Steps for Writing a Successful Slide Show

By Jose Olivares

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PowerPoints; love them or hate them, sometimes you just can’t get away from them. They’re fantastic at helping convey information to your peers, coworkers, and professors in a creative manner. Here are some tips to consider when building your next PowerPoint.

Once you have all of your sources and material, it is time to begin planning out the slide show. Planning is one of the most important steps to focus on when working on a PowerPoint. It is vital to remember that the purpose of a slide show is to AID your presentation, not BE your presentation. It’s often helpful to keep these four concepts in mind when planning out your project:

  • Purpose (Why are you presenting this?)
  • Content (What information do you need to get across?)
  • Audience (Who are you presenting this to?)
  • Context (Where will you be presenting this? In a big room? Small room? What time of day?)

After you have answered all of those questions and figured out your main purpose for the presentation, it is time organize the material. Organization is key for a successful slide show. The best method (although potentially time-consuming) is to gather all of your material in a Word document, begin to compile the information, and remove any unnecessary fluff. Make sure you leave only the most important material to include in your presentation.

After you’ve organized your material, you can begin writing for the slide show. When writing, remember to draft your points in a Word document in order to catch any mistakes without the many distractions that the PowerPoint program may provide. It can also be helpful to strategically organize your slide arrangement beforehand to make sure your argument is presented clearly.

More often than not, people will include giant paragraphs of information on a slide. Avoid this as much as possible! You only want the most important, key points outlined within a few bullet points. Keep in mind that your audience is not going to remember every single bit of information you throw at them, so do not overwhelm them with too much material. Just include the key points that you’d like them to take home. A good rule to follow is the “Five by Five” rule: Five bullets per slide and five words per bullet. The less text, the better.

Remember: the PowerPoint is an extension of your presentation, not the presentation itself. Allow the audience to listen to you speak on the points outlined in the slide show. It may be a good idea to include brief questions for your audience, too. This can encourage discussion and improve the overall quality of the presentation by allowing some interaction.

Once you’ve organized and written out your main points, place them in the slide show. The beauty of PowerPoint is that you can be creative, but you should be strategic with this freedom. Try using size, color, and type contrast to highlight different bits of information. If you do decide to play with the formatting, be consistent with it for the entirety of the presentation.

Make sure you’re constantly reviewing the spelling, punctuation, and grammar as you place finishing touches on your slide show. While rehearsing your presentation, keep in mind the most important aspects: purpose, content, audience, and context.

You will never go wrong if you act kindly and empathetically towards your audience. Place yourself in their shoes: What would you like to see up on a slide show? PowerPoint slide shows can be a lot of fun to work on, so don’t let them stress you out. Good luck!

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