Create Effective Powerpoints

Imagine it was time to deliver your next PowerPoint presentation…

How would you feel if everyone nodded in agreement as you move from slide to slide, if they could hardly decide whether to frantically take down notes or simply indulge in your delivery?

I get it. Reality usually looks quite different.  You arrive with a last-minute job. All that procrastination because the mere thought of getting started rivaled undergoing a colonoscopy.

As you proceed, you’re the only person paying attention. The rest of the lot is either scrolling on their phones or chewing off dead skin from their finger-tips.

Well there are good news for you. This article teaches you all about…

  • The essence of a great PowerPoint presentation
  • The best way to get started
  • How to figure out what to say
  • How to ensure everyone really gets the message
  • How to arrange your information to convince others to take action
  • The best way to incorporate visuals
  • How to avoid time-wasters and get it done

You don’t need to be gifted or study graphics design to come up with PowerPoint presentations that inspire action. In fact, it’s just like baking: you just need a recipe and the right ingredients.

So, let’s get started, shall we?

The essence of a great PowerPoint presentation


Truth is, a PowerPoint presentation is just a means to an end. Nothing else. The only reason you are putting it together is because you want your listeners to either do something, or know something.

The holy trinity of a powerful presentation consists of: simplicity, clarity and slickness. None of these attributes works in isolation. Each one hinges on the other qualities, while simultaneously enhancing them.

No point in videos, fancy design and custom imagery when nobody knows what the hell you’re talking about.


Step 1 – Setting the scene


Create a new presentation and make sure you’re looking at an empty slide (not a title slide). Now write a personal goal of no more than  2 sentences. Once you’re all done and dusted, this slide gets deleted.

From the start, you have to be clear about two things: what you want to achieve, and to whom you need to get the message across.

When your intention and the audience are clear, something really amazing happens:  you will know what to say and how to say it.

Some useful words to help you nail down the intention…

  • Motivate
  • Convince
  • Entertain
  • Inspire
  • Educate

My approach to getting a feel for my listeners is simple. Reflect on who they are, what’s important to them, what frustrates them, what they’re excited about, and what would make their lives easier. That’s more than enough.

Your sentence could look something like this:

I want to convince the head of finance, who is already in a bad mood  – because of the dismal sales and the new rental fees – to authorise the purchase of a new coffee machine.


 Step 2 – Spelling it out


In this step you create an overview slide. Your listeners want to know what to expect. This helps them understand what they’re learning and what to pay attention to.

I’ve given many presentations where the discussion suddenly got stuck on a single sentence. Eventually time ran out and the meeting ended with no outcome.

Why did this happen? Most likely because it wasn’t clear upfront what needed to be achieved by the end. It became a free-for-all session of nit-picking and 2-centing

The easy peasy and effective way to do this slide, is to write a short statement with bullet points: “This presentation will explain, how we can…bla bla.”


Welcome to PowerPoint Hell!


Step 3 – Crafting the story


We’re finally getting into the meat of your presentation which takes up the bulk of your content. This is where you tell a carefully crafted and convincing story.

Almost look at it this way, when we communicate with someone in any form, we are almost always selling something. You are selling an idea, a decision, a feeling, or something about yourself.

Fortunately, there is a recipe for story telling too. The story is nothing but a thoughtful arrangement of points. A point, in this sense, is like a statement in its own right – it doesn’t need any further point to mean something. How you arrange your points and knit them together gives your story the power to move your listeners.  Now, the name of the program, PowerPoint, starts to make sense again.

Reflect once more on Step 1 – your intention and your listeners. Now write down everything you want to say in a Word document in the form of single sentences or bullet points.  Just keep going until you run out of ideas or information that you’ve collected.

Very importantly, don’t think about the order of your bullet points. Just write everything down as it comes to your mind.

Once you’ve nailed all your random, unorganised points onto a page, you are ready to craft the story. So how would you do that? How do you ensure that the majority really gets what you’re saying?

For that, we will be tapping into the wisdom of ‘learning guru’ Bernice McCarthy. By applying insights from NLP – an investigation into the language the mind, so to say – he developed the 4MAT. In simple terms, it’s nothing but a technique to supercharge communication for maximum understanding.

 Every story should satisfy 4 basic questions: the what, the why, the how, the what if.

Pick a colour for each of these four questions and highlight all points from the Word document according to their best fit. Put differently, you are deciding which question each point best satisfies.

Some thought starters …

Applying the 4MAT

Once all your points are colour coded you can group them and paste them onto slides for each of the 4 sections. All that’s left to do now is arrange the 4 sections so that your story flows. I like to keep the structure in the same order as listed above. But play around with it and decide what works for you.

You may find that you have a lot of points for one part of the story but few for the other parts. That’s ok, because now you know what to flesh out.

Congratulations, your basic content is done. Now, we are just refining to improve clarity, simplicity and slickness.

Important note: NEVER edit you content for grammar and style at this stage. DON’T even dream about adding visuals or random cat pictures as yet. These are all separate processes involving different parts of the brain (analytical thinking vs. information gathering vs. creativity)


Step 4 – The Title


For our approach, your title will consist of two parts: a headline and a sub-heading.  In the latter, you simply describe what type of document it is. For example, “A Business Proposal prepared by Peppa Pig”.

The first, and most important part of your cover slide, is a super effective headline. Bloggers, authors and film makers all know that a bad headline could be their demise. So, without losing any sleep over this step, give it your best shot. 

 ‘Psychological triggers’ will make someone want to listen to what you have to say.  Two of them are ‘self-interest’ and ‘curiosity’. If your title speaks to something which your listeners really want, or really want to know, you are on the right part.

Would you rather listen to a presentation called, “Monthly Sales Report” or one that reads, “A little too late or just in time? – Monthly Sales Report”?

Now, you may be wondering why we didn’t start off with the title if it’s that important. That’s because it’s a lot easier to use your content as inspiration and guidance. In other words, you are pulling out your strongest or most interesting point from the message and re-packaging it as a preview.

Step 5 – Editing & Adding Visuals


Once you’re comfortable with the content, polish up on grammar, spelling and formatting. Ideally read the entire presentation aloud. A nice rhythm to your sentences is key to creating that flow.

Lastly, start adding visuals. I will write a separate article on this because it’s quite a big topic on itself. But for starters, you should keep the following rule in mind…

Visuals should either a) enhance, clarify or justify what you’re saying or b) replace written content to shift attention on the speaker.

If your visuals don’t add to the meaning of your story, they are just clutter!

I think that’s all for now. I hope you found some useful tips and tricks for your next presentation. Let me know whether the method worked for you or hit me up with an email if there’s something I can help with. Ciao for now.


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