We’ve been working for 7 years now creating excellent, memorable presentations. We virtually stopped using PowerPoint 6 months ago when we got comfortable with Prezi. If you don’t know Prezi then simple Google their site, or look at this – What is Prezi?
There are lots of reasons to like Prezi, not the least of which is it ISN’T PowerPoint.
But it was only recently that it became clear to me why so many dull presentations are created in PowerPoint. I watched a client marshall his thoughts for a presentation into a mind map. What he ended up with didn’t look like a PowerPoint, it looked like a Prezi, and I realised that in Prezi YOU HAVE TO HAVE A STRUCTURE.
If you want Prezi to look cool it will have an internal logic and a shape. PowerPoint on the other hand is usually created as a stream of linear thoughts.
You do not have to decide what your structure is because you can add “another thing”, “and another thing”, “and another thing” for ever.
Put it another way – what many people put in the PowerPoint is their notes.
Your notes are not a presentation. They might look ordered, and we might even get someone to make them look pretty, but they lack structure and they have missed the vital part of any creative process, where we dump the boring stuff and leave only the good.
This is editing. Or re-writing, and it is fundamental to the creative process.
As Pascal said “I’m sorry I wrote you such a long letter, I didn’t have time to write a short one”
Structuring a presentation.
So how should you structure a presentation?
The answer is, there are lots of ways. There is only one bad way – no structure.
It really helps to think of it as a story. In a story A leads to B leads to C. We are incredibly familiar with many types of story structure. We see them every day in drama. But we don’t often notice them because we are happily following along, just as the writers hoped we would.
So, you are pitching a project that will take time to deliver.
You can tell the story chronologically, first we will do this, then we will do that.
But careful, that is all about us, not about them. It also leads to the a common sin – the ‘tease’ presentation where we have to learn everything before we’re allowed to see the outcome. This works for Poirot, but doesn’t in a presentation.
You can tell it backwards. What does success look like? And how do we get there?
That sounds better. Success is what they want. This also puts the good stuff, the exciting new project, right right at the front.
You can tell it functionally. To deliver this project we need: people, systems, structure, software. And break it down into those elements.
You can tell the human story. On school construction projects the “day in the life of a child” became the default method of telling the story of the school.
You can tell the story geographically. What happens in Scotland, Wales, Southern England. Or, lets explore this project from the front door to the roof.
There is the obedient structure. You (the client) sent us an agenda. So we’re going to follow that.
If the client sends you an agenda never, never depart from it unless you have a reason so compelling that even God himself would be amazed – but even then don’t.
Once you have a structure, create some slides in PowerPoint (there’s nothing wrong with PowerPoint) or in Prezi, or whatever you want.
You now have a well-structured, dull presentation.
So edit out the dull bits and the bits that the client doesn’t care about and now you have interesting, well-structured presentation.