July 26, 2021

Structuring a PowerPoint Presentation: How to Really Reach Your Audience

PowerPoint is perfect for presenting content. It provides all the tools you need to visually support and highlight your ideas and statements.  With these tools, your PowerPoint presentation will tell a story and keep your audience engaged.

Are you looking to create a PowerPoint presentation? Do you want to create a well-structured presentation that inspires your audience? Not sure exactly where to start? Here you’ll find a detailed guide on how to create a presentation with impact.


Preparation is everything

As a rule, a presentation needs a topic and a specific reason for presenting it. Possible examples:

  • A sales presentation to a customer to introduce products or services
  • Presenting company figures to management
  • An onboarding presentation to inform new colleagues about the most important company information
  • A presentation for your company’s anniversary
  • Presentations for school or university
  • A presentation of research results for a science conference

Regardless of the topic or occasion, a presentation should always be clearly structured. Without that, your audience will have a hard time following, and your presentation will fall short of its goal.


Give yourself time

Make sure you invest enough time in preparing your PowerPoint presentation. As soon as you know when you’re presenting, create a schedule: spend 30 minutes a day preparing your upcoming presentation. Allow enough time to research the material, too. Use the rule of thirds as a guideline: If you have 12 days until the presentation, you should devote four days to research and collecting information.

In other words, take the time to thoroughly research your presentation topic, take notes, collect ideas and thoughts. Use something you always have with you; a small notebook, a tablet or your smartphone is all you need. Keep your notes short and uncomplicated – just enough information to get your creative juices flowing.


Put your notes in order

Once you have gathered enough material, it’s time to organize and bring structure to your notes. Now you can form the basic framework of your presentation. Remember to allow enough time for this (think about the 3/3 rule).

Use your notes to develop your presentation. Ask yourself: What’s the goal of the presentation? Do you want to impress investors with your startup or present a new marketing plan for the coming fiscal year? Answering this question will help you develop a core thesis.

Also important: What do you want to accomplish with your audience? Do you want to prompt an action (e.g., buy a product) or stimulate discussion?


The right structure

Now that you’re prepared, it’s time to think about the right structure for your PowerPoint presentation. Here’s a basic guideline:

  • Introduction
  • Topic point 1
  • Topic point 2
  • Topic point 3
  • Conclusion

Remember to balance the different parts of your presentation. As a rule, the introduction shouldn’t be more than two slides. The topic slides form the body and should make up about 70% of your PowerPoint presentation. As simple as this may sound, it can be difficult to know which stylistic devices or elements to use to keep your audience’s attention. What should you focus on in each section of the presentation?

Take a look at this chart:


So, what exactly does this mean for each section?


1. The presentation intro: pique interest

A presentation’s introduction is an important part of its structure. It has to awaken the audience’s interest and ideally, create a rapport. There are several ways to start the presentation.


The gentle introduction

With this type of introduction, you meet the audience at their level and gradually get to the core content of your presentation. Your first slides should be relatively simple and not introduce too much new content to the audience. The audience should be able to understand and agree with all points until you finally get to the main topic. The first step is to describe the current situation, the second step to describe the challenge and the third step to discuss how to respond to the challenge.


The element of surprise

With this type of introduction, the element of surprise is on your side. Start the presentation by literally shocking or surprising your audience with a statement. Bold statements or results from studies are excellent ways to do this. With this kind of intro, you also describe the current situation and what has happened or could happen, you describe the possible consequences of this and ask how it should be handled. It’s important to ensure that these statements are true and relevant to your audience. If they aren’t, you’ll come off as less credible.


2. The body of the presentation: the heart of the matter

This should make up about 70% of your presentation. This is where you want to flesh out your presentation topic. To get it right, put yourself in your audience’s shoes. Ask yourself how you would like a presenter to address you and communicate his/her topic and arguments. This is also a great time to actively involve your audience in a type of question-and-answer scenario.

This is called a dialogue-oriented presentation. By involving your audience this way, you are guaranteed to get their full attention.

There are two different ways of organizing the main part of the presentation:

The pyramid

In this structure, the core message is introduced at the beginning of the body of the presentation. Presenting the core message early will have your audience wanting to hear more. This is exactly the right time to start the question-and-answer scenario so that you can hold their attention and ensure they are involved.


The funnel

In this presentation structure, the core message is introduced towards the end of the presentation. This structure does have its drawbacks. It doesn’t lend itself well to a dialogue-oriented presentation and by waiting until the end to deliver your core message, your audience may not make the connection with earlier key statements. TO avoid this, it may be a good idea to revisit those earlier statements and reinforce the core message.

It’s also a more challenging structure to pull off, especially if you don’t have that much experience with presenting. The funnel can be effective with controversial and/or highly emotional topics. With these kinds of topics, adding fuel to the fire at the very beginning of your presentation can lead to difficult-to-control discussions with your audience during your presentation. That’s when it’s better to make your central statement much later.


3. The conclusion: crossing the finish line

The final part of your presentation may seem like the easiest. You’ve presented all your content so the hard part is over, right? Never underestimate the importance of your conclusion. It gives you the perfect opportunity to reiterate your key points. Use it to summarize your insights, draw a conclusion and finally, discuss what needs to be done next. It’s also a great opportunity to initiate an open discussion. If you want to open the floor to comments and questions at the end, give your audience a heads-up at the beginning of your presentation. That will give them a chance to take notes as you go along.

In the following section, you’ll learn how you can incorporate your preparation into a PowerPoint presentation.


How to create a presentation in PowerPoint


  1. Open a new PowerPoint presentation

Step one, open PowerPoint. Now select Blank Presentation. To add more slides, select New Slide in the Home tab. You can add as many slides as you want.

Now you need a layout for your presentation. To do this, click Layout in the Home tab. PowerPoint will adopt this layout for all your slides.


  1. Choose a presentation theme

PowerPoint gives you the option of selecting a theme in the Design tab. Each theme has its own preset font, backgrounds and layout and can be edited individually for each slide. Placeholders and other fields can be moved, resized and filled with your content. Of course, it’s up to you whether to use one of these preset themes or not.

Looking for more design inspiration? Design Ideas in the Design tab gives you even more themes to choose from.

If you still can’t find the right design for your presentation, you can create your own. Find out how to do this here.


  1. Add text

Now that you have a basic framework for your presentation, you can start with the written content. If you’ve chosen a theme, your presentation will already have placeholders. Simply click on a text box and start typing.

You can also add more text boxes. To do this, click on the Insert tab and then on Text Box.

Do you want to change the font? This can be done in the Home tab. First select the text you want to change, go to the Font group and select your new font. You’ll also find options to change font size, underline text, choose italics and more.


  1. Insert pictures, graphics and videos

Pictures liven up your presentation and add even more visual impact. The Insert tab provides different options for inserting pictures. You can use pictures from your own hard drive as well as from the Internet. PowerPoint also has its own online platform where you can download images for your presentation.

To insert a graphic, go to the Insert tab and select the desired option from the Illustrations group. You can format a graphic by right-clicking it and choosing the desired option from the drop-down menu.

Follow the same steps to add videos. Once again, you’ll find what you need in the Insert tab. Click on Video in the Media group. Now select and insert your video.


Less is more: simplicity is the key to success

Remember, a good presentation doesn’t need a ton of slides. As is often the case, less is more. Doesn’t overload your slides with written content and distracting visuals; keep it simple and effective. There are several ways to do this.

Use visual elements

Making a presentation as interesting as possible is not only about delivery and structure, but also the stylistic devices you use. Bullet points on every slide doesn’t appeal to today’s audiences. Audiences want to be visually stimulated.

Presenting too much written information just annoys and overwhelms an audience. Animations and infographics can be used to delineate and effectively communicate a lot of information.  After all, pictures often say more than words.

These stylistic devices are great tools for keeping your audience’s interest, as long as they’re used in moderation. One visual element per slide is enough. And if you’re preparing a company presentation, remember to use your corporate design. This will ensure you don’t use too many colors, which can be can be off-putting.


Choose Your Slide Titles Carefully

When you give a presentation, keep in mind that the heading of each slide is usually the first thing your audience notices. It should make clear what the slide is about and what the audience is about to hear. Avoid using anything too terse and dry. It’s much more effective to use a heading that directly reflects the core message of your content. So, instead of Sales 2019  try Positive sales development in 2019. This kind of slide heading is also known as an action title. An action title is the right choice if the actual core statement is too long for a heading.


Use signposts on your slides

Adding visual signposts to your slides can help structure your presentation and make it easier for your audience to follow your presentation. You can use numbers, letters, icons or shapes as your signposts and use a different one for each new section of your presentation. Make sure they’re always in the same place on your slides so your audience can find them easily.


Practice makes perfect: notes to help you deliver your presentation

Is your presentation ready? Now it is time to prepare for your delivery. A short script may help. Just make sure you provide additional information and don’t simply read the slides aloud.

You can choose any note-taking tool you like. You can either use classic index cards with keywords or the Notes function in PowerPoint.

Most importantly, practice your presentation. Speaking freely and confidently is key to your presentation’s success. So, take the time to make sure you are as well prepared as possible.


Conclusion: Creating a PowerPoint presentation that supports your statements doesn’t have to be difficult

PowerPoint is so easy to use, even beginners can create strong presentations in just a few simple steps.

If you’re looking for professional assistance in developing a customized presentation structure or designing your presentation, please contact us for a no-obligation quote. And keep coming back to our blog for more tips and ideas on creating convincing PowerPoint presentations.


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