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Converting from Conventional to Convincing Slides


Anyone who knows me well knows that I plan my life around my meals.  Yesterday I started getting hungry at 10:30, but I knew I’d eaten breakfast so I forced myself to wait to eat lunch until noon.  At 11:45 a reminder popped up that I had a webinar at noon.

So I logged onto the webinar to make sure that it was working, then I ran upstairs, tossed some leftovers in the microwave, feed the dog, grabbed a plate and silverware, snatched some crackers from the cupboard to go with the little bit of hummus I wanted to finish off, then stacked everything together and shuttled it down stairs before the webinar even began.

The desk where my computer sits was crowded with paper, so I sat everything down on the 2nd desk in my office which is directly behind the desk with the computer.  While the people running the call were making their last minute arrangements, I was wolfing down a pile of dirty rice.

With my back to the computer screen, I turned my attention to the crackers and hummus.  I scooped up a dollop, crunched the cracker over my plate – must keep the crumbs from going everywhere don’t you know.  The session started, the speaker talked about himself and his company, so I continued with my back to my computer, devouring a few more dollops on a few more crackers hovering over my plate.  As the speaker started getting into the first piece of “real” information, I swiveled around in my chair — and gasped!

The speaker represented an IT company who was an early adopter of a very hot technology.   But the speaker’s slides were crammed full of soooo many words, it made me literally gasp!  How could a company that is so progressive from a technology perspective be using slides that were soooo 2001???

Let’s Say You Want to Change

The speaker I saw on the webinar was doing what so many business speakers do.  They’re doing things the way they’ve always done them.

But let’s imagine for a minute that you wanted to make a change.  That you’ve seen a YouTube video of Steve Jobs product demo and you want to break from tradition, to differentiate yourself in front of prospects and customers.  How can you make the switch from the corporate issued PowerPoints with lots of words to something better?

Here’s my recommendations on how to make the switch.

Copy Your Bullet Points (or Paragraphs) from Your Slides to a Word Document

Capture all that content that’s in the slides and create a Word document.  Just copy and paste it right in, adjusting the font size to make it easier to read.

More on what to do with that content later.

Put Your Bullet Points (or Paragraphs) in the Notes Section

Cut and paste all that content in your slides and move it to the notes section of the slide.

Copy the Slides with the Notes to Make as Many Slides as There Are Bullet Points or Topics

So for example, in this sample slide, there are basically 6 points so I’d want 6 copies of the same slide.

Convert Conventional…


One Point Per Slide

Then for each of the points, know that you’re only going to cover one topic for each slide.  So in the example, the point I’ll make on the first slide is that PowerPoint can help things stick.  The second slide will be about the fact that PowerPoint can help add an emotional element to a presentation.  And so on.

Find a Picture to Represent the Concept on Your Slide

Carrying the example along, if I want to make the point that PowerPoint can help make ideas stick, then I want an image that makes the audience relate to the idea of being sticky.  Dan and Chip Heath used duct tape to symbolize stickiness on their book, Made to Stick.  Garr Reynolds used an image of a sticky bun in his book Presentation Zen to expand on the Heath’s ideas.   In this slide, I’ve used glue sticks to represent the concept.

The point is – find a picture that will relates to the concept you want to convey on the slide.  For sources for pictures, see my earlier post Picture This.

Expand the Picture to Fill the Slide

Insert the picture that will represent your idea. Don’t live with the default photo size that PowerPoint suggests.  Expand the photograph to fill the entire slide.  It looks cooler and is more appealing visually.

Insert a Text Box

Insert a text box and put two or three words that are associated with your concept in the text box.  Make the words very large and easy to read.

If the words are hard to read because of the photo either change the font color or fill the text box with a color to offset the image and make the words readable.

Setting up your slides in this manner will help your audience understand and remember your points better.

… to Convincing


Repeat for the Other Slides

Go through your entire presentation, putting just one concept on each slide.

But What About the Company Issued Templates

If you work for a company that has a standard template you’re supposed to use for all presentations, use the template as your opening slide.

Use the default font choices they’ve chosen for the words you put in the text boxes.

Follow my directions above for all the slides in the middle of your presentation.

Use the company template for your closing slide.

The evolution of the company issued templates is an interesting enough topic that I’ll probably do a blog post on that in the future.  But for now, let me just say that the template idea has outlived it’s usefulness.  Placate the powers that be with using the template for the opening and closing slides.   Ignore it for everything in between.  Once people start seeing how much better things could be, you won’t get in trouble for not using the template.

You Don’t Have to Do It All at Once

Making a presentation in this way looks better, but it is time consuming.  Plus, you may be reticent to go against your company culture on such a big scale.  So try this approach with a few of the points you’re going to make within your presentation.  Maybe with the points that will lead themselves to humor.  Or the points that are very important and you want to put extra emphasis on.   See for yourself how the small scale changes are accepted and my bet is, the responses you get will incent you to make more changes.

Change Up the Word Document

Take the document that you created in Word and change it into a white paper or a report.  Use the bullet points to guide you through creating the document.  Turn the bullets into full paragraphs.  Create titles and subtitles from the titles on your slides.  Insert any complicated graphs and charts that can’t be read in a slide. Include information that you didn’t have time to cover during your presentation.  Maybe even insert some of the slides as pictures to go along with the fleshed out concepts in your written report.

Now, instead of sending people a copy of your slides, which will mean little now that you’ve taken out all the words, offer your audience reinforcement of the concepts they learned by sending them a white paper. This approach gives you and your audience a chance to connect again and provides those who want it even more value information.

So What Do You Think?

Does this approach make sense to you?  Could you see yourself applying it?  Will you apply it?  Or do you want to stick with the status quo?  I’m interested in hearing your thoughts in the comments section!