Adding the Zen in PreZentation: Planning for SUCCESS

For many of us, when we have a presentation to make, we just jump on to PowerPoint or Keynote and start dumping text on to slides. Then the presentation consists mostly of reading the information off the slide to an audience falling off their seats in boredom. Fortunately, thereʼs a better way! It takes some planning, but will ultimately lead to SUCCESS!


IMPLE. Be Ruthless. Hone your content down to its barest elements. Words. Phrases. Donʼt bury your meaning in text. Be careful: simplicity is not the same as simplistic. You can pare down your ideas to their essential meaning without losing significance if you work at it. People tend to bury their slides in text because they think it shows they know a lot. Your slides should contain only the core. YOU add the context and elaborations through what you say or through additional handouts.

NEXPECTED. Want to keep people interested? Surprise them! Begin with a startling fact, quotation or image related to your topic. To keep them interested, ask questions that show your audience their view of your topic is incomplete, then give them the answers to fill in the holes.

ONCRETE. Avoid abstractions--give real examples about real things, not just facts and statistics. Donʼt say: The battery lasts 10 hours. Say, “You can watch an entire season of Burn Notice on one charge.” Kennedy didnʼt say, “Weʼll advance our space technology and exploration through increased funding and development.” He said, “To the moon and back in 10 years.” Give people something they can relate to.

REDIBILE. Unless youʼre the world expert on your topic, youʼre going to need authority to back up your presentation. Facts and statistics help, but theyʼre not enough. You need to make them concrete, to bring them alive for your audience, as mentioned above. Quotations from recognized experts also help. But keep them short and meaningful.

MOTIONS. There are two ways to persuade people: Through logic and through emotions. But only emotional appeals (supported by logic) will produce lasting change in thoughts or behavior. Humans are visual people, and thereʼs nothing like an image to cut through cognitive resistance. Do you have statistics about the fatalities caused by world hunger? Support them with an image of starving children or lines in a food bank. These make direct emotional appeals to your audience and add suggestive power to bare facts.

TORIES. Stories are the beginning and end of success for your presentation. Humans love stories. For our purposes, stories mean not just the stories you tell as PART of your presentation, but also the story that IS your presentation. Before you do any other planning, you need to ask yourself two questions: What is my point? Why should people care? The answers to those questions make up the story your presentation tells, and EVERY SINGLE SLIDE should either develop or elaborate on that story.

Zen--page 2

Jeri Hurd Creative Commons License; Attribution

Brainstorm: Jot down all your ideas, sketch images, etc. Group: Arrange your ideas into categories or sections, all focused around your MAIN POINT. Storyboard: You can use Post-It notes on the wall, print out a blank template from PowerPoint or Keynote, or just sketch the slides yourself. But plan the basic content and design for your slides. It may not be realistic to try to plan each slide, but you should plan at least the main slides for each section, to see how your “story” will develop.

ONE slide per idea 10 words per slide, MAX! Add details either verbally or through handouts. 30 point font MINIMUM (unless itʼs for a specific design purpose) Images for emotional impact and to elaborate on the text. Choose appropriate size (at least 800x600 to fill a slide). Do not use pixellated or distorted images. NO CLIP ART!

DESIGN: Less is More
Eliminate Distractions: Remove unnecessary lines, trapped spaces, overcrowded charts or diagrams. Images should be high quality and professional. Bullet points ONLY for summaries or listing key elements (and only one or two slides/presentation) Elaborate on your ideas verbally, or with handouts. Use the Rule of Thirds for placing images and text Use empty space to create balance and guide your viewerʼs eye. Thoughtful selection of font for style, size, and color. Mix and match, but be consistent within your entire presentation. Donʼt go crazy! Choose 3-4 and stick with them. Donʼt use cheesy transitions.

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