PowerPoint presentations can be a fantastic content marketing tool. Whether you’re using them in an actual presentation or embedding them into your online content, well-made slides present information visually and sequentially, a way that easily leads users to conversion.
But they can also be be a dangerous thing. So dangerous, in fact, that the U.S. Army all but coined the term “death by PowerPoint.”
An article in the New York Times, in talking about the use and abuse of PowerPoint in the military, told the story of Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal viewing a PowerPoint slide on Afghanistan. Meant to show complex military strategy, the slide instead was a confusing mishmash of lines and colors.
“When we understand that slide, we’ll have won the war,” McChrystal said, deadpan.
Are your PowerPoint presentations converting or confusing your users? Are you making a presentation filled with slides that get users to act, or that get in the way of conversions?
PowerPoint Must Make Users Smart
That military PowerPoint presentation took information and presented it in a way that made the viewers feel confused and stupid. Before you can convert your users, you must make them smart about what it is you are telling them. They can’t act if they don’t understand what they need to do, and they won’t act if they don’t really understand enough to trust you.
In other words, your PowerPoint presentations need to make your users smart. They must stay engaged with what you have to say. .
With smarts comes confidence. With confidence comes trust. With trust comes conversion.
How do you make your users smart instead of confused, engaged instead of bored?
1. Show, don’t tell.
It’s the classic narrative mantra: show, don’t tell. According to Moz.com’s Rand Fishkin, a text-heavy presentation might work for your team as you slog through projects, but your users need something different.
Instead of a paragraph of text, find a photo or video that supports the message. If you’re presenting the PowerPoint presentation in person, you can speak the information and let the supporting images show on the slide without text.
Or, if you are sharing your PowerPoint slides in a setting where you can’t speak while the slides are shown, alternate text-based slides with supporting images. Make sure the text is as bare and edited as possible. For example, instead of a slide that says:
“There are many different reasons why Tuesday is the best day to sell Tacos. Here are three of the most popular.”
you should say
“Three reasons to sell Tacos on Tuesday:”
Use bold, declarative sentences if needed, and illustrative and helpful graphics always. Help your audience visualize that data.
2. Visuals, not bullets.
Part of that “show, don’t tell” aspect is to refrain from using bullet points and instead, use useful graphics Bullet points are an easy trap for content marketers to fall into, since you use them (and rightly so) in blog posts and text-based content. For your PowerPoint presentation, though, reduce your bullet points as much as possible.
Fishkin notes that you’d be better off making more slides and turning those bullet points into individual slides with their own graphics than making one slide with 3-7 bullet points. It’s tempting to cram information onto one slide to keep the total slide count down, but why? There is no reason to.
Break bullet-point information up into individual slides with their own images so users can follow along more easily.
3. No generic presentations.
Each audience is different. You may have a “master” PowerPoint presentation on a topic, but you ought to customize it to fit each audience best. Perhaps you’ll change out some of the graphics, or change the introduction. Maybe your call to action at the end will be different.
Let’s look at the presentation about tacos again.
The kind and approach you take in sharing information with a restaurant will be different than sharing it with a group of parents. With the restaurant, you’ll be convincing your audience that tacos will bring in profits. For the parents, you’ll be showing them how kids like tacos and how they are healthy. Your presentation may have some overlapping information, but each audience has a different pain point that you have to address.
A PowerPoint presentation that works great with one audience must still be retooled for future different audiences.
Visual Appeal Matters In Conversion
I mentioned the need for visuals in your slides, but there is more to making that work than simply tossing any old photo into the mix. We judge books by covers, and no matter how great your information, it likely won’t convert users if it has a terrible appearance.
1. Continuity in all things.
Just say no to lots of fonts, colors, formatting, and wingdings. No.
Create a template in PowerPoint and stick to it. Keep your backgrounds, formatting, alignment, use of logos, and any other visual details the same. Then edit that template, and ask if you really need a drop shadow or a fancy transition between slides. Keep things simple and the same.
If your presentation is important, consider hiring a designer to create template elements and graphics for you so that the look remains the same across all slides.
A unified look tells your user that the information you shared supports itself as a cohesive package.
2. Images that have purpose.
Blogger Ross Simmonds creates a basic presentation and sends it to a designer to spruce up.
It gives his presentation a professional appearance, and gives him images that have, by nature of similarity in design, a reason to be on the presentation slides.
You’ve suffered through PowerPoint presentations with random clipart and images from the web. Images carelessly added seem to have little purpose other than filling white space when they should be supporting the information or making the information seem unified.
You can’t rely on the power of imagery to convert users if your imagery doesn’t make sense next to the information you’re presenting.
Use images that support and belong with your information. Anything else is distracting and unprofessional.
3. Remember white space.
White space can be applied to your presentation in two ways. The first is to avoid cramming your slides with wall-to-wall content. The second is to create informational “pauses” between slides.
Think of your blog posts. You use headings to break up the information so the reader can reorient herself between information chunks. Do the same with your slides. Create slides that are very simple, perhaps a few words on a blank background, alerting your user to the fact that another section (and another idea) is next.
Avoid wall-to-wall anything, whether it’s the graphics on the slide, or the information from one slide to the next. Too much of anything will numb your audience.
Do Tell A Story
Michael Theriault wrote on Forbes that one of the best ways to get people to remember your presentation is to tell a story. Whether you start or end with a story, or weave a story through the entire presentation, that narrative element helps lighten the load of information you’re asking your audience to carry.
In a way, story is like white space. It humanizes and gives your users something to easily latch onto while they process your the rest of the information. And that story can be turned into a call to action at the end, bringing along those who bought into it early on.
Keeping an eye towards who you’re presenting to and how you’re presenting it is important, but don’t forget to tell a story somewhere in all of those best practices.
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