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My Best Advice for Building Effective Presentations

by Michael Campbell

Put that Camera Down

Apart from Santa and the Tooth Fairy, one of the most memorable "myth-bustings" of my childhood was when my dad explained that movies are not made from start to finish—in a linear progression. I'm sure, like most kids, I believed George Lucas grabbed his camera and filmed Star Wars in sequential order from the deserts of Tatooine to the final Death Star scenes. Nope. Before George Lucas ever looked through a camera lens, he filled legal pads with notes and walls with shot-by-shot storyboards.

As I got older, I came to realize this applied to all forms of art and storytelling. Michelangelo's paintings began with sketches and smaller studies. F. Scott Fitzgerald's novels developed from outlines and short stories. Frank Lloyd Wright created hundreds of drawings and blueprints before any foundations were poured.

Presentations are Stories

Unfortunately, as a form of storytelling, presentations are rarely approached with the same thought or planning. With little consideration for their audience, presenters all over the world fire up Microsoft® Powerpoint®, select a template, click "new slide" and start hammering out their slides in a linear progression. Unfortunately the result is not a presentation—the result is just another document; another company memo. An effective presentation is more than a collection of slides crammed with bullets and the occassional piece of clip art—an effective presentation is a story with an audience waiting to be transformed.

So what is my single best piece of advice for creating an effective presentation? It's simple really...

Get out of Microsoft PowerPoint.

No, I'm not trying to convince you to switch to Keynote or Prezi. My advice is to start the presentation process anywhere outside of PowerPoint. Whether you use sticky notes, a white board or a legal pad, effective presentations begin with a holistic consideration for the audience, the key messages, the call to action and everything in between. Better yet, you can get a jump on the pre-planning process by downloading two FREE tools right here on this website.

The first tool is a Presentation Creative Brief. This Microsoft Word document walks you through a list of vital topics and exercises with presentation-specific questions. Once you've completed this brief you'll be ready to jump into PowerPoint, but not for slide building. Using our Presentation Storyboard Tool you'll be able to structure your presentation with slide icons and notes. When you're done, you'll have a timeline you can print and distribute for review and approval.

I hope you find these tools helpful. Remember: get out of PowerPoint...if only to begin.

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