Analytical person might like to understand the Process that was used to create the materials. Considering our audience is important to how we layout content on a slide.
2. Think About the Subject
The slide subject gives us directions for the type of information to include on the slide. If the slide is about changing Mobile Technology, we could use images of Mobile Phones. If it’s about Industry Change, we could show how different companies have been affected by the change. If it’s about an area of Market Growth (or decline), this could be shown with a graph. If the subject for the slide is a Process that was used, a flow chart might be useful. Thinking about the material can provide directions for what to include in our slide.
3. Consider Horizontal and Vertical Information
We read both horizontally (across the page) and vertically (down the page). As a result, I like to give slides both a horizontal and vertical flow. A horizontal flow is often useful for sequential understanding of information or categories. Vertical flow is good for adding layers or additional dimensions to the topics.
4. Start Simple by Sketching the Slide
Once I’ve thought about the first 3 points, I sketch the slide. I try not to add too much information to any one area. I seek a balance with the information that is laid out on the page. I edit. Then I edit again. Providing visual balance to what ends up on the page gives clarity to the message. Sometimes to get to this balance, just remove whatever adds confusion.
5. Evaluate the Message
From the sketch, we can consider the main message that is communicated. If there are too many messages that distract from the main message, we can think about simplifying the slide even more. Often at this stage I write and re-write the slide’s headline. I test whether the information on the page supports the headline. If it doesn’t, I remove what isn’t needed. This pattern of adjustment gets us closer to communicating a clear message.
6. Create a Draft of the Slide
Up until now I haven’t touched PowerPoint. PowerPoint will not hide bad communication (though often it’s used to do so). That’s why it’s a good idea to avoid the animations, the clip art, and the layout until this point. Now is the only time – once I’ve crafted the message, balanced out the content, thought seriously about what I want to convey – that I start a PowerPoint draft.
7. Polish the Slide
This is where we can add refinements to the slide. Here I swap images in and out. I play with fonts. I adjust the final elements to give the communication polish. Then voila, all done!
Here’s an example based on the sketch above.
I know this can seems like an involved process. After practice it becomes second nature. The whole thing , from start to end, can take as little as 30 minutes. And it can be worth it.
You can use one great slide over and over again to convey a strong message. And there’s no real price we can put on having people and teams aligned toward a simple picture.