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Writing a Presentation

Welcome to the next Hot Tip on business and IT Skills from Black Swan Training.

This time we are going to talk about presentation content and writing it in PowerPoint.

The written content is the most important part of your presentation. Illustrations, colours and animation can make the difference between a good and a great presentation, but they are icing on the cake. (They can also ruin it, but that's another story).

We give presentations on a subject because we want to TELL people about it, and they want to LISTEN and get to know what we have to SAY. It's a personal interaction. Presentation aids, like PowerPoint, are vital, though, because we remember so much more of what we see and hear, than we do hearing or seeing alone. So the presentation should contain the points that we want the audience to be able to remember without writing them down. If we have a lot of data to get across we could write that in a report and put it in the post.

Most people can usually get the structure right. Having an introduction at the beginning, concluding at the end and flowing through what you want to say.

The most common mistake is putting too much detail into the slides, and expecting the audience to listen and read at the same time, and remember it all. The content of the slides should summarise what you want the audience to remember. There is nothing wrong with having more slides.

Six is the magic number for slide content. Have a maximum of six lines per slide, and try to stay within six words per line.

Another temptation people fall into is to use CAPITAL LETTERS ALL THE TIME. This makes it harder for the audience to read because we recognise the shapes of words when they are in small letters, but when it is all in upper-case we have to read it one letter at a time. Have you ever written something down, and thought that it looks wrongly spelt? That's because the word looks unfamiliar even if it's spelt correctly.

When writing the content in PowerPoint, try to use Outline view. This is the plain view that shows only the text in the presentation.

Here are some tips for working in Outline view.

  • Use the Outline toolbar to help. This contains green arrow buttons to Promote, Demote, Move Up, Move Down, a plus to Expand, a minus to Collapse, Expand All and Collapse All. In recent versions there is also a button to create a Summary Slide.
  • The first line you type will be a Slide Title. This is shown with a bullet-point that looks like a white slide.
  • Press [Enter] to add new lines. The new line will be the same as the line above. So if the previous line was a slide title, you create a new slide by pressing [Enter].
  • Create slide points and sub-points by pressing [Tab] or clicking the Demote arrow button, when you have started a new line.
  • Use the Promote arrow or [Shift]+[Tab] to make a point more important. You can even make a point a slide title and create new slides in this way .
  • Use Collapse All to see only the slide titles. This is a great way of getting an overview of the presentation.
  • Use the Summary Slide button to create a new slide that is a list of all your slide titles.

Once you have written the content using Outline View, you can then use the slide view to add illustrations.

Hopefully, this will help you to create presentations that get your message across. Good luck.

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