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Five Game-Changing Principles of Presenting Slides

Posted by Mary McGlynn, President of PowerSpeaking, Inc.

May 15, 2014 10:35:00 AM

What drives you bonkers with slide presentations? What are your three top frustrations?

Last week Michael Alley, Penn State professor and author of The Craft of Scientific Presentations, talked to our PowerSpeaking, Inc. team about the major problems (and solutions) of technical slide presentations. 

Compare your "hate list" with his research. 
Frustrations include: 
  1. Too many details. (What is the main message?)
  2. The title of the slide provides only a phrase — not the main point. 
  3. There are too many words on the slide. 
  4. The text is too small.
  5. Slides consist of bullet point after bullet point.
  6. No graphics.
  7. There's no orientation to the slide or chart.
So what can you do about it? Remember these five principles.


  1. Use the Left Brain / Right Brain Principle:For the audience, hearing content—while reading word slides—creates a conflict. The verbal description and the written bullet points are processed on the same side of the brain—the left side. For success, add graphics.An image (a photograph, for example), plus theverbal description, uses both hemispheres of the brain. People "get" the technical information better.
  2. Provide an "Assertion-Evidence Approach" for audience retention. If the audience knows your assertion (and doesn't have to guess your main point), the audience can follow your logic more easily.
    • Provide the main take-away in a sentence format.
    • The sentence should not be more than two lines.
    • Left justify the sentence.
    • Capitalize the title the way you'd write a sentence.Screen_Shot_2014-05-15_at_7.31.44_AM
  3. Have "Pattern Disruption" in your presentation! Slide-after-slide of bullet points create a hypnotic effect and puts people to sleep. Change the pattern. Examples:
    • Blank the screen to tell a story. (How do you blank the screen? Use a "B" key. Turn the projection back on by hitting the "B" key again.) 
    • Embed video.
    • Use photos to capture the essence of the slide.
  4. Use the note function for "handout" content. Ever feel compelled to put a huge amount on content on the slide so it serves as a handout for later? Think differently. A slide presentation is not a "reading lesson." The content we project should differ from what we give in a handout. It's your insights that take the dialogue and presentation up to the next level.
    • Use the sentence headline to state the main message.
    • Use the "note function" to provide all the statistical background and important technical information that will be needed for later.
    • With graphics, the slide is not overwhelming during the presentation. The images, combined with the notes, are easily sent to audience members digitally after the meeting.
    • Use a graphical image for retention of content.
    • With graphics, the slides will be more "humanly" connected while you can relax knowing the technical information is within the notes.
  5. A slide presentatipon is not a "reading lesson." The content we project should differ from what we give in a handout. It's your insights that take the dialogue and presentation up to the next level.

Interview with Michael Alley by: Rick Gilbert

Your Chance to Win!
As you consider Michael's two lists, we'd invite you to describe the biggest frustration you have with slides and your solution or provide an example of a screenshot of an extraordinary slide. All those who submit an entry will be up for a drawing for our PowerSpeaking book, Surviving Executive Presentations. We look forward to hearing from you.


Topics: Style, Core Message, PowerPoint, Career Advancement, Executive Presence, Presentation Tips

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