Steps to Presentation Success
By Roger C. Parker
To a great extent, the success of your business depends on your
ability to prepare and deliver convincing presentations. Whether your
audience consists of clients, investors or employees, it’s important
that you are comfortable with the presentation process. Although
Microsoft® PowerPoint® 2000 can help you efficiently produce
great-looking visuals, the ultimate success of your presentation depends
on you and your ability to identify your message, organize it as a
logical series of arguments, and communicate your ideas as simply and
convincingly as possible.
Use the following six steps as a framework for translating your
business goals into convincing presentations using the numerous,
enhanced features built into PowerPoint 2000.
Plan Your Presentation
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Effective presentations begin with planning. Before choosing
presentation colors or layout, you need to choose or create a framework,
or structure, for your presentation. There are two ways you can create
your presentation’s structure. One is to use PowerPoint 2000’s
AutoContent Wizard. On the File menu, click New, and then select
AutoContent Wizard. Click OK. Select Presentation Type, and the
AutoContent Wizard offers you a choice of sample presentation structures
that you can easily adopt to your specific needs. (See Figure 1)
Figure 1: The AutoContent Wizard provides a jump-start for
creating different types of presentations.
If you prefer to work on your own, start by asking yourself questions
You may want to jot down answers to these questions on a sheet of paper
and refer to it as you create the slides that make up your presentation.
- What is the purpose of your presentation?
- What is the single most important idea you want to communicate?
- What is the action you want your audience to take?
- What arguments can you provide to support the desired action?
- What are some of the reasons your audience might not accept your
- How can you best overcome their objections?
Format Your Slides and Overheads
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Next, choose the colors and layout most appropriate for your
presentation. If you are using the AutoContent Wizard, select
Presentation Style and select the output device you will use to deliver
your presentation. PowerPoint chooses an appropriate combination of
foreground and background colors, as shown in Figure 2. Click Next and
the AutoContent Wizard shows you where to add the presentation title,
slide number, and date to each slide. This adds a professional touch to
Figure 2: The AutoContent Wizard chooses a presentation layout
and color scheme best suited for the output device you use to deliver
If you prefer to choose from a wider selection of professionally
created presentation designs, click the Format menu, then click Apply
Design Template. You can then choose from among several dozen
presentation designs, previewing each as you click its title, as shown
in Figure 3. Click the Apply button when the format you like is
Figure 3: Choose from among dozens of professional presentation
Edit and Organize Your Presentation
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The new screen layout in PowerPoint 2000 makes it easy to translate your
presentation goals into completed presentation visuals. PowerPoint 2000
displays the current slide along with an outline showing the title and
contents of each of your slides. This makes it easy to organize your
presentation into a logical and progressive development of your ideas.
You can see at a glance how well each slide fits in with the slides that
precede and follow it, as shown in Figure 4.
Figure 4: See not only the slide you're currently working on, but
also the contents of the slides that precede and follow it.
Limit each slide to a single idea. Enter the idea in the Slide Title
area. Replace the "Click to add text" placeholder with the
ideas and arguments that best support the premise of the slide title. At
any point, you can easily rearrange the order of your presentation by
dragging the slides to a new location using the Outliner.
When entering ideas in bulleted lists, restrict yourself to keywords
rather than full sentences. This encourages you to restate the ideas in
your own words during your presentation, rather than reading to your
audience (who can read what's on screen without your help!). Remember:
your goal in creating presentation visuals is to provide a framework for
your presentation, not eliminate your need to show up. Presentation
visuals should support, but never replace, the presenter’s words,
enthusiasm, and ability to instantly respond to questions and comments
from the audience.
Enhance Your Ideas with Visuals
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Text is seldom enough. Whenever possible, translate words into visuals.
Visuals such as charts, graphs, and tables are more effective at
communicating comparisons, hierarchy, relationships, and sequence. To
insert a chart, click the Insert menu, and then click Chart.
To display the Drawing toolbar and access its numerous
AutoShapes, right-click the menu bar in PowerPoint and select Drawing
from the list of Toolbars.
Exercise restraint when adding clipart to your slides. Emphasize
visuals that support, rather than decorate, or distract from, your
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Prepare Speaker’s Notes and Audience Handouts
Speaker's notes and audience handouts are as important as the slides
that make up your presentation.
To print Notes or Handouts, click the File menu, click Print, and then
select either Notes or Handouts from the Print What
- Speaker's Notes (a tool of PowerPoint 2000) enable you to
review your presentation on an airplane or in your hotel room
without turning on your computer or disturbing your slides or
overhead transparencies. Each page of your notes should contain a
thumbnail (or small version) of each slide plus important points you
want to emphasize while delivering your presentation. The new
interface of PowerPoint 2000 displays the Notes pane below the
current slide, allowing you to enter ideas on each Notes page as you
work on the slide itself. This is much easier than going back and
creating Notes pages after you have completed your presentation.
- Audience Handouts (also a function of PowerPoint 2000) keep
your presentation alive long after the audience applause has ended.
Audience Handouts are take-alongs that your audience can refer to
later or share with co-workers. You can print handouts with 2, 3, 4,
6 or 9 slides per page. If you select the 3 slides per page, the
handouts will include space for your audience to take notes during
Rehearse, Rehearse, Rehearse
Rehearsing is a key to successful presentations. Rehearse your
presentation by speaking out loud (preferably in an empty room).
Rehearsing helps you identify and eliminate awkward word combinations.
Rehearsing out loud also shows you how much time is needed to deliver
Timing is everything!
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Never include more slides than you have time to show. If you include too
many slides and don't pay attention to how much time you should spend on
each one, you'll rush towards the end or—worse—omit slides. Either
alternative greatly diminishes your credibility. Never run over the time
allotted. Your presentation should always be shorter than the time you
have available, allowing time to respond to audience questions.
With PowerPoint 2000 you can time your presentation while rehearsing
it. From Slide Show, select Rehearse Timings. PowerPoint
displays each of your slides on your computer screen. Speak out loud as
if you were delivering your presentation, clicking the mouse button to
advance to the next slide. At the end PowerPoint will show you the total
elapsed time of your presentation. The time you spent on each slide will
appear next to each slide in the Slide Sorter view.
The six step process outlined above can help you appear cool, calm, and
collected when its time to deliver your presentation. By using the
features of PowerPoint 2000 to plan, create, and rehearse your
presentation, you'll be rewarded with a fast and enthusiastic reception
of your ideas...and a gratifying round of applause.
Over a million and a half readers in thirty-seven
countries own books by Roger
C. Parker. Roger's latest book is One Minute Designer (MIS/IDG).
for more information.