INFOGRAPHIC: How to Structure Business PowerPoint Presentations

If you want your audience to remember your key sales messages (and act upon them) after your business presentation, it is going to need a solid structure. Effective PowerPoint presentations are well-planned. There is no way around the fact that this takes time.

It is useful, when starting out, to have a goal in mind. What information do you want the audience to remember? What action do you want them to take? Structuring your presentation is much simpler if you are clear about the success criteria.

This infographic (below) illustrates an easy-to-follow model for presentation structure, allowing you to create effective PowerPoint presentations that your audience will long remember. The model will serve you well for the overwhelming majority of business presentations where the success criteria can be typically defined as a) having the audience remember your key messages, and b) having them take action as a result of listening to you.


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Awaken Interest: You only have one chance to make a first impression and running through the agenda will awaken the interest of nobody. The agenda is boring – like reading aloud the contents page of a book. Your opening statement should more closely resemble the opening couple of paragraphs of a good thriller, or the blurb of an interesting novel. Why not commit this section of your business presentation to memory? It doesn't have to be long, 200 words or so is fine. That way, you can deliver it on auto pilot and concentrate instead on projecting your voice, making good eye contact and so on.

Guide Understanding and Create Impact: Once you've hooked your audience with your engaging opening, you can focus on the material you want to cover. This is, unfortunately, where the audience’s attention will begin to drift away (Mills H R, 1977).

PowerPoint presentations work best in small, segmented sections. If you present too much information at once, the working memory of your audience will be overloaded and they will simply switch off and your message will not be remembered.

Create points of impact when you want to deliver a key message by telling a story that links directly to that message. People love a good story and a well told story will be remembered by your audience, long after the detail of the presentation has faded. If your stories are linked to your key messages, the chance is they'll be remembered too.

Call to Action and Questions: it's important that your call to action is the last phrase your audience hears you deliver. In the main diagram you'll notice that the classic Q&A session occurs prior to the close. This is important and something that is often overlooked. Typically, a speaker will finish their business presentation and then ask, "Are there any questions?" This is exactly the wrong thing to do. And here’s why:

  • It hands control of the presentation to the audience – never a good thing. (Engaging an audience is not the same as relinquishing control to them)
  • As a direct result of the above point, there is a good chance that the last voice the audience hears is not your voice, but that of a third party
  • As the graph illustrates, the audience is more likely to remember the last thing they heard – and it may well not have been your call to action. In other words, your presentation has effectively been wasted

Structuring your presentation may take time but the results will undoubtedly make it worth the effort. Turn your average business presentation (boring, bullet-point cluttered) into an engaging, effective PowerPoint presentation that is both memorable, and helps you to win more business.

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