Do you find it hard to engage your audience with a PowerPoint presentation? Do you shudder with dread if you have to sit through someone else giving a presentation? Try my tips for writing better business presentations and dazzle everyone at your next meeting!

PowerPoint is a great tool, but gets a bad reputation from people using it poorly. PowerPoint was invented as a tool to display business graphs. That’s why the default setting is for a landscape page. It is there to support your content – not be the content.

Make notes and presenter view your new best friends

The notes function is there for a reason – this is where you put your notes to guide your presentation. You don’t need to wing it based on the dot points and headings the audience will see. Notes is there for you – use it!

Depending on the version of PowerPoint you are using, you can also use Presenter view. Find it under the ‘Slide Show’ tab. Use the tools like the timer function (invaluable to keep track if there are questions along the way) and notes. It will help you keep the presentation natural. There is nothing more excruciating than a ‘presentation’ where someone reads every slide word-for-word. Don’t be that person.

Structuring your presentation

You are giving a presentation, not writing a report on screen. Assume your audience will remember only three things from your presentation.

The basic structure to start with:

  • title slide
  • body slides – around 3 main points you want your audience to remember
  • conclusion
  • call to action – what do you want the audience to do?

Quick tips for writing better business presentations

Text and content

  • Less is more – limit text – this is not a report.
  • Better to have more slides than one page crammed with text.
  • Think about your brand – do you have a business PowerPoint template? If the answer is no, get one.
  • Use the notes function (did I mention you should use the notes function?).
  • Spell check still works in PowerPoint – don’t forget to use it.
  • Edit and proofread a presentation the same way you would with any other piece of writing.
  • If you want to embed videos or other multimedia – test it. Test it again, and then test it one more time. If it isn’t a smooth transition, you’ve lost them. Don’t rely on an Internet connection to take you to a website or video or audio file. If you are using a Mac I’ve found this especially tricky. Always have all the files on a USB – it is the only sure way to make sure it plays when it should and the technology doesn’t embarrass you. The Internet connection doesn’t care if it looks stupid. You should.

Graphics and set up

  • In the name of all that is holy, please don’t use sound effects and animated text or marching ant style graphics. Trust me.
  • Use a Master Slide to set up a consistent header and footer.
  • Use white space. The less clutter you have on your slide, the more powerful your messages.
  • Use your format to help your audience understand what the important bits are.
  • You don’t have to use the default settings for font and bullet points – but don’t get too fancy.
  • Align any shapes and objects properly.
  • If you want to use shapes and graphics – don’t leave them in the default settings PowerPoint gives you. Everyone knows you haven’t bothered to change them, or don’t know how. For an audience it is like looking at a sample template. Nothing will sink in, and they won’t even try to pay attention.

Don’t forget the basics when writing a presentation

Follow the APPLES rule to write better business presentations – just like any other piece of writing.

  • Audience and purpose: You are not writing for yourself. Get to the point.
  • Plain English: Relevant information where every word counts and instructions are clear.
  • Punctuation and spelling: Don’t waste your efforts by looking unprofessional.
  • Language: Big words do not make you look smarter.
  • Edits, plans and drafts: Keep going until you get it right and it is a presentation you would want to watch.
  • Structure: If content is King, structure and presentation is Queen.

Stand out from the crowd

PowerPoint presentations only seem old hat when people don’t do them right, so stand out with a great business presentation and watch your stocks rise!

Do you have a hot tip which improves your business presentations?