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How to design effective

Powerpoint®
documents
Layout, structure and messages

November 2008
Objective : why this document ?

• The purpose of this document is to help you design stunning powerpoint


documents

• It is based on our personnal experiences of making powerpoint reports and from


what we learnt in consulting companies we have been working for.

• We often have heard from clients that they were really impressed by consulting
reports and presentations : clear, direct, well structured and always very
professional looking.

• We hope that after reading this document, and after practicing you’ll be able to
design stunning powerpoint presentations

2 How to design effective Powerpoint® documents


Executive summary

• Choose a very simple layout and be consistent all through your document.

• Do not use only bullet points : insert diagrams, charts, maps to support your
messages.

• Your presentation should be a logical series of headlines that tell the whole story
: organize your arguments to support your key-messages.

• Use storyboarding to help you structure your story

• The headlines must be explicit with short and direct sentences

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Layout
First, you have to choose a very simple and standard
format

• If you are an employee, choose your


company’s template - Example of a consulting template (BCG) -
– The look of the template typically
reflects the company’s culture
– It also reflects the way the company
want to be perceived in case of an
external audience
– if there are several different templates,
choose the one that is the more simple,
with the less objects or information on it.

• Otherwise, use a simple and


standard template (just the one used
Source : BCG presentation to LA Harbor Commission 06Mar08
for this document)

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You have to be consistent all through the document

Use the same font all through your document (but you may include some
1 variations : bold, italic or underline). Choose a sans-serif font (ex : arial or
helvetica).

2 Do not use too much colors. 2 hues maximum (1 for highlighting


messages), plus the text color (black is best). For each hue, you can use a
different brightness

3 Try to use the same line spacing all along your document

4 Try to avoid cliparts (especially Powerpoint ones : everybody already saw them a
thousand times elsewhere)

Your document has to be professional.


Try to imagine you’re designing a book that will be printed and sold.

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It will speed up your document production and enhance
communication effectiveness
Document production Communication effectiveness

• A simple and standard format will • The audience (or readers) will easily
provide you with a ready-made know where to look for particular
framework. kinds of information :
– In particular (Key) messages
– Explanations…
• It will help you structure your ideas in
an efficient and sharp manner.
• A simple and standard format will
disappear to the eyes of your audience
• It will suppress the necessity to make and let them concentrate on what is
decisions about format when important, the substance.
producing your document.

• It will give a feeling of repetition that


• It will speed up your writing and so will promote your audience comfort.
enhance production efficiency.

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Each part of the document format has its own objective

1 The headline tells the story

2 The content explains the story


2

3 The kicker-box tells the


implications of the story
3

Each page tells a different story

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1 The headline tells the story : only one single message
per page

• Use headlines as the “story


board” of your document: • Use a short sentence:
– When reading the headlines – Two lines maximum for the
only, your audience should headline (but one is best)
have a clear idea of the whole
story

The
headline

• Write something meaningful


• Do not write empty
that directs attention to the
statements or numbers :
main points of the message – “The methodology is
– “Company X turnover is 3 described below”
times higher than company’s – “We found 4 major issues”
Y”

A well written headline focus attention on the message the page conveys

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2 The content explains the story : use all the elements
you need to make your audience understand easily

Well-ordered
bullet-points

Examples

Diagrams
Content of
the page

Charts or
data tables

Maps

All these elements should help you design a content that explains clearly
very complex messages

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3 The kicker-box tells the implications of the story for
your readers and audience

• The kicker-box usually answers the “so-what ?” question at the end of


the page.

• It is NOT a continuation of the headline.

• Kicker-boxes have to be concise and straight to the point.

Kicker-boxes will make your presentations and reports more effective

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Structure
Each part of a presentation has its own purpose and is
necessary

Level of attention at its peak

1 2 3 4 5 6

Executive
Title page Objectives Body Summary Next steps
Summary

Should be Summarizes Tells Tells the Tells the Explains


as explicit the storyline the purpose whole key what will
as possible and the key of the study / story messages happen
messages report / again next
presentation

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The title page is as important as the rest of the
document

• The title page has to set the tone of the document and should give a
first idea of its objectives and key messages

• Therefore, it should include a few basic elements :


– In case of a presentation, the name of the target audience / comity
– An active title that generates interest, preferably including a verb (ex : How to
design effective presentation) : it has to be as explicit as possible
• It may be sometimes interesting to complete the title information by the use of
a subtitle
– The name of the author
– The date of the presentation or delivery report

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The executive summary should summarize the storyline
and the key messages

Should fit on one single


Summarizes the storyline page

Executive summary

Contains the key results


Contains the key
messages numbers (revenue, loss,
market share…)

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The key messages are greatly dependent from the
context of your presentation
• To inform
– Is the subject complex ?
– Is it very innovative ?
The different kind of
objectives of your • To convince
document – Does it imply a tough decision ?

• To trigger action
– What will trigger the action you want your audience to take ?

• What is their feeling on the matter of your presentation or report?


• What are their main concerns and interests ?
The audience / readers • Is somebody in a position to take a decision or trigger action ?
• What is their attitude towards the author / presenter (you) ?
• Will they be receptive or skeptical about your messages ?

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An effective presentation should be a logical series of
headlines that tell the whole story
from the beginning to the end

and follow the storyline Arguments


and supporting evidences

to help your client understand your


Arguments
reasoning
and supporting evidences

should logically follow theArguments


previous one
and supporting evidences

Each headline Arguments


and supporting evidences

Arguments
and supporting evidences

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You should define your key ideas from the main findings
and facts from your work

- Analysis step : finding the key ideas -

Use a logic tree to


organize and
gather the main
facts and findings
and define your
key ideas

Key ideas

Transforming the key ideas in key messages will be the first step of
effective communication

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You have to develop a message-based story by
organizing arguments to support your key messages

- Communication step : finding the arguments -

Key messages

Main supporting
arguments (major
sections of your
document)

Arguments
(with facts and
evidences on each
page)

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A storyboard will help you visualize your document
during its design
You wanted to know We set up an The main findings
the main reason for… exhaustive diagnosis… were…

Because of… And of… We recommend that…

The main But one big threat Therefore our action


opportunities are… is… plan will be…

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To increase your effectiveness you’ll have to revise and
refine your storyboard over the course of the project

- Evolution of the storyboard -


Final version
of your
document
Successive
versions of
your
document
First draft of
your
document
Structure +
first
hypothesis
or ideas

Start Finish

When in project, start to design your storyboard at the very beginning

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A storyboard will help you design your storyline,
especially when working in team

Allows to visualise
each page of the
document

Helps to check the Helps to


state and progress communicate
of the document ideas

Storyboard

Organizes the Helps to check the logic


document production flow
among the team (is my story coherent ?)

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The best way to make your storyboard is to print your
pages and glue them on the wall
n
atio
nic
- Different ways to do storyboarding - e mu
tiv m
Co ol
volu to
E

Sketch manualy your different slides on A4


pages
or Post-It
 
Glued on
brown-
paper or
flip
Print your powerpoint slides ☺ ☺

On the
computer
screen
Use the slides sorter on Powerpoint ☺ 

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Messages
Each headline should tell a value added message

It has to be a real
A sentence that
sentence expresses an idea.

Headline

The message in the headline


should be the synthesis of
Linked to
the content of your slide. the Explicit There should be no
Remember : content
• The headline tells the story ambiguity in your
• The content explains the story message
(gives the facts, argument and
supportive evidences)

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It has to be a real sentence

To be avoided To be written
• Context • Your company has been heavily impacted by the
downturn economy

• Methodology • Our methodology will be based on employees


interviews

• Volume of sales • The volume of product X sales has increased by


10% over the past two year

• Profit • The company’s profit is far below


expectation

• Roadmap • The three phases of the project will be finished end


of april

• Key success factor • The success relies mainly on management


involvement

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The type of your messages depends on the objective of
your document and therefore of your involvement
- Objective - - Type of message & examples -

-
• XXX is the leading laptop computer resseller
Inform Tell facts • Livestock farming is 1,5 times more polluting
than transporation
Level of involvement

• XXX will strenghten his n°1 position


Give
Convince • Lowering meat consumption will have a
opinion
massive effect on global warming

Trigger • You should partner with XXX


Advise
action • Eat meat only twice a week

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The same measures or facts could lead to the 3 types of
messages

- example-
Correlation :
salary vs
results/objectives

Tell facts : Employee « bonuses »


are not linked to results

Give opinion : The salary is not


Salary

motivating enough

Advise : You should redesign it

Results / objectives

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Your sentences have to be short, sharp and active
Use verbs in active form :
Active form is especially
meaningful as you describe work
that you have completed or are
in the process of completing.

Write short sentences and Sentences


avoid too much adverbs
and adjectives : the
message will be understood
quickly. Tighten up your
writing !
Be sharp and direct : it will focus
your audience / reader on what
should be remembered

Message with sharp and short sentences are easily remembered

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Summary

• Layout : it has to be simple and consistent. Use diagrams, charts and maps.

• Structure : use storyboarding to help you structure your story. Any reader
should understand the story by reading the headlines only.

• Messages : your messages have to be explicit. Use short and direct sentences.

• Practice, practice, and pratice again…

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Check-list
Document Quality Check-list
The layout is simple

All the pages are consistent

There are no cliparts (especially Powerpoint one’s)


Layout
There are diagrams, charts and maps to support my messages (not only bullet points)

There are few colors used in the document

The kicker boxes answer a « so what question »

One can understand the main idea of the document from the title

The objectives of the document are clearly told at the beginning


Structure
The executive summary gives the key messages of your document

Headlines are linked logically and tell a story

In all pages, the content support the headline

There’s only one message per page

Messages Each headline is explicit (and is a real sentence)

The sentences are short and direct

Every element on each page is useful to understand the story (no useless elements)

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