We all feel the temptation: let’s lean on our PowerPoint or Word document to tell our story for us. Humans are wonderful storytellers, but unfortunately bulleted lists and overstuffed charts are definitely not. Nonprofit storytelling consultant Andy Goodman illustrates this point with a fun game.

PowerPoint presentations come in three basic types: 1) you are delivering a keynote-style address to an audience, 2) you are sending someone introductory or follow-up information, or 3) you are delivering an internal status report. Let’s focus on the first scenario.

When presenting to a group, here are five tips for using slides as an emotional, provocative tool to enhance your personal connection to your live audience. In no time, you will be ready to present your own TED Talk.

1.  Start with a specific example or analogy.
Open with one emotional image. For instance, share a picture of a child. Then tell the story of that child and how your organization helps.


Andy Goodman’s newsletter also provides some helpful insights for choosing between different types of images.

Or you can open with a metaphorical analogy. In Lightbox Collaborative’s Take Charge of Your Editorial Process as Air Traffic Control, Lauren Girardin makes a poignant air traffic analogy to illustrate how difficult it is to manage the launch and flight of your editorial content. People relate to an analogy like this and it allows you to share how your organization can help overcome this kind of adversity.


2.  Set it up, and knock it down.
This is a great technique for engaging your audience with a little suspense. Set up a moment in a story, then let the slide knock it down for you. For instance, “We started with an annual revenue goal of $200,000, and by using targeted techniques, by the end of the campaign… (click to reveal “$2M”) we had achieved ten times our goal.”


3.  Keep it to 10 slides.  Yes, 10.
When we pressure our audience to consume many slides, we lose an essential, emotional audience connection. Venture capitalist and former Apple chief evangelist Guy Kawasaki created his “10/20/30 Rule of PowerPoint” because he could no longer stand the overload of unnecessary data in entrepreneurs’ pitches. Here’s the rule:  your PowerPoint presentation should have 10 slides, last no more than 20 minutes, and contain a font no smaller than 30 points.

If you’re really ambitious, maybe you can even present like a Jedi Master.

4.  Practice, practice, practice.
Rehearsing out loud is best, but if you can’t practice out loud, rehearse the entire presentation quietly in your head, stepping through the slides as if you are speaking out loud. Do this many times. You want the slides to be an extension of your story, not cue cards for a robotic delivery. You don’t have to memorize your presentation, but you are the driver and the PowerPoint is your vehicle, not the other way around. After all, it didn’t write itself!

“The applications are simply containers for ideas and assets, not the means to generate them.”  Nancy Duarte, slide:ology

5.  Aspire to inspire.
At the end of your presentation, focus on answering the question “Why.” Why is your mission important? Why does your organization matter? Focus less on the past (“We’re super great because of all the super great things we’ve achieved!”), and more on the future (“We believe if we do this, we can make people’s lives better, maybe even change the world.”)

Remember, if you focus on simple emotional images of heart, struggle, and triumph, you’ll be amazing. No dread, all TED!

Images courtesy of  Carl Strecker and Ho-Yeol Ryu

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Carl Strecker is a presentation consultant. He has worked in sales and marketing at brands like Netflix, Disney, Paramount, and Sony, directed a tsunami relief documentary, and founded nonprofit PowerGive.