Writing your PowerPoint presentation story

Writing your PowerPoint presentation story

Before diving into the slide manufacturing process, it pays dividends to step back and map your story. This 3 step process involves determining your objective, understanding your audience’s perspective, and crafting your story to ensure you have a clear, comprehensive and concise presentation.

Determine the objective of the presentation

To start, write down the single primary objective of your presentation.  Some potential examples are:

  • Teach the audience to use a social app
  • Convince the audience to switch from bleached to whole wheat bread
  • Motivate perspective customers to buy your widget
  • Obtain funding for a drone research proposal

Focus on the objective of the current presentation. While your ultimate goal might be to close a sales deal, your current objective might simply be to engage the audience and schedule follow up meeting.

If you have multiple objectives, determine if one is more important than the other. In general, communicating several objectives at the same time risks the chance of confusing your audience or losing their focus.

Your objective guides the construction of your presentation – every slide, visual, and bullet should serve your objective. All other content likely distracts and should probably be removed.

Put yourself in your audiences’ shoes

While the objective defines the end goal of the presentation, understanding your audience’s perspective tells you where to start and what path to take:

  • Is your audience familiar with the content?
  • Are they friendly or hostile?
  • What does your audience want to get out of the meeting/presentation?

With the audience in mind you can compile a list of the content pieces required to achieve your objective. For example, new members not familiar with your work will require additional context and background information. In addition, you can choose a tone that will best engage the audience. If the group is a little hostile, soften the language around big statements:

  • Instead of saying “Adwords will double your revenue”, say “Adwords has shown to double the revenue of companies similar to yours” or “Adwords will likely double your revenue”

Craft your story by first writing it out

With your objective and audience in mind, write out your presentation story. Applying a story format gives you the opportunity to build a more compelling message that your audience will remember. You can write it in paragraph form where each paragraph represents one point. The first sentence states your point and the following sentences support it. For example:

Company X is the market leader in the widget industry with $300M in annual sales. Globally, X has a 35% market share and a near monopoly in Europe. Their widget paint product represents 80% of their business and is growing at a healthy 10% CAGR.

The story also acts as an initial draft of your delivery script.

As you write your story consider how your audience will react to it. Are your messages inline with their thinking or provocative? Typically, strong stories follow an ‘answer-first’ approach where the presentation starts with the key take-away message and follows up with the rationale. However, for provocative messages, consider an ‘answer-last’ approach where you first share the underlying facts before delivering the hard take-away message.

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