Mapping your PowerPoint slides

Apr 20, 2016 | Presenting

Mapping your PowerPoint slides

In the last blog entry, we shared 3 steps to build your PowerPoint story. With your story written out in paragraph form, you can start mapping your slides.

This step doesn’t require PowerPoint – map your slides with pen and paper, with a word processor, or with a notes application on your phone. You can complete this step while riding a cab, on the plane once your laptop has died, or at your office desk.

Write Action Titles

Each paragraph of your story should correspond to a slide and the first sentence of the paragraph, which consists of your primary point, maps to the title of the slide. These are called Action Titles as they they alone can clearly tell your story and make it easy for the reader to quickly discern your primary points and insights.

Action Titles are far more effective than descriptive titles which provide little information:

  • Action: Price and brand recognition are our customers’ primary purchase decision criteria
  • Descriptive: Customer decision criteria over the last 5 years
  • Action: 70% of widget growth is driven by demand from manufacturing automation
  • Descriptive: Widget sales by customer segment from 2009-2016
  • Action: Our market share has dropped 5% as we have been challenged by new entrants
  • Descriptive: Market share analysis

From a visual standpoint slide tiles should be located in the same position and typically written in a larger font than any other text on the slide. Slide titles should not have a hanging or widow word – a single word that doesn’t fit on the first line and is placed alone on the second line. Either shorten your title or increase its length so that more than one word appears on the second line. Alternatively, adjusting the line break position may be an option. Hanging words are considered poor typography because they leave too much white space. In addition, concise slide titles that fit on one or two lines are more impactful as they are easier to grasp and understand.

Sketch out your slides

You should now have blank slides with completed titles. For each slide, quickly sketch out how you’d like the slide to look. Use a combination, of charts, visuals, and text boxes that will best support your title or assertion and can capture the remaining portion of the corresponding paragraph from your story.

Experience helps when sketching slides as the more slides you’ve read the more visualizations you can pull from. To jump start this process you can complete the following exercises:

Put the presentation frame in place

With the bulk of presentation in shape, step back and review your objective (as we’ve previously discussed). Does your presentation need an executive summary, conclusion, or next steps slide to frame the story?

An executive summary typically follows the title slide and provides a complete overview of the presentation. A well written presentation story can quickly be adapted into an executive summary. As a starting point you can use your slide titles from the body of the presentation (or first sentence from each paragraph of your story) to form a rough executive summary. The conclusion slide provides an opportunity to provide a summary, state any overall insights, and pull the presentation toward the final objective. And the next steps slide helps align a small audience on their tasks prior to the next meeting

Consider breaking long presentations into chapters and placing a rolling agenda – a slide that is repeated with the new agenda item highlighted each time. The agenda reminds the audience how the section fits within the broader story. Or if some slides are not critical to the story, create an appendix or back-up section. An appendix can contain extra analyses or research that may answer audience questions.

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