Paul Wherly

Books have paragraphs, sections and chapters

Today’s guest blog is brought to you by Simon Raybould of Aware Plus.

Woman giving a business presentationBooks have paragraphs, sections and chapters. There are clear rules for letting your audience know when you’ve changed paragraph, changed section or changed chapter. And there are clearly understood expectations about when you’d do this.

For example, if you’re describing two sets of concurrent action, where your heroes or heroines are miles apart but linked by radio chatter, you might use different sections within a chapter. On the other hand, if you then describe the action on the far side of the planet, involving people the reader hasn’t yet met or who haven’t yet met the book’s hero, you’d probably use a different chapter.

(Okay, okay, giving examples is a high-risk thing to do!  Someone is bound to disagree with me, but go with me here for the sake of making a point!)

So it is – or at least so it should be – with your presentations.

Imagine your slides were a book: what would you do differently?

Well,for astartyou’dusealotofwhitespace. Howmuchhardertoreadisitwhenthere’snobreaksbetweenwords? And yet we do the equivalent on slides all the time!

  • Slides with too much text, or too many ideas, on the same slide are hard for audiences to get their brain around. Think of that as being like paragraph breaks.
  • Different slides themselves count as different sections within a paragraph. It gives the audience time to draw breath and make a bit of an adjustment.
  • Finally, there are your chapters…

This is the big one. This is the one where your audience can get themselves sorted out – and even if they’ve lost what you’re saying they can catch up again here. The trick, of course, is in signposting that you’re moving on to a new chapter. It’s easier said than done.

In the real world you’ve got a few things that will help you, such as where you stand and how you move but in terms of your slides there are a few things you could consider. Not all of them will apply to everyone, of course…

  • Black slides – the end of a chapter gets marked by the rest of the page being left blank. A black slide not only does that but it is a remarkably powerful, arresting visual statement. It draws all the attention back to you and makes it very obvious to everyone that you’ve finished talking about a topic.
  • Headline slides – new chapters have titles, so why shouldn’t chapters in your presentations have headline slides/titles?   You’d be amazed at how powerful such a simple and obvious tool can be
  • Summary slides – if you put up a slide at the start of your presentation which showed your agenda, you might consider putting a copy of it up between chapters, with the upcoming chapter highlighted. This means anyone in your audience can get a feel for how long they have to go and get what you’re saying into the bigger picture with some context.

Simple, eh?

(Side note to finish! If you’re using Keynote rather than PowerPoint there are some very useful transition effects to help do these things semi-automatically.)

Do give us a call for help with your PowerPoint training – 020 8203 1774 we can help you learn how to create stunning presentations.

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