Beyond Bullets, Making Presentations POP

Beyond Just Bullets

I have seen many presentations where the presenter just reads the slides. What advice would you give for going beyond just the bullet points?

When you are first starting out as a writer and are doing presentations, the temptation is to use the PowerPoint presentation as a crutch. You put the information on the slide and then as a matter of comfort, you read them to make sure you do not miss anything. Unfortunately, doing this will let everyone know that you are an unseasoned presenter.

Thank goodness there are simple tricks to get beyond just reading the slide deck. Try these ideas as a starting point.

  1. Use the 5 by 7 rule. No more than five bullets on a slide with a maximum of seven words each. I know this one is not always that easy to follow and at Author’s Success Guild we push the boundaries by using animations and images.
  2. Use images with captions instead of bullet points. You can illustrate your ideas with the right graphic and a good caption and often this will have a longer lasting impression on your audience.
  3. Use short videos embedded into your presentation. Create a “trailer” like those done for movies, that emphasizes your point and then discuss what people saw through a series of questions. You certainly cannot read a video on the screen but you do have to be quiet while it plays.
  4. Make your presentation interactive by posing a question and filling in the blanks right on the presentation as you are giving it. This is a little more advanced and we tell you how to do this in other lessons. It is actually very easy to do but it does take a little practice to execute during a live presentation.
  5. Involve the audience through polls and surveys inside your presentation and then, depending on the results, alter your presentation automatically. If you have five questions and each question leads into a different presentation, be prepared to change your presentation on the fly to accommodate audience needs. Yes, you will need to have five branches to your presentation. They can be prepared as one presentation using appropriate linking strategies.

Now for the hard part. Preparing your slide deck is simple as long as you know what you want to say. The more difficult aspect is practice! Yes, practice and rehearsal will make the difference between a great presentation and simply reading the slides.

The best ways to practice entail the following:

  1. Sit in front of your computer with the webcam turned on.
  2. Put your presentation and your presentation notes on the screen or as an alternative, print out what you want to say.
  3. Use a free service such as to allow for recording.
  4. Run through your presentation while recording in front of your webcam.
  5. Play back your recording. Remember the first run through will be the one where you are constantly looking at your notes.
  6. Continue the recording and playback process at least ten times until you are spending most of the time looking at the camera and only glancing at the slide deck on occasion to keep your place. When you are happy with what you see, then you are almost ready for the live event.
  7. Find a few people to rehearse with each day. Look at your presentation as your part in a Broadway show! The actors do not go on stage and read their scripts, and neither should you.
  8. Get out there and do the presentation!

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