Creating an Effective Presentation Story

In this presentation, Microsoft PowerPoint MVP Nolan Haims discusses how to create an effective presentation story, in order to make your presentation, and your presentation’s visuals, more engaging.


Sharyn: We would like to welcome everyone to today’s webinar, Creating an Effective Presentation Story with Nolan Haims of Nolan Haims Creative, and he is also a Microsoft PowerPoint MVP.

My name is Sharyn Fitzpatrick, and I am the editor at Presentation Xpert and happy to be your moderator for today. We want you to stay connected to us. You can find us on all sorts of social media. We also encourage you to go to our YouTube channel or our website if you’d like to look at any of our webinars. We have catalogued them on PresentationXperts/webinars.

It gives me great pleasure at this time to introduce Nolan. As I said, he’s a Microsoft PowerPoint MVP, one of only 37 in the world. He’s an expert in data visualization. His client list includes like the who’s who of companies. His blog, Present Your Story, is always full of great and exciting information. And in a past life, he was in the circus.

So, at this time, I think the best thing to do is for me to change presenters and turn it over to Nolan.

Nolan:  Thank you, Sharyn. Glad we have so many people today. And hopefully, my sound is not going to get too crazy today. If it does, just let Sharyn know. And we can fix that. But I think it’s good for now.

So, let me start off by, again, just saying what Sharyn already did is that I probably have close to an hour’s worth of material. I always try to jam a lot in. So, I will definitely be taking questions after the hour, if you can’t stick around. And we’ll also be a few opportunities during for some questions as well, you can always type those in. And Sharyn, feel free to jump in at any time.

So, there are a number of people out there who have heard me speak before, know what I talk about. And for those who have, and now for those who may be hearing me for the first time, you know that a lot of what I talk about is the second part of this two-part process of presentation. I’m a huge believer in series of twos. I think those are much easier to remember than series of threes. And I think presentation is a two-part process.

The first part is writing your message, whatever that might be. Everybody on the call right now is in a different industry. You’re all experts in your own thing. All your messages are different. But it’s the second part where we have to, which is what I spend most of my time training organizations to do, which is taking whatever that message might be and communicating it visually and clearly and effectively using slides, using visual communications.

But very often, and I sort of gloss over that first part very often, assuming people know what they’re talking about. But more and more I get asked, can you help me with that first part? Can you help me put together a good presentation story before we even open PowerPoint?

So, today is going to be all about this first part. We’re actually not going to be getting too far into PowerPoint itself. We’re going to be talking about all the things you need to think about ask yourself do before you start thinking about what font you want to choose, what color you want to choose. And to be frank, it’s the second part, which is a lot of times the more fun part, the sexier part, picking stock imagery, picking colors.

But the first part is so vital that if you skip over it and you dive right into design, you’re simply doing yourself and your audiences a huge disfavor. You’re really going to be high on the ball and you’re going to be spending more time down the road if you don’t take care of this first part.

So, Sharyn did give you a little bit about my background. I do have a sort of a sordid history of storytelling in my past. And as Sharyn said, believe it or not, as a kid, I was a professional juggler, magician and circus performer. I performed in the former Soviet Union with the Moscow Circus School and around New England. So, I was telling stories in a circus ring from that age.

After that, I actually then started telling stories on theatrical stages as a professional director and playwright off Broadway and around the country. And that’s my good New York Times review that my mom and I are still very proud of. So, I like to show that whenever I can.

After that, I hung around the agency world forming departments, presentation departments, doing every type of presentation under the sun for every type of industry under the sun as well.

Today, we’re going to be going largely through this document you see in front of you and this is in the panel. This is a PDF you can download. Don’t scramble to write this down or look at it. We’re going to be coming back to this, but we’re going to start going through this sheet that I hand to clients to help them create their story.

Again, before we open up PowerPoint, and this does not have to take very long to fill out in a lot of cases, and again, just some simple questions and simple answers can really help you out down the road. So, this is going to be a sort of a controlling document.

So, let’s start talking about these questions you need to ask yourself from the very beginning. And the first one sounds very prosaic, sounds very simplistic, but it is how much time do you have to present? This, I honestly believe is maybe the most important question you can ask yourself.

A 20-minute presentation is very different from a 60-minute presentation. It’s very different from a five-minute presentation. If you were asked to do career day at your kids’ school, and the teacher said, “You have five minutes to present.” Well, that’s going to be a very different delivery of information than a 30-minute presentation. So, that is really controlling element that we gloss over a lot of times, but it is so crucial.

Now, a longer presentation is not a license to throw in the kitchen sink. The greatest gift you can give an audience is the gift of time. Trust me, real sort of master presenters actually deliver a little less content than the time allows, or they schedule their speaking slot if they have control for a little longer than their material. Because if you can end without this sort of frantic, trying to jam everything at the end that your audience feels as though they’re ahead of the game, and they’ve really gotten it.

Now, if you are given just a short amount of time, don’t assume that your presentation cannot be meaningful. I’m curious if anybody on the phone knows, or on the webinar right now knows who Edward Everett is. My guess is probably almost nobody. You see, Edward Everett many years ago, he spoke for two hours. He gave a speech, it was two hours long, it was over 13,000 words. And today, we don’t know who he is.

But we do remember who spoke right after him. Who only took two minutes and 270 words. You’re probably catching on right now. I know, you know who the second person was. The person that followed Edward Everett was Abraham Lincoln giving the Gettysburg Address.

So, you can do a great deal, you can change the world in just two minutes. So, just because you have a little time, that’s actually a gift from my perspective because I think we can say lots in a short amount of time.

So, that’s really the first question really, genuinely, genuinely ask yourself how much time you have and let that control how you start determining what content you’re going to deliver.

The next question, and this is a real quick one, but you should ask it is, is my presentation, informational or actionable? Most presentations, I would say, really are actionable in that you can say, “Oh, well, I’m just giving a bunch of 401(k) investment benefit ideas or such … “

But even if you think sort of initially, “Oh, well, that’s just information,” you are actually asking your audience take some sort of action. It might be as simple as go to this website to get more information or do a follow-up call with me or email your boss about this.

So, even the smallest actions are valid. And again, there are some situations that are purely informational. But I would look for those actions, as small as they might, be to ask your audience to take at the end of your presentation because a presentation that asks its audience to do something can be a much more significant and much more dynamic and much more effective presentation. It’s a much more engaging presentation. So, again, this is sort of a checkbox. Is it purely information or actionable? See if you can’t get it to an actionable presentation.

The next question, and again, we’re going down the sheet, which I’ll bring back in a little bit. But the next really crucial question to ask is, who is my audience? As presenters, we’re a fairly self-focus group. We can admit that. After all, it’s us who are usually in charge and giving 90 to 100% of the talking. But guess what? A presentation is not for us. We are not the hero. We are not the star. We are not the focus of this presentation. We know what this presentation says.

The focus of it has got to be on the audience. The slides you put up on the screen, they’re not for you, which is why I always recommend people use Presenter View in PowerPoint whenever. It drives me nuts every time I hear somebody say, “Oh, well, I need all those bullet points to remind me what I’m supposed to say.”

Well, that’s a speaker that’s using the slides for themselves. The audience doesn’t need that. The audience has you there. So, use Presenter View. Have your speaker notes outside of the slides so you can … Again, so these slides can be designed for the audience.

But you hear this question a lot. Know who your audience is. But that’s not enough. You have to take it one step further. And ask yourself WIIFMA. This is one of my favorite acronyms. WIIFMA stands for what’s in it for my audience? Again, it is not good enough just to say, “Oh, who’s my audience out there? The board of directors.”

No, no, no. What does the board of directors care about? Why are they sitting here listening to you? What do they want? Every audience is going to have a very different reason for listening to you. A board of directors might want to know, should we buy this new company? Should we continue to fund this initiative?

You could give the same sort of similar content to clients. The clients are going to care about something very different. They care about their business. They care about can you help them improve sales. If you speak to employees, employees are going to care about something else.

So, it’s not just important to say who the audience is, but what do they care about. You have to respond to them.

Now, with any audience, you want to move them from one point to another point, from a point A, which is where things currently stand, that’s basically the present, to a better tomorrow, which is the point B. You want to always try to change thinking in some way. And changing thinking could even be giving them more knowledge.

Maybe it’s, again, a purely informational presentation you want to impart knowledge to them. And that’s the point B, or you might want to get them excited about this thing you’re talking about. You might want them to actually take some sort of action. That can also be a point B.

You want your presentation to move people. We’re not talking about dramatic necessarily change the world, but move them in some way from where they are today, which, let’s say is not the best of all worlds, to a point B, which is that better tomorrow.

Be very careful, though, of asking your audience to do too much. Don’t try to move them to 20 point Bs. Now, if you’re presenting to the board of directors, you may be asking them to fund this initiative. And I don’t know, and buy this other company and whatever.

You might be asking sort of bigger audiences to do a couple of things. And that’s okay. Don’t ask them to do 20 things. Find these umbrella point Bs, these umbrella topics, these umbrella asks that you can sort of ladder your multiple asks up into. So, again, one point B is ideal. One or two is okay. Try to avoid 20.

So, what are examples of these points? There are lots of them. If you just had an informational presentation, it could be knowledge or excitement, as we talked about. If it’s actionable, give me funding approval, could be passionate to get involved, call your congressman, call your mom, sign up for a coding class tomorrow, whatever it might be.

Again, I think actionable presentations are much more dynamic and at the end of the day, sort of effective. You can really move somebody. So, just think about it. Think about what these point As and point Bs are in your presentation.

The next major question is what is my bumper sticker. Yes, every presentation that you create should have a bumper sticker. What’s a bumper sticker? Well, let me show you a few presentations or the bumper stickers from a few incredibly significant presentations.

Each one of these presentations had an incredibly succinct, memorable message that could be put on a bumper sticker. Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream that sums everything up. A thousand songs in your pocket, that was literally the message, the written message from Apple when they first introduced the iPod that became journalists headlines the next day. They were literally writing headlines for journalists. It was such a perfect bumper sticker.

Now, the bumper, look, I hate to break it to you, but you’re lucky if an audience takes away one thing from your presentation at the end of the day. And if they can only take one thing away, you want it to be this significant bumper sticker like a thousand songs in your pocket. So, it is important for the audience that there’d be a bumper sticker. But it’s also important for you as the creator.

When Colin Powell spoke at the UN, he was making the case to invade Iraq. His bumper sticker on that presentation, that very significant presentation was invade Iraq. Those words were never spoken. They were never put up on a slide. They weren’t the title of the presentation. They were never ever spoken. And yet, that was the clear bumper sticker.

So, here’s how this can be important for the creator. When you’re putting together your presentation and trying to decide what goes in and what doesn’t, for example, Colin Powell had to determine what pieces of evidence, which slides go in the presentation, which don’t.

But when you’re doing that, you write your bumper sticker on a Post-It note on your computer screen, up on the whiteboard, and then every single slide that you’re trying to determine, well, should this be in the presentation or not? Simple test, does it ladder up and support the bumper sticker.

And in Colin Powell’s situation, they saw a lot of slides that that doesn’t really support what we’re trying to do here, doesn’t support the bumper sticker. Okay, they’re out, they’re cut.

So, I know many of us are not speaking at the UN for these types of things to go to war. But in your own presentations, it is such a great test because presentations end up with all this extra content. And nobody’s ever been fired for including too much in a presentation. All right. So, we always err on the side of putting too much in. We want to put lessons. So, really find the things that absolutely passed that test. Does it pass the bumper sticker test?

I said a bumper sticker doesn’t have to be your title. But if it is, it can be all the more powerful. This was a real slide, a real presentation a colleague did. And we were presenting a proposal to MetLife Insurance, global communications plan. And he handed this to me and I was already falling asleep. Apologies for anybody who’s in the global communications or insurance business on the call. But I didn’t want to read all the 50 pages behind this title slide.

So, I asked him. I said, “What’s your elevator pitch here? What’s your bumper sticker? What’s this whole proposal about?” And he talked for a little bit. And then he said, “We want to move MetLife Insurance from the largest insurance company to the leading insurance company.”

I said, “Whoa, back up. That sounds interesting.” And he said, “Yeah, well, MetLife is the largest insurance company and have been for a while, but they don’t lead the industry. They’re kind of playing catch up. They’re following everyone else. We want to move them to be the industry leader.” And I said, “That’s actually fascinating. That makes me want to read this.” I said, “That is the presentation’s title. That’s the cover page.”

So, when the CMO of MetLife, get, got let’s say a dozen proposals from different agencies for the global communications plan, let’s assume all 11 said global communications plan, but this one actually said what was the subsequent 50 slides were about. Write a bumper sticker that could be delivered to the CEO of a company, such that they instantly understand what your message is.

If the CMO went to the CEO in the elevator and said, “Hey, we’re thinking about hiring this agency.” All the CEO has to do is look at that cover, see that bumper sticker. “Oh, they want us to do all this.” They don’t have to read all 50 pages, we hope they would, but to know that those 50 pages are going to support this story.

So, this is a slide from a client of mine, the Irvine Foundation. Is this a good bumper sticker as a title? Probably not. Right? How about this? That’s a good bumper sticker. That says exactly what we’re talking.

And as I’m trying to decide what slide goes in, what slide goes out, here’s my simple test. Does it ladder up and support this title? If it’s about something not related to this bumper sticker, it shouldn’t be there.

So, I want to open it up to everyone on the webinar. Can you give me an example of a recent presentation that you did or that you saw that had a really good bumper sticker? Or that should have had a good bumper sticker? Let me know in the chat window. Let’s see if even if it didn’t have one, could you impart a bumper sticker on it?

Sharyn: Nolan. I can think of one, just do it, the Nike bumper sticker.

Nolan:  Absolutely. I mean, that’s a marketing and advertising tagline as well. That’s a huge brand wide mantra almost. And again, a mantra is sort of different from a mission statement. I think most companies should know mantra is not mission statements.

But, okay, we’re getting some coming in here. People buy from people. Okay. PowerPoint, nuts and bolts. You’re coming back to a previous webinar. That’s great. Eat more beef, Chick-fil-A, that I love. I love it. I mean, again, that’s an advertising, but sort of an ironic thing.

Safety, it’s in your hands. That one I love as well because that says, you, the audience, this everything is about you, actions that the audience is going to take. So, in that respect, if that presentation started talking about safety that corporate or the government was going to do, no, that’s not what this presentation is about. This presentation is about what you the audience can do.

The info dive, here’s one. The info dive, a quick look at credit cards. I would challenge that person to go more specific. A quick look at credit cards, you can look at credit cards in a thousand different ways and lots of different information. What specifically?

Abbott nutrition. Okay, I would say Abbott nutrition is a bad bumper sticker because I don’t know how to test everything against that. We could end up with thousands of slides talking about nutrition.

Here’s a good one, a slight revision, we went from expense reduction to reducing lost profits. Okay, very specific.

So, a bumper sticker really should be specific. Yes, in an ideal world, it should be inspirational, “I have a dream” and all that. But it should be testable against your slides. So, thank you. Thank you for all those. Oh, we’ve got even a lot more coming in. I’m just reading a few here. These are good.

Sharyn: We have some fun ones. Bringing order to chaos. There’s one that I liked was, what’s your story, which was kind of interesting. And I’m ready is another one. So, back to you, Nolan. This lesson [inaudible] stuck here.

Nolan:  Okay. Good. So, again, I think a bumper sticker is not just a general categorical title, but it really is specific and it’s testable against those slides.

So, let’s look at our sheet again that we’ve already gone through probably more than half of here. We’ve seen something actionable and informational or time allotted or audience, you really just fill this out, print it out. Don’t do it on the computer. Print it out and write by hand. Who’s my audience? What’s in it for them? What are my point As and point Bs? What’s my bumper sticker?

If you’ve answered all these questions so far, you’re so far ahead of the game. And maybe the bumper sticker does take a while to sort of think about what it should be. But that’s good, because you’re spending that time now before you dive into slide design. It’s going to help you out. It’s going to help you instantly know later, should I include that slide or not.

But now let’s get into true sort of story construction. So, we have our frame. We have basically our background. And this is basically what we’ve done. If we look at everything we’re doing today and sort of these four sections, we’ve already framed it. We framed our presentation, who’s it for, how much time we have, what’s the general idea about it. That’s really the first half of it.

Now, we’re going to move into the next parts, the story construction. Whether we know our material backwards and forwards, whether we’re giving a brand new presentation that we’re writing from scratch, and we have to research it, we want to spend just a little time or a lot of time, if we have to, ideating.

Put your ideas what you’re going to talk about in the presentation, your solutions, your proposals, your whatever it might be. Start putting it down, you can put it on a whiteboard. A lot of people like to ideate, come up with ideas there. That’s great if you have the space to collaborate with other people.

You can use, sorry, Post-It notes. You can put these on a whiteboard or on just any wall. You can put them on a big desk. I’m a huge fan of Post-It notes. Start putting your ideas down there. Post-It notes are great if you want to really dynamically move things around and sort of start to think about hierarchy, and what’s more important and less important.

Some people like mind mapping. There’s actually software out there that does this. And mind mapping is where you take one idea and then you branch off and it inspires other ideas. So, it’s a great way of sort of brainstorming. Here, for example, if we wanted to grow symphony audiences well, we could do that two ways. We could do more subscriber ticket sales and that would lead to other stuff or we could get new audiences and that leads to other stuff. So, mind mapping, some people like.

I’m hoping a lot of people were here a month ago or so for the SmartStorming webinar. They really advocate for a style of ideation called idea sprinting. And if you are not familiar with SmartStorming and Keith Harmeyer and Mitchell Rigie, they are two of the best in the business at ideation. And they have a wonderful book, a wonderful website. A lot of what I know about ideation, I’ve learned from them.

Idea sprinting is just coming up with as many ideas as quickly as possible. Now, the ideation section or phase of this, no matter what technique you use, it’s all personal preference. No matter what technique you’re using, no judgments. Don’t edit. Just get all those ideas out. Because once you do, then you’re going to dive into this next section, which is editing.

Here’s where we’re going to take all of our ideas, all of our sticky notes or everything on the whiteboard or everything in our mind map, and we’re going to see if it ladders up to that bumper sticker. Remember the bumper sticker I was insistent about writing? Here’s where it comes in.

So, you put all your sticky notes on the wall and put a big one at the top with your bumper sticker and see, hey, does all this stuff go towards that? For example, here, if we wanted to increase staffing, well, okay, we can use online ads, and then we do the sort of pyramid shape underneath where things, different types of online ads.

But then we have maybe better HR department, they need to pull their weight and, down at the bottom, IT outsourcing, well, that kind of runs counter. So, even though that was a good idea, it doesn’t support my bumper sticker. Maybe improve employee benefits? Well, yeah, that could increase staffing. But we went through a study last year and they told us we had the best benefits in the industry. So, I don’t think that’s really going to help increase staffing. So, it gets cut.

So, you don’t even bother making the slide for IT outsourcing and improving employee benefits. You don’t waste your time. You’ve done it here. You just save yourself a half hour not creating those two slides, or more. This is why the editing process is so important. And I understand, editing is painful. It’s the least sexy, the least fun part of this, but it is truly important.

So, once you’ve edited, now you’re going to dive into that sort of the true structure. I’m sure a lot of you’ve been saying, “Yeah, but how do I order my things? How do I exactly construct it?” Well, if you go to Amazon right now and you type in presentation, or sorry, you type in story structure, you’re going to get over, I think 30,000 hits. And I haven’t read all 30,000, but I’ve read a lot about story structure over the years. I actually have a degree in dramatic writing.

And all of those books and all of those recommendations and structures, they’re not wrong. None of them are wrong. You can take any presentation story and kind of reverse engineer it into those. But I would caution you to stay away from story structures that insist you put your presentation material into a Joseph Campbell, Hero’s Journey structure or you’ve got to make your presentation, you’ve got to identify the protagonist and make it like the Star Wars story and all that stuff.

It’s a little complicated. It’s a little overwrought. I think it’s not simple enough and it doesn’t sort of take in the day-to-day realities of how quickly we have to put presentations together. And that’s why I recommend two basic formats, two basic structures for your presentation.

I call the first one beginning, middle and end. And I call the second five things. So, let’s look at this first one. It consists of a beginning, middle and end, surprise. But look how much space we’ve allotted for that. The beginning part of it and the end part of it are very short and they should be as short as you can possibly make them.

In the beginning, that’s where you put your title. That’s your agenda. That’s your history and background, if necessary. If you’re presenting to your boss about how to increase staffing and he knows, he’s the one that asked you, you don’t need to go into the whole problem. Don’t waste people’s time telling them things they already know. Get to the point. So, you may need background, you may not. You may need to address the problem, the challenge, some people call it the pain, if appropriate for your audience. What do they care about? If they’re already knowledgeable about this, just gloss over it. Get to the point.

Here’s where you could talk about expectations. You can even tell your audience the point B you’re going to move them top. This is depending on the presentation. It may be appropriate, it maybe not. It may be your style. You may want to sort of have it be a surprise B you tell them at the end or never tell them. But you put all that stuff there.

The end is your summation. It’s your Q&A if you’re going to do that. It’s your appendix. It’s your call to action if you have one. And again, I would urge you to find one.

In the middle is where you’re going to spend the vast majority of your time. And here is where we’re going to take our main topics, let’s say our idea A, B, and C. And hopefully, we’ve created umbrella topics that we can slap in there.

                I would urge you not to have idea A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J. If you start getting more than four or five main ideas, you need to umbrella them further. Okay. And by umbrella, when I say umbrella, it means you can have an idea B1 and idea B2, but they should ladder up into one main category that people can wrap their head around. So, under each one of these, you’re going to go through your arguments one, two, three, your evidence, your solutions.

That’s it. That’s the beginning, middle and end. It shouldn’t be mysterious. It shouldn’t involve Star Wars. It should be fairly simple, because we have to put these presentations together very quickly. So, that’s generally what I recommend people doing.

But I want to talk about the second structure, which I call five things. And this is really good for informational presentations, but you can use it for actionable ones as well. But five things is basically exactly like it sounds, it is essentially beginning, middle and end in which we take away the beginning and we take away the end. And all we do is we give them five ideas, or four or three, maybe six, that might be a little much. So, I say five things, it doesn’t have to be five, exact, two, three, four. It is just that. You just launch right into it and say, “I’m going to tell you about this.” And then you talk about that for 10 minutes. “Now, I’m going to talk about idea two.” Talk about that for 10 minutes. Idea three, and that’s it.

And I’ve got to tell you that this structure has saved me personally, more times than I can tell you. Invariably, when I’m struggling to put my own presentation together, and that happens, this is the structure that I usually fall back on. And it saves me. So, after weeks of trying to figure out transitions, and I have to have the setup, and then I have to dramatically transition to this. Finally at the end, I just say, “Oh, it’s five things.”

Here’s an example of that in which I was struggling. And I said you know what, it’s five things. That’s all it is I’m going to tell. And each one of them I talk about for 10 minutes. There’s my presentation. It makes creating the presentation so much easier.

And if you think this is a kind of a copout or a kind of an overly simplistic way of giving presentations, I point you to Steve Jobs’ Stanford commencement speech back in 2005, I think, not sure exactly when.

If you have not seen this, go to YouTube and watch it. Don’t do it now. Do it after our webinar. But he started out, these were his very first words. He walked up to the podium and said, “I’m honored to be with you today at your commencement from one of the finest universities in the world. I never graduated from college. Truth be told, this is the closest I’ve ever gotten no college graduation.”

And then he said this, “I want to tell you three stories. That’s it, no big deal. All right, the first story is about connecting the dots.” It worked, right? He literally told just three stories. He was using the, what I call five things story construct, and it works. So, for everybody who’s ever sweated over if you’ve ever had to give a commencement speech, telling you, five things, it’s going to help you.

So, we’ve really gone through a lot here. We’ve gone through this whole section, except for the last item of this, which is the call to action. And your call to action should be the very last thing your audience hears.

I believe if you’re going to do a Q&A, that’s fine. A lot of times, it’s appropriate. Don’t let it be the very last thing you do. Let the call to action be the last thing to do. So, do your Q&A. But then leave a couple minutes after that to remind your audience to sum up to tell them what they should do and give them your maybe your bumper sticker or the point B.

Because the worst thing in the world is to do a Q&A and then somebody kind of asks a lame question and yes, there are lame questions, and that’s everything your audience remembers. That last kind of lame question lets the whole air out of your presentation. And then you say, “Thank you,” and you walk offstage.

You really want you to have the last word. You want the last thing the audience hears to be this inspirational action-oriented call to action. So, what are examples of that? Again, lots of things, could be small, could be big.

Hire my agency for this project. Call to set up a follow-up meeting, that’s it. Not asking you to spend a million dollars, just call to set up a follow-up meeting. Or take my proposal to your CEO. Place 20% of your current investment into this fund. Find something for them to actually do that you’ve made a case for throughout your whole presentation.

So, that’s our whole structure. That’s the sheet. Every time you do a presentation, just run down the sheet. You could fill this out in 10, 15 minutes, I imagine in some cases. It’s worth it. It’s going to save you creating that slide you didn’t need to create down the road.

Let’s talk about a few sort of related things as we’re putting our presentation together and as we’re getting closer to PowerPoint, because the goal ultimately, obviously, is to make slides in PowerPoint or Keynote or whatever.

At some point, very soon after doing this, we need to start thinking in terms of slides. So, we need to start taking all this information that we’ve ideated and everything and converting it into slides. So, how do we do that? There are a few ways I recommend.

Wow, I had a little thought issue right here. So, sorry about the weird wrapping here. Post-It notes, again, to the rescue. Every Post-It note equals a slide. Okay, So, whether you’ve already done that from your ideating or you need to let’s say, you had a Post-It note, it was a whole section and one Post-It note suddenly becomes three because you want to do three slides, that’s fine.

But start using Post-It notes, every single one as a slide. And, again, keep your pyramid structure and your order. Start moving them around. Start seeing what should be there, what shouldn’t be. Does it ladder up to my bumper sticker? No, maybe I’ll move it off to the side. Maybe it’ll come back in, maybe it won’t. I’m not going to throw it away, but it’ll just be there. So, that’s one way that I like using.

Another way of outlining our presentation, and ultimately writing it in terms of slides is just pure prose. I work with a lot of foundations. My clients speak at a lot of conferences and a lot of them are very … They’re writers. They like to ideate. They like to come up with their talks by writing. That’s how they do it. And that’s fine.

So, I say, “Go into Microsoft Word and write everything out.” Now, they may ultimately not read this verbatim, but they might paraphrase it. But that’s the way to get the content out. And when you do that, start going … After you’ve written it, go through and identify where your slides are. Highlight them.

And you can easily see, oh, I’ve just been on one slide for three pages, or I see this a lot. People will write two sentences, and insert four or five different slides in those two sentences. And I have to say, “That’s not going to happen. You cannot put five slides into two sentences worth of material.” So, this is a way of visually starting to see where your slides are that you can then ultimately move into PowerPoint.

This is what I recommend most or what most people actually end up using, Microsoft Word, a three-column table, in which each row is a slide. So, this is after you’ve done your ideating, you’ve gone through the sheet, you’ve done all this stuff, three columns.

Now, the first column is actually the most important. It’s the timing. We’re back to the timing. So, you know how much overall time you want to spend on your presentation. But how much time do you want to spend on each individual slide. That’s crucial. So, you say, “This slide is so important, I’m going to spend two minutes on it.” Then in the second column is what you want to say with that slide. This could be speaker notes. This could be still sort of stream of consciousness. I’m not exactly sure.

The third column, that’s the visuals. If you know at this point, you may know. “Oh, yeah, we have to show a map of that or we need to show a chart showing this from the annual report,” or it might be a question mark. “Yeah, we’ll figure that out later,” because we’re not designing it. We’re simply outlining what slides are going to be where.

A cousin to this, the one that actually I use all the time is Excel, in which each row again is a column, but I like using Excel as a content sort of outlining tool, as a text tool because it’s so great at color coding and adding hierarchy and I can hide things. I can easily move them around. But also, I’ve got that column where I can have an instant running total of my timing. So, if I know I have 55 minutes to present, as I go through everything, I see instantly, you’re over time. Got to make some choices, got to make some changes. So, timing is again a very important tool.

If you just have to, have to, have to jump into PowerPoint, try using the outline view. And I’m going to go out of slideshow mode and see if I can see this. If you’re not familiar with the outlining mode, it’s gotten a little more hidden in more recent versions of PowerPoint. So, let me go over here. Hope we don’t have too much of a lag here.

But if I go to View, let me make this a little bit bigger. If I go to View, I have my normal sort of option. That’s kind of the default, where you have all the slides down here. But if I click outline, right next to it, you’re going to see this outline view. And the cool thing about this is, here, let’s see which slide. I’m on this slide right here, 54. If I type here, watch what happens in real time on the slide. It is actually typing in a header. Now, this slide didn’t have a header to begin with. But PowerPoint just put one in for me.

Or similarly here, if I type my header here, it goes right to my outline view. So, I can see that here’s my outline. So, I can type here and it goes there, or I can type there. And you can also do this, if I hit return, I have a slide. But then if I tab in, watch what happens. I can actually type all my bullet points here in real time, and it creates my slides.

Now, we’re not designing these slides. We’re just outlining. Design is going to come next. So, if you do not use headers like I don’t always, you can always put your header off the pasteboard so you can still see it here. But if I go like go to my next slide here, actually, which has headers, interestingly enough, actually, the header box is already there. So, whatever I type here is going to appear in the outline view there. So, let me go back in the slideshow.

So, that’s outlining. Let’s talk about headers specifically because they can be really important in outlining and really important in constructing your story. And they’re going to be important regardless as you get down the road.

I have three rules for headers. And the first one is, even though we’ve just talked about them is that you don’t actually always need a header. Don’t just write a header because it’s convention or you think you should, or there’s a place on your template to put it. You can do a great presentation with no headers. These are few slides from a great presentation that had no headers. Look, there’s no header. There’s data, there’s text, there’s information. You don’t always need a header.

If you’re in the position of creating a template or if you’re hiring somebody to make a template, please, please, please do not make a big black knocked out header bar that forces your audience to write a header. Don’t force somebody to write a header when it may not be necessary. Because if I don’t write a header, then it’s like this big empty gaping space. And it just takes up real estate, which is why any template I ever create, it’s going to be an empty space up there, where a header could be there, or it could not, depending on the content. So, that’s sort of the first rule of headers.

The second is short as possible. Everything, everything in a presentation should be as short as possible. I don’t believe in long sentences that spell out every word. I know some people, it’s sort of a philosophy. I adamantly disagree with that. This is not a good header. We’re going to see the slide again in a better header. If you’ve got two sentences, two lines, god help us, three lines, that’s a pretty good indication that you have an overwritten header.

Somebody once told me that if they see the word “and” in a header, it’s a tip to them that that header needs to be cut down or that maybe turned into two slides. So, yeah, you don’t need more than one line on header.

The third rule is that you have to make your headers pay their rent. What do I mean by this? If you’re going to put something on a slide, it better tell a part of your story. So, when I see categorical headers like this, this is not a good header. This is a header that could be in any slide. If you have headers that could fit into anybody else’s presentation, that’s not a specific header that is paying its rent. This is a categorical thing. We don’t want that. We want a header like this. This is a header that takes advantage of the real estate it’s been given to tell part of our story.

You should be able to take a presentation printed out and flip through it and only read your headers. And just from that, get a pretty good idea of what the presentation is about. If you choose to use headers, so we want our headers to actively help tell our story, if we’re going to use it.

You may have heard me talk about the three word challenge, which is actually something I learned from Rick Altman, who’s going to be doing a presentation in a month or two I think. Apply the three word challenge to your headers. Basically, that means trying to get all your headers down to three words. And if you “fail,” let’s say you have a 10-word header and you get it down to five words instead of three, well, that’s still a header that’s 50% better. So, that’s success in my book. You can always edit down headers, trust me. You can edit down almost anything on a slide. There’s a way to do it without losing your message.

So, the last thing I want to talk about is sort of related to all this, but it’s just something I want people to keep an eye on because I see it all the time in all different types of industries. And it’s jargon. But when I say jargon, it’s not really the necessarily those long scientific words. I mean, that’s a problem. But it’s kind of a more insidious type of jargon. It’s features over benefits. It’s when people start talking about whatever the industry is, they start talking about the science and the technical and the features.

Remember I said our presenters are very self-focus group, we start talking about what our company did or what we personally did, and all this stuff and all the outputs we’ve created. And we stop thinking about the most important part of a presentation, which is the audience. What do they care about? The audience does not care about, in general, all of the technical mumbo jumbo and details and features that we think they do. They care about what’s in it for them. How will it make their company or their life better?

Now, the masters of doing this, the masters at presenting benefits over features is Apple. They are a technical company. So, they presumably have lots and lots of technical things. They’re creating and inventing, and they want to communicate. But that’s not what they do in their presentations and their product launches. They don’t talk about features. They talk about the benefit to the audience.

So, we’re going to play the Apple marketing department game show. And I’m going to show you a slide. This is from one of the iPod launches a while back. And yes, they had some bullet points talking about the iPod. But everything that you’re seeing on the screen now, this is my rewriting of that bullet point to be a feature rather than a benefit. This is the way most companies, the vast majority of companies out there would introduce a new product by telling the audience all the features. But that’s not at all the way Apple did. So, I want to I want to get everyone on their toes right here. And we’re going to go through this one by one and I want to ask you to put yourself in the shoes of Apple marketing. What do you think they said when they wanted to tell the audience about controlling your music through innovative touch sensitive control? What do you think they said?

Sharyn: We have, Nolan, your music at your fingertips.

Nolan:  I love that. I love that answer. Touch your music. We have a winner. That’s what they said, touch your music. That’s what people are actually going to do with the iPad, with the iPod. They’re touching their music. How about this next one? Widescreen 16.9 aspect ratio, video playback. That’s a mouthful and that’s exactly the kind of thing that an engineer, no offense to engineers, would write. What’s Apple going to say?

Sharyn: Easy on your eyes.

Nolan:  Easy on your eyes.

Sharyn: See your music, clear video.

Nolan:  Clear video. Widescreen video. That’s all. Simple. Why we know what’s widescreen. This powerful search functionality. Let’s talk about that one. Powerful search functionality, what does that mean? What’s the benefit to the audience?

Sharyn: Find it fast, easy to find, easy search.

Nolan:  Exactly. You guys head right to one infinite loop. Find your music even faster. Exactly. That’s what people care about. This next one is my absolute favorite, high resolution 163 ppi graphics. That was definitely written by an engineer. Again, no offense to engineers. But what does that mean to the audience, to the consumer?

Sharyn: See your music. See it clearly. Awesome visual. Bold pictures. Eye pleasing graphics. Crisp pictures. Enjoy beautiful cover art. Twice as-

Nolan:  Enjoy beautiful cover art, that got pretty close. If you know anything about Steve Jobs, this will make perfect sense when you see what they said. Gorgeous album art. When was the last time you heard the word “gorgeous” in a tech presentation? But that’s the way they think. Remember all those big albums that we used to love? Well, now, we’re bringing some of that back, some of that gorgeous art.

So, the last two are a little more sort of right to the point, high powered revolutionary built-in speaker and navigate your content, just totally overwritten. Built-in speaker, cover flow, that was a new term they were introducing.

But you look at these bullet points the way Apple introduced their product, and let’s look at how another competitor of Apple sort of covers the same thing. Not a music player, but sort of a similar launch. It’s night and day, internet-based personal services to bring together your digital world. I’m sorry, I don’t know what that means? Will I be able to see my awesome album art that way? That’s what I care about. Communications, information protection. I don’t know. I don’t want to go on this.

But that sort of the difference between Apple and Microsoft, and Microsoft’s been getting much, much better. Definitely. And Bill Gates as a presenter has gotten much better. But there are two sort of philosophies. And I would really urge you to go towards Apple. And there’s actually a great couple great books. Well, there are a lot of great books written on Apple. But Carmine Gallo wrote a great book called The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs. And it really covers a lot of this, of really analyzing why those keynotes were so and are so impressive and why Steve Jobs was such a great presenter, not just because he was charismatic, but because they did things like focus on benefits, focus on the audience.

Oh, good. So, it looks like I did pretty good with time. We’re going to open this up to questions. But before I do, I want to give a little plug. I’m co-hosting a podcast that launched a couple weeks ago on iTunes, with Troy Chollar, and Sandy, Sandra Johnson, two fellow Microsoft MVPs. I believe there are three episodes up now. And the next one will be released shortly.

So, if you want to hear everything that’s going on in the presentation world, get all sorts of inside tips and tricks on the business of presentation, definitely subscribe. We’re very excited about it. And we’re going to have guests. We’re going to talk about everything under the sun, things down to pricing, and all sorts of inside baseball stuff on presentation in PowerPoint. So, definitely, definitely go subscribe to that. And there’s a website. You can take a look at the past episodes and all that.

So, that’s what I’ve got today. And again, I’m glad I didn’t go too far over. Remember what I said about trying to write your content so you always have a little less than your time allows for. I guess I followed my own advice today on that. But let’s open it up to questions.

Sharyn: Somebody’s telling you, you’re walking the talk, which is great. So, Lisa has a question. How do you orient people during your presentation without adding a header that shows where you are in the outline?

Nolan:  Well, there’s nothing wrong with adding headers. And when we say headers, maybe dividers, I’m actually a big believer in telling your audience where they are in the presentation.

So, very often, what we’ll do is we’ll add something called a tracker, which is a small little thing in the top right usually, or somewhere else in one of the corners that will show people where they are in the presentation. And usually we do that with iconography.

So, let’s say we have four sections of the presentation, we’ll have an icon for each. And as we go through, the audience can see at the top right, oh, we’re in the third of four sections. Additionally, or separately, we very often do divider slides that keep going back to the agenda, keep showing people where they are.

Yeah, don’t play around with your audience. Tell them where you are. Nobody should ever think to themselves, am I 10% through this presentation or 90% through? They should know.

Sharyn: So, Liz has a question. Is it necessary to use headers consistently or is it okay to use them only on some slides and not on others in the same presentation?

Nolan:  I’m okay letting them come and go. But your design, your slide design has got to allow for that. Which is why when we design templates, we do it in such a way where it’s basically just an empty space at the top. So, the header can be there or cannot. And if it’s not there, you don’t miss it.

But yeah, if you’re showing like a map of something, for example, like we had that example slide of a map of a Spanish wine region, if you’re just showing a map and it’s self-explanatory, why do you need a header that says, “Hey, this is a map of X?” Your header should not be redundant. You should try to communicate as much as possible with the content of the slide.

And the other thing I’ll say is if you are going to use the header, your content, and this is kind of like the whole bumper, like in a micro version of the bumper sticker, and everything supports that, all the content on a slide has to support the bumper sticker, has to prove, I’m sorry, has to prove the header. I was talking to a client this morning about a slide. And I said, “Well, you’ve got this great statement in your header. But then the content on the slide itself doesn’t refer to it. Like it’s a completely different story.” It has to support the header.

So, that’s, again, another micro test. Should I include this bullet point? I don’t know. Does it ladder up to the header?

Sharyn: So, we have a question about kind of agenda slides, question slides or final thank you slide. Are they necessary? Are you a fan of them?

Nolan:  They’re not necessary. You don’t need a slide at the end that says thank you, although it’s a nice way to say, “Hey, I’m done.” I mean, that’s a nice indication.

So, they’re convention. If they genuinely help you, fine. I’m kind of agnostic about agenda slides. Again, I don’t like keeping secrets from an audience. I like to tell them what we’re going to be talking about. I like to tell them how long they have. That’s what I always do at the beginning of every presentation. I say, this is going to be an hour long. This is going to be 30-minutes long.

So, the same thing with an agenda. If it makes sense, do it. If your agenda is just filling space because that’s part of your template, then no. If the agenda says, introduction, background, strategy, thank you, closing, then don’t do it. That’s just categorical.

Sharyn: So, people are curious, what do you do when a CEO wants to just do a long list of bullets? How do you encourage them to tell a story and make that the focus?

Nolan:  How does one manage up to their CEO?

Sharyn: Yeah.

Nolan:  Yeah. That’s a big long topic. Look, we’ve all had bosses and we’ve all had clients, I’ve had clients that want their bullet points, or despite what you tell them, “Oh, I just need this.”

You’ve got to manage up. You’ve got to do it delicately. One thing I will very often do is give two versions of a slide. I’ll give them their bullet points. But then I’ll go ahead and design like, I’ll chunk the bullet points out or I’ll convert those bullet points to four slides with imagery and illustrations and iconography. And try, if possible, to have a heart to heart and say, “Okay, here are the two options. We can do with just bullet points. But you know what, I don’t think people are going to take it, process it. I don’t think they’re going to remember it, unless we do it this way. Now, these are two options. Which do you want to use?”

It’s the same thing like with charts. If somebody loves their pie charts, and I hate pie charts, I’ll say, “Okay, here’s your pie chart. And here’s a bullet chart or here’s a size proportional shape thing that I think is better. And look at both of them. And don’t you see that this one is sort of more easily read on screen?” And if they disagree, or if they just disagree because they want to be right and they don’t want anybody else to say anything differently, then I don’t think that’s a very good CEO, speaker or boss. So, you’ve got to be delicate.

Sharyn: I think that’s great. Let me do one final question being conscious of time. How long do you take on average on each step of building a PowerPoint presentation?

Nolan:  It all depends. It depends on how much content I’m already working with. A lot of the presentations I do I tend to have a lot of sort of material that I’m just reconfiguring. If I am putting a presentation together from scratch, I’m going to spend the most time because I have to outline. I have to ideate. I have to go through all those steps.

If I’m giving a, let’s say I’ve decided I’m going to do a five things presentation, and I already know these are the five things, I already have the material written, it’s just really a matter of organizing it a little better. So, I’ll go into Excel. And I’ll just start with my timings. Do I include the slide or not? Because, okay, I have 40 minutes and I can’t use all the material, but I know the general section that I just go through. And I spend a lot of time mostly in Excel. It’s all going to depend on how well you know the material to begin with.

Sharyn: I think that’s a good point. Nolan, I want to thank you. This has just been amazing. And I want to encourage everybody to go to our website, and actually sign up for upcoming webinars that we have.

We’re doing Cheating Death by PowerPoint next month. And then in June, Rick is coming back with Oops, Geeking Out with Hyperlinks and Triggers.

So, I want to thank everyone for coming today. And this concludes our webinar. Have a great rest of your day.

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