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Need/Don’t Need: 5 Categories of information for PowerPoint presentations


By Tom Nixon

Try using these 5 categories of information to label and use content in your slides. Consider going through your script, your outline, your content and categorize them from 1 to 5. These labels describe how a particular piece of information relates to the needs of the audience not how it fits into your content or to your understanding of the subject.

  1. Your BIG IDEA. This is the theme of your presentation. The one central concept that all portions of your slides, handouts and talk must relate to.
  2. MUST DELIVERS. These concepts are critical to the audience’s understanding of the subject matter. They cannot be left out. Usually they are small in number and very well worked out and defined. They are spoken, imaged (in condensed form) and possibly listed or elaborated on in the handout.

2a.  SUPPORT INFORMATION. Stories, data and concepts that demonstrate the must delivers. These usually make up the basic structure of the speech.

  1. — USEFUL INFORMATION. Extra information that can provide additional insights into the big idea or the must delivers. These may be spoken, imaged or printed in the handout at the presenter’s discretion. Bear in mind they it must conform to the BIG IDEA and that more information is not better information. It may just become too much information.
  2. CREDIBILITY INFORMATION. Extra information, usually data sets or biographic material that establishes the credibility of the speaker or the presentation in the mind of the audience. This is a very flexible scale. A skeptical technical audience with an unproven speaker may require a lot. A well-known authority may need far less. It is important that the audience not feel as though the content is being dumbed-down or glossed over. They must have confidence that the speaker is a bona fide expert and that the data is accurate and believable. Credibility information, while not critical to the concepts of the presentation, may be needed to help the message be absorbed by the audience. Depending on the audience-speaker relationship this material can be spoken, imaged or printed in the handout as needed. Since it is not directly critical to the message but just to the credibility of the presenter and the message you may consider putting this in the handout or presenting it quickly from the podium or in the slides.
  3. INSECURITY INFORMATION. This is all the garbage that insecure speakers put in because 1) they are not sure of how to craft a well-organized presentation or 2) they don’t know their material or 3) they did not allow enough time to prepare. Leave this stuff out! It is redundant or off-message. This is the category that leads to PowerPoint death!

Categorizing and prioritizing your information is a great first step to make sure you deliver the critical big idea, reinforce it with appropriate support information and leave out the extras that add nothing but redundancy and confusion.

Tom Nixon has over 3 decades of experience assisting clients with meaningful business communications. Contact Tom to see how he can work with your business leaders and subject matter experts to create stunning visual presentations (PowerPoint, Keynote, etc.) and enhance their on-stage delivery.