Escape From Power Point Purgatory

Presentations are an excellent way to sell yourself and your product or service.  The late Steve Jobs of Apple Computer was famous for delivering presentations that  never failed to inform,  educate,  inspire and entertain his listeners.

Overwhelmingly,  presentations mean Power Point,  no matter the number of obituaries written on its behalf.  Power Point continues to dominate,  despite the presentation capabilities of the iPad tablet  (sorry, Steve).  The challenge is to avoid the tendency to use Power Point as a teleprompter and leverage its advantages.

The secret to working with Power Point is to keep things simple.  Venture capitalist and author Guy Kawasaki  (“The Art of the Start”, 2004)  says  “A Power Point presentation should have no more than 10 slides,  should last no longer than 20 minutes and should contain no font smaller than 30 points.”  Communications coach,  author and popular keynote speaker Carmine Gallo likewise advises that 20 minutes is the ideal maximum length of a presentation,  based on research by neuroscientists from the University of Kentucky,  who found that attention spans drop precipitously after that time.

Every presentation is a story,  a narrative that has a beginning,  middle and end.  When invited to present to a client,  frame the story that is your presentation as a challenge.   After you’ve told your listeners who you are and established your expertise,  begin your talk by describing that challenge.  Next,  highlight any major obstacles that might impede success and then explain the solution you will deliver to resolve the matter.  In conclusion,  give a concise summary to reinforce the key take-away points.   Ask for the business and take questions.

Regarding the design of your slides,  experts recommend that you keep those simple,  too.  Janet Bornemann,  who designs Power Point presentations for corporate clients and is the creative director at PowerPoint Studio in Acton, MA,  recommends that when making slides,  think 5 x 5:  five lines per slide and five words per line. “It is very important for the mind to be able to rest on an idea or thought,  so if it’s a constant flow of words,  people will grow tired”,  she observes.

Treat your slides and the presentation overall as an extension of your brand,  your image,  like any of your marketing collaterals.  There shall be no clip art and no jazzy slide transitions.  Your presentation convey that you are capable, trustworthy,  confident and professional.  Bornemann says,  “Be consistent with colors and fonts.  Focus on the message—everything has to have a reason.”

Jim Confalone,  founder and creative director of ProPoint Graphics cautions against the overuse of charts and graphs and advises that any art and charts you include must be integral to the story and move the narrative forward.   Some presentation experts feel that the first slide should show a startling fact about the challenge the client is facing,  some attention-grabbing adverse outcome that the client must overcome and that captures the reason for hiring you.

Do not bury your listeners with minute details.  They will probably remember only three or four key points.  Leave your audience of decision-makers with a sense of your expertise,  your ability to produce the deliverable; describe the primary benefits derived by the organization if your solution is chosen to resolve the challenge that is the project; and let them know that you give excellent customer service and will respond to their needs and fulfill or exceed expectations.

Finally,  muster the discipline to rehearse your presentation and then rehearse some more.   Jim Confalone says that the number of hours it takes to create the presentation equals the number of hours you’ll need to adequately rehearse.  In order  to shine,  you’ve got to know the thing cold.  One does not read from the slides, ever.  Know your material,  be enthusiastic and connect with your audience and exude confidence.  You might even enjoy yourself!

Thanks for reading,




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