3 tips to make your slides more persuasive

It’s not only sales people who need to persuade. Perhaps you need to get approval for a proposal. Recently, a subscriber used principles I taught to get approval from a State Legislature committee for an important proposal that will help children in that state.

But trainers have told me that they need to persuade too — persuade their audience to listen and finally to implement the training.

Here are 3 simple tips to make your slides support the persuasive component of your presentation.

powerpoint-tips-3-tips-make-slides-more-persuasive-1Make images big

The Picture Superiority principle says that people remember concepts when portrayed as pictures as opposed to words. And when you make a picture big — taking up most of the slide — people will remember it even more.

A corollary is to make images bold. If they surprise, people will remember them. If they make people think, all the better.

Be careful not to use images as mere decoration. They should always help the audience understand and remember the point you’re making.

powerpoint-tips-3-tips-make-slides-more-persuasive-2Portray emotion

Emotion is necessary to persuade people to make a decision. That doesn’t mean you need to get sappy, but ignoring emotion won’t help your cause. First, you should express your passion for your subject. Then, let your slides follow suit.

For example, if you are making a proposal to try to get management to provide employees with tablets, show happy people using tablets rather than just the tablets themselves. Your point is that the employees will be happy if they have tablets — probably more productive as well. The audience knows what a tablet looks like, so a simple photo of a tablet isn’t as effective.

powerpoint-tips-3-tips-make-slides-more-persuasive-3Put 1 point on a slide

It’s counter-intuitive, but the more text you put on a slide, the less people remember. The reason is the limitation of short-term memory. So give people content in small chunks. You can put the same content on multiple slides and it won’t take longer to explain, but presenting the content in small chunks will help people digest it more effectively.

The Tell ‘n’ ShowSM method

I teach the Tell ‘n’ ShowSM method, which incorporates these 3 tips.

You use a heading that tells your point. Think of it like a newspaper headline — it should actually say something. Then you use a photo, chart, map, data — whatever is necessary to show your point. This concept is based on research done by Michael Alley at Penn State’s School of Engineering, but it just makes sense to me.


down-red-arrowsWhat slide design principles have worked for you when you needed to persuade? Leave a comment.

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Use PowerPoint like a flip chart–draw as you speak

A flip chart can be a great way to present. You write or draw as you talk. Yes, people have to wait until you finish writing or drawing, but the process is very engaging to the audience. If you’re old enough, you may remember teachers writing on the blackboard as they taught. It was a slower time!

But as you write or draw, your audience has time to think about what you’re saying.

This technique is especially helpful when you draw. For example, you might show a process or a configuration. Your picture helps people understand what you’re saying and they get the point with you as your drawing unfolds.

You can use PowerPoint in the same way, in Normal view. You might want to reduce or eliminate the side and bottom panes, but you don’t have to. Then just use PowerPoint’s drawing tools to create a diagram. You draw as you speak.powerpoint-tips-draw-as-you-speak-1

You don’t have to get it perfect. Just like a flip chart diagram can be a little messy, so can your slide. If you want to use it again, you can fix it up later. The point is just to bring your audience with you on your story, as you explain it. Don’t distract them by making lots of unnecessary adjustments. But you might want to practice first! Unless of course, you decide spontaneously to draw — then just let it happen!

You can do this live or on a webinar — it doesn’t matter.

Here’s a 1-minute video that shows me creating the diagram above.

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Experiences from the presentation trenches

I gave 2 presentations in the last month and thought I’d share my experiences.

powerpoint-tips-speaking at nams13-standing1A live presentation

I gave a live presentation at a marketing conference/workshop. I wasn’t paid but was expected to pitch a product at the end, using an affiliate link of the workshop organizer. In this way, we both made money. (All of the sessions were organized in this way.)

My topic was “High Persuasion PowerPoint Presentation Secrets.” I’ve done this topic as a webinar many times, but this was the first time I did it live. About 25 people attended my session.

There was formal feedback, which I received. Of the 11 people who submitted feedback, I got ten 5s (the highest) and one 4. I thought that was pretty good! Here are some of the comments: Read more! →

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Handouts for data-heavy presentations

woman using smartphoneNot all presentations can be full of photos. Sometimes, you need to present data — lots of it. While I do think that presenters sometimes dump more than necessary on their audience, consider this scenario.

The setting

You’re a market research associate. A product marketing manager asks you to research demographics for people in the United States who read email on their phone, tablet, PC and anything else. In other words, something like this:

In the Northeast, how many boys aged 13-17 read email on their phone, tablet, PC, other? How many girls? And the same for 18-24, 25-29, 30-39, 40-49, 50-59, 60-74, 75 and up? And the same for the other areas of the country.

Let’s say they want to create different ads in different markets showing people using their email software and want the models in the ads to be using the device that’s most prevalent for that market. So ads directed towards women in the South who are 30-39 might be different from ads directed towards men on the West coast who are 18-24.

The manager wants the data. But he/she wants you to present it. Explain what it means. Say how you got it. And several other people from the product group will be there, so it’s a meeting, not just a one-on-one discussion.

The data

The data is really just a big spreadsheet. The spreadsheet is too big to fit on a slide that will be projected on a wall and still be readable. But you want to create slides because you have some conclusions and thoughts to add. And the manager expects you to have slides for the meeting.

You’re going to have to create printed handouts or electronic handouts that people can view on their own devices, close up. Yes, you’ll have slides, but you’ll supplement them with handouts.

Solution 1: Use Notes pages

You can put some of the data in the Notes pane. (Click the Notes button if you don’t see the pane.) Then you can print the Notes pages either to paper or to a PDF file.

You can put any text you want in the Notes pane, but formatting data is difficult. Using tabs, you can create a table. You can also copy data from Excel and paste it into the Notes pane. Use the Text paste option to keep the table properly formatted.


You can’t put a chart or image in the Notes pane — just text.

Solution 2: Send to Word

powerpoint-tips-handouts-data-heavy-presentations-3For more flexibility, you can create your handout by sending the presentation to Microsoft Word. Follow these steps:

  1. In PowerPoint 2013, choose File, Export, Create Handouts and click the Create Handouts button. In 2010, choose File> Save & Send> Create Handouts> Create Handouts.  In PowerPoint 2007, choose Application button> Publish> Create Handouts in Microsoft Office Word.
  2. In the Send to Microsoft Word dialog box, choose Notes below Slides. That gives you the most room for your data.
  3. Click OK.

You can now copy and paste data easily from Excel to Word. The result is a table that you can format as you want. Here I left the default formatting.

Solution 3: Use letter-sized slides

Another solution — one that many people don’t think of — is best for when you won’t be projecting slides at all. It isn’t uncommon for slides to be printed only — never projected. If this situation applies to you, you’ll love this solution — use a letter-sized slide. You’ll get the best results if you don’t change slide size midstream and start with the desired size — but if you already have your smaller slides, go ahead and give it a try.

I wrote about this in another post, “Do you present with printed slides?

When you are printing your slides, you can make the text smaller, since people are looking at the slides close up. Even so, don’t squeeze too much on a slide; you want people to get your point quickly.

To set the slide size, click the Design tab. In PowerPoint 2013, choose Slide Size, Custom Slide Size. In PowerPoint 2007 or PowerPoint 2010, in the Page Setup group on the left, click Page Setup.

In the Slide Size or Page Setup dialog box, choose Letter Paper from the drop-down list. Then under Orientation, you would usually choose Portrait for the slides. Click OK.

In PowerPoint 2013, if you aren’t starting from scratch, you’ll get an option for how to resize existing content:

  • Maximize: Keeps your content the maximum possible size. In case you’re making your slides smaller, this ensures that they don’t get squished.
  • Ensure Fit: Resizes objects if necessary to fit them on a slide.

When you have a larger slide, you can easily fit more on it — using PowerPoint’s charting tools, table tools, etc.  — without crowding.

down-red-arrowsHow do you deal with data-heavy presentations? Leave a comment! If you found this post useful, please use the share buttons below to let others know about it.

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Don’t use placeholders for images, unless…

powerpoint-tips-dont-use-picture-placeholders-2I was working on a client’s presentation and she used content placeholders for all of her pictures.  She would click the Picture icon in the content placeholder to insert the image. Then she would resize and move the placeholder to get the result she wanted because the placeholder was never the right size.

But whenever I reset the layout, PowerPoint would do weird things with the image, resizing it or moving it. I talk about resetting a slide’s layout in this post, “Resetting a slide: A quick fix for awful slides.”

Part of the reason for the constant resizing has to do with how PowerPoint handles images in content placeholders. Fellow PowerPoint MVP, Echo Swinford, explains this masterfully in her post, “Picture placeholders vs. content placeholders.”

So when I need to create a slide that is unique and ensure that the image won’t be cropped and will be the size I want, I just don’t use a placeholder at all. For most slides with a large image, I use the Title Only layout. I type the title and choose Insert tab, Pictures to insert the picture I need. For example, this slide uses the Title Only layout. Here I’ve resized the title placeholder so that the title doesn’t overlap the image.


After I insert the image, I’ll crop it, resize it, and move it. I don’t have to worry about placeholder rules.

… unless you need consistency of size and placement

However, if you need images to be in the same place on each slide and you want them a consistent size, you might consider using placeholders, especially in a custom layout. For instructions, see my post, “Create a custom layout.”

An example would be a company product catalog that sales reps use. You would want the images on each slide to be treated similarly, and a placeholder would help. Read Echo’s post carefully to help you choose the right type of placeholder for your needs.

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Create a vignette effect to make a photo more powerful

A vignette effect on a photo typically places a dark, semi-transparent border around it. There are other possible variations, such as a light border, but dark is more common. Designers use this effect to make the center of the image stand out. Here you see a photo with and without a vignette.

powerpoint-tips-vignette-effect-photo-1  powerpoint-tips-vignette-effect-photo-2

Can you see how the vignette effect intensifies the center of the photo and therefore makes the man’s dismay feel more powerful?

You can create a vignette effect in a few ways in PowerPoint but here is an easy technique. Read more! →

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Create a table from Excel data in PowerPoint

Recently, a subscriber asked me about how to put a table of data from Excel on a slide. You can do this in a couple of ways.

powerpoint-tips-excel-table-on-slide-1 First, think about whether the data will be readable if it will be projected on a screen. Also consider whether the data lends itself to a graph, because graphs can be easier to understand. If you have too much data to fit on a slide, here are 2 options:

  • Divide it up onto multiple slides
  • Provide it as a handout, either printed or electronic

Copy into a PowerPoint table

powerpoint-tips-excel-table-on-slide-2PowerPoint’s tables offer you lots of options for design and layout. If you want the table to look polished, use this option. An easy way to start is with the Title & Content layout. Then click the Insert Table icon in the middle of the slide. You’ll see the small Insert Table dialog box.

Go back to your Excel data and count the number of columns and rows you need, including the row and/or column headers. This is also the time to select the table and copy it to the Clipboard. Then return to PowerPoint and complete the dialog box. Click OK to insert the table.

You now see a default table on the slide and the Table Tools Design and Layout tabs appear, as you see here. Read more! →

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Create a quiz in PowerPoint

Did you know that you can create a quiz in PowerPoint? You can create a simple quiz in PowerPoint using just hyperlinks. It’s simple because it doesn’t require any programming and you can’t grade it.

Students take the quiz in Slide Show view. When they choose the wrong answer, they go back to the question to try again. When they choose the right answer, they go to the next question.

Create the slidespowerpoint-tips-simple-quiz-1

Start with a title slide that explains the topic and includes instructions, as you see here. That Next button at the bottom right is a hyperlink–I’ll discuss the hyperlinks in the next section.

Create your first question slide. You can format this in any way you want. You can use the Title & Content layout and put the question in the Title. The Content section contains the answers. Type them and then convert the bulleted text to SmartArt. Finally, ungroup the SmartArt (twice). But you can also use the Title Only layout and manually insert shapes with the answers.

What’s important is that you use shapes with text in them because you want to add the hyperlinks to the shapes, not to the text. I recommend 3 or 4 answers–obviously one is correct and the rest are not. Here’s an example question slide. Read more! →

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Create a tile menu with hyperlinks to slides

It’s often useful to create a menu for your first or second slide. Here are some scenarios:

  • To facilitate easy navigation to anywhere in your presentationpowerpoint-tips-tile-interface-menu-2
  • To allow your audience to choose the order of the content, for a non-linear, live presentation
  • To allow viewers to navigate through an online presentation

Use an updated interface style

A recent design trend uses tiles to create a visual menu. You’ve probably seen this type of tile menu in Windows 8/8.1, but others have used it as well. This type of menu is easy to create in PowerPoint.

Here’s an example.

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Discover PowerPoint Mix for interactive online lessons

PowerPoint Mix is a new PowerPoint add-on by Microsoft, now in beta (not finalized).

What is PowerPoint Mix?

PowerPoint Mix is a PowerPoint-based tool for creating interactive online lessons. The basic process is simple:

  1. You create slides and can record audio and video.
  2. You can add quizzes.
  3. You upload the final result to the Mix website and share it with anyone you want, such as your students. You can even export Mix to a SCORM-compliant format.
  4. You get statistics about who watched the Mix as well as quiz scores.

How to get started


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