If you’re a whiz with PowerPoint, visual presentations are the way forward. If you’re not, then there’s still hope. Here are your very VERY first steps to ditching the bullet points for good – do it on your very next presentation and never look back!

As a presentation consultant, I spend a lot of time creating dynamic visual presentations that use imagery and animation to tell a story. This is an incredibly powerful way to present – it is interesting for the audience, empowering for the presenter and a great calling card for the business. BrightCarbon offer incredible courses to get you up and running with PowerPoint, which teach you to really get the most out of it. However, we can’t teach everyone and we can’t suddenly assume that everyone will ditch the bullet points in PowerPoint and use visual presentations instead, even if they believe – as firmly as we do – that it is the way to go.

So, here is a short guide to help you take the very VERY first steps in PowerPoint – for those who want to move away from text-heavy slides, but aren’t sure how. I’ve written posts on simple visualisation and quick tips to make your presentations pop, for those with some PowerPoint knowhow. This is the precursor to those. In the style of George Lucas it seems, I began in the middle of the story.

At the moment your slides probably look something like this:

 

text heavy slide

Your presentation contains typically text-heavy slides, perhaps on a designed background (or a Microsoft pre-set), with a logo up in the corner and no animation. You are not alone. Unlike the majority however, you’re choosing to do something about it. By reading this post, you’ve shown a willingness to change – the next parts are easy.

Firstly, we need to break up the text. Instead of a single paragraph, break it into chunks. I’m contractually obliged not to recommend you write it as B*LLET PO*NTS, but if it helps – go ahead. The reason for breaking up the text, is to give us something to work with. Our aim is to control the speed at which the audience sees the information, so we need to be able to bring it in a bit at a time. If we play all our cards at once, the audience will read the text and ignore us.

Secondly, try take out as many extraneous words as you can without losing the meaning. It’s a simple exercise, but it works wonders. Lose as much of the text as you can, and reword your sentences so they can be delivered in more succinct fashion. Remember, your slides will be presented – not read. The presenter can fill in the details missing from the slides.

Our third step is to stick your newly-shortened text into boxes, arrows, chevrons, circles – whatever is appropriate for your message – and arrange them into a structure on your slide. The reason we do this is not just cosmetic: we do so to set expectations in the audience. We want the audience to recognise a structure on the slide – like a puzzle with missing pieces. If they have some idea how the slide will be completed, they will watch and listen – perhaps even unintentionally – until it is finished.

The same effect is true of the final notes of a piece of music. We all have a natural ear for the final note of a melody (even if we don’t know it) and will listen until the final chord is heard. The best composers play on this phenomenon, drawing out the moment, and raising the intensity of the piece with unexpected musical phrases while the audience sits rapt.

The audience gives us their attention until we complete the puzzle, which gives us the perfect opportunity to get our message across. Compare this ‘missing pieces’ approach to text floating in invisible text boxes: the words may be the same, but the audience has no idea how many points there are likely to be or where they will appear – without these, they will switch off.

 

structured text slide

The fourth easy step is to swap as many of the text boxes as we can for pictures. Ideally, we’d use strong images that obviously represent something. If this is not possible, then add labels over the top – it doesn’t matter. The point is that pictures are a more intuitive way of getting a message across than words. A picture of a happy customer is more easily understood and responded to than the words ‘happy client’. So in one simple step you’ve made your presentation look much better and made it easier for the audience to take in.

 

slide with text and simple visuals

Finally, we need to add animation. You can make this as simple or a complicated as you like, the important thing is, that you remain in control of what appears on the slide and when. To add animation, simply click on an object – a picture or a text box. Go to the Animations tab on the ribbon. And select your animation (one of the green star icons). As a start, the Fade animation is a simple and sophisticated effect to get you going. Follow this method for each of your objects in the order you want them to appear on screen.

animated visual slide

Visual presentations work a treat. We would hope that eventually, everyone becomes proficient in PowerPoint and that visual presentations supersede bullet points as the default method of business communication. For now however, I hope I have shown that there are a few very simple steps you can take one afternoon, at your desk, without any hassle. Let us know how you get on in the comments sections below. And if there are any other guides or tips that you think would really help you out, post that too. Good luck!

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Kieran Chadha

Managing consultant

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  1. Image of zewa zewa says:

    Hi guys, I am a self-taught powerpoint user – and at a point where I need to add a lot more professionalism because today powerpoint sucks all my energy and time and as a result makes me feel miserable about myself. I think I have come to you by way of slideshare and with absolute delight attended a few of your free 30 min thought-leadership online courses.

    The format is great – very hands-on, easy to digest and with an immediate learning effect. I hate to make promises, but as soon as I/my corporate employer have budget again, count me in as a participant of one or several of your onsite classes in London.

    Until then I should stay content with the material that you are sharing here for free – it hits home.

    Thank you – love you guys
    Zewa

  2. Image of Joby Blume Joby Blume says:

    Zewa

    Thanks for the kind words. We’re trying to help – and we really don’t want your life to be made miserable just because you have to work with PowerPoint.

    It would be great to see you at one of our courses in London some time soon, but if you aren’t able to attend, don’t worry. We’re going to keep providing as much value as possible in our master classes. We have a few new ones planned for the next couple of months.

    In the meantime, we’re preparing to launch a free PowerPoint training course in four parts some time in the next couple of weeks. We’ll send it to anyone attending one of our master classes. Keep your eyes peeled – I hope you’ll like it.

  3. Image of Taylor Taylor says:

    Great PowerPoint Post! Agreed that breaking up content visually into shapes is definitively the way to go.

    If you do start with a list of bullets when breaking up your text (as you mention in the beginning), another good tip is to force that list of bullets into a SmartArt graphic, find something that will get you closer to what you want, and then break the graphic apart!

    See tip #3 in the below tutorial: Four Things You Didn’t Know You Could Do In PowerPoint
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=05OW0Ce8rT8&list=UUe0jKqILzFXUvec7GyqXjfQ

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