March 26

How To Make More Impactful PowerPoint Presentations

Last week I received an email that pained me to read. The sender had just shared what she hoped had been an impactful PowerPoint presentation during a networking event we both attended and had asked me for my opinion. After trading emails, she finally sent this:

I 1,000% need help, especially as we move into this next phase. I know we are creating something revolutionary, but I do not know how to communicate it clearly. I am giving this presentation next week, and I am nervous that it will flop because it is so much.

I could feel her pain. You can feel her pain. We all can feel her pain because until someone teaches you the scientifically-based PowerPoint slide design techniques that instantly improve message clarity, information retention, and effectiveness to ensure every presentation you deliver is pitch perfect, you're stuck hoping instead of knowing. 

The 8 Biggest Powerpoint Presentation Challenges 

Based on a thorough analysis of surveys, focus groups, and firsthand research on PowerPoint presentation hurdles, it's clear that when giving presentations to colleagues, bosses, and clients, many presenters face a common set of challenges. These range from the prep work and delivery to the nuts and bolts of crafting and sharing their PowerPoint slides.

See if any of the eight challenges below sound like pain points you experience when preparing and presenting a deck. If so, stick around till the end of this post, and I'll share five tips to overcome many of these challenges.  

  • Audience Engagement and Retention. One of the most frequently cited challenges is capturing and maintaining the audience's attention throughout the presentation. With varying attention spans and the ever-present temptation of mobile devices, keeping an audience engaged and ensuring the information presented is memorable poses a significant hurdle. The challenge is compounded when data-heavy or complex presentations make retention even more difficult.
  • Message Clarity and Conciseness. Just like my friend, many presenters struggle with distilling complex ideas or vast amounts of data into clear, concise, and impactful messages. The challenge here is not just about reduction but also about prioritization and structuring information in a way that is logical and compelling to the audience. Honestly, this is easily the number one issue we address and fix during every Perfect Pitch engagement we work on regardless of the clients' presentation experience level. 
  • Design and Aesthetic Appeal. Let's face it: Few of us are gifted designers who understand how to leverage color, fonts, and design structure to craft visually compelling slides that enhance rather than detract from the story we're attempting to communicate. And let's not even start on the whole "show up and throw up slide" favored by too many presenters who fearing they'll leave something out, put everything in — ONE SLIDE. You know who you are 😊 
  • Dealing with Anxiety and Delivery Skills. Presentation anxiety is real, affecting both novice and experienced speakers. It can lead to issues such as speaking too quickly, losing place, or failing to engage effectively with the audience. Moreover, the skills needed to deliver a presentation confidently, such as pacing, tone modulation, and body language, are areas where many feel they need more expertise. And why shouldn't they when most will tell you they have never received any meaningful presentation skills training beyond a basic "Here's how to use PowerPoint" class.
  • Technical Proficiency and Software Limitations. There is a reason I work exclusively in Keynote when building my own presentations. Every time I help a Perfect Pitch client rebuild their PowerPoint presentation, I say a short prayer of thanks to Steve Jobs and his merry band of Apple UI designers for freeing me from PowerPoint's design constraints that make executing even basic design principles (to direct and hold an audience's attention for instance) more difficult than it should be for a non-PowerPoint junkie.
  • Time Constraints and Resource Limitations. Why every company doesn't invest in hiring an expert PowerPoint design agency to create a basic best-in-class PowerPoint template for their employees to use when building standard presentations makes no sense to me. Dollar for dollar, it is the highest ROI investment the company will ever make. Why? Because, the time required to create a high-quality presentation is another significant challenge. Employees often juggle multiple responsibilities, and finding the time to design, refine, and practice a presentation can be difficult.
  • Adapting to Different Audiences. Tailoring a presentation to suit different audiences — whether for colleagues, senior management, or external clients — requires a deep understanding of the audience's needs and expectations and the flexibility to adjust the tone, depth of content, and delivery style. Employees often find this customization challenging, particularly when transitioning between different audiences. Worse, younger workers are never taught to present at "different levels" within the organization, resulting in text/info-heavy slides that senior managers and C-level execs tune out before the first transition.
  • Feedback and Continuous Improvement. Lastly, the lack of constructive feedback on presentation delivery and content can hinder an employee's ability to improve over time. Last week, I was invited to judge a Shark Tank-like pitch competition for casino marketing directors. It was the first time many of the presenters had ever had anyone constructively critique their presentations. They LOVED it. One energetic team spent almost 30 minutes after the competition asking me for additional detailed feedback, which they enthusiastically wrote down and committed to implementing in the next version of their deck. 

5 Tips to Help You Create Impactful PowerPoint Presentations

Research shows audiences forget 90% of what they see and hear during a presentation. I can spend all day walking you through the various scientifically based ways you can change that stat, and if you're interested in that sort of thing, let's hop on a Zoom Call and I'll explain our Perfect Pitch workshop options. In the meantime, here are five simple changes you can make immediately. 

  • First, understand the purpose of your presentation. While there are many types of presentations, they all boil down to one of five macro goals: to make your audience question something they currently believe, believe something you believe, approve taking action, take action themselves, or teach them how to do something. Understand that goal and then build your PowerPoint presentation message plan accordingly. 
  • Second, define your 10%. If the audience will forget 90% of what you share, design your presentation to emphasize the most crucial information you need the audience to remember to achieve your presentation goal. I'll be honest with you: This is the single hardest part of creating effective PowerPoint presentations. But once done, it makes crafting a tight deck a breeze. 
  • Third, direct and hold your audience's attention. Color and animation are your friends. Most presenters don't understand the complicated attention dance PowerPoint presentations require. Your audience cannot simultaneously read the words on your slide AND hear the words you speak. It's biologically impossible because the same part of your brain that processes visual text also processes spoken words. That's why you never want to just put a bunch of words on a slide and start talking. Instead, use animations to bring up a point and then explain it. Rinse and repeat until you're ready to move to the next slide. It's a small thing, but it makes a HUGE difference. 
  • Fourth, group your graphs. Presenting data is the single most challenging presentation, in my opinion. One big part of the challenge is the innocent chart legend. We all use them, but most of the time, you shouldn't because the legend increases the cognitive workload on your audience's brain. They must visually match the color coding (especially difficult if you're using shaded color vs. distinct color schemes) to the appropriate data point on the chart, then link that to the actual data point, and process all of this while trying to listen to you explain the chart.  Wherever possible, avoid legends and directly code the data point information (X and Y coordinates) into the chart. 
  • Fifth, use related objects to improve understanding and retention. For instance, if you're presenting two options and you want the audience to understand that they are each completely unique, you might show them visually and verbally as "apples and oranges" to make it clear that they share nothing in common. 

There are stories, and there are stories well told...

We remember the latter while allowing the former to fade into the cacophony of noise we're all subjected to daily.

The primary job of any presentation deck is to create recall of the critical information required to agree to, believe in, or approve the presenter's reason for presenting. Science says the deck (pun intended) is stacked against you. But, with the right training, you can flip the script and become the presenter everyone loves to emulate.

Speaking of PowerPoint presentation training... did you know we do that here at Converse Digital? From helping you rebuild a key sales pitch deck to training entire teams to build better PowerPoint decks to presentation training, if you or your team needs to up your presentation game, check out our Perfect Pitch page to learn more about the science of persuasion by PowerPoint. 

Improve Your Persuasive Presentation Skills

Leverage scientifically-based PowerPoint slide design to improve message clarity, information retention, and effectiveness to ensure every presentation you deliver is a Perfect Pitch.

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Tags

Persuasion, PowerPoint Design, powerpoint skills, powerpoint templates


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