When most people think of a PowerPoint presentation, the first word that comes to mind is “boring.” This is unfortunate, and it absolutely does not have to be true. Instead of a dry, sleep-inducing affair overstuffed with entirely too many bullets and figures, that presentation could be the touchstone that enables the speaker to connect with his or her audience on an emotional level.
I recently took my young children to a storytelling circle at our local bookstore. As I watched the event unfold, I was struck by its similarities to a PowerPoint presentation. The presenter moved through a series of pages, using images and words to convey ideas to the audience. Of course, this presenter’s challenge was much greater. When was the last time you tried to engage twenty rambunctious toddlers and keep them focused on your message?
With that comparison as a backdrop, here are some tips from the storytelling circle that can enhance the impact of your PowerPoint presentations:
- Let your pictures do the talking: Pictures in children’s books are bright, expressive, and above all, they are very, very big. The illustration dominates the page, and the text, if there is any at all, is generally small and pushed to the edges. For your PowerPoint slides, use interesting, eye-catching images that have an element of emotional expression. Keep text to a minimum, or to make a truly bold statement, keep text off the slide entirely. Trust yourself as a speaker to deliver the verbal element, and let the eyes of the audience focus on the images.
- Give it a beginning, middle and end: From childhood, we are trained to follow the classic story structure of beginning (initiating action), middle (complicating action), and end (resolution). Give your presentation a similar three-part structure. Begin with a call to adventure that captures the audience’s imagination. Use your middle section to make contrasts – what is versus what could be. Then bring the show home by ending with a call to action. Keep things as concise and focused as possible within this structure.
- Your job is to tell the story, not read it! A good children’s storybook reader won’t just passively read the words on the page. Instead, he or she will fulfill the roles of narrator, actor, sound effects artist, and perhaps even singer. The reader’s speech will be modulated throughout the story, with the intensity rising and falling where appropriate to build tension and emphasize emotion. Likewise, when making your presentation, be a storyteller. Vary your vocal tones; reenact dialogue when recounting personal stories; and, instead of simply talking at your audience, invite them to go on a journey with you! Of course, singing might not be the best idea. Then again, who knows? Maybe it’s time for the world’s first singing Sales Ninja!
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