Why Great Presentation Design Starts with a Story


A good presentation must do many things. It must inform, it must be authoritative, it must keep the audience’s attention and it must also ensure they clearly understand the key takeaway points.

Doing all of these things well isn’t always easy, and in many cases, the desire to present a full data picture leads to complex, hard-to-follow presentations that lose a large part of the audience.

This is why presentation experts often talk about the importance of narrative when giving a presentation. Humans are hardwired to understand the world in terms of stories — stories help us to make sense of things in terms of characters and conflict, and we remember information a lot better when it is embedded in a narrative arc. 

But how do you turn facts and figures into a story? And how do you balance the need to create a moving narrative with the need to communicate data? Here are three essential tips that should guide your presentation design. 

1. Identify the Hook

Every good narrative has a hook, a piece of information that encapsulates why your audience should pay attention to what you have to say. The hook might be that there is a large untapped market for a product or service, or it could be a significant data point related to a social issue.

A good hook creates a sense of urgency around a question or problem. From here, you can explain the backstory of the question or problem, and lead your audience toward the answer or solution.  

One of the reasons many leading companies work with presentation agencies like Stinson Design is because professional presentation designers can help find the hook and build the story from the very beginning, saving executives and team leads time and resources.

2. Show — And Tell

Most people who have studied storytelling have heard the advice to “show, don’t tell.” But a presentation isn’t a novel, and in order to communicate effectively, it is important to do both demonstrate and explain. 

Graphs and charts are a great example of this. Visual tools are an essential component of good PowerPoint design, but you should never assume your audience will immediately understand what the data means. Instead, you should use visual aids to illustrate the overall narrative and to back up your essential argument.

Graphics should provide key evidence, but they will only have an impact if your audience understands why the data is significant.  

3. Cut Out Unnecessary Information 

Think about a film you’ve seen recently, and think about how many of the scenes focused on people walking to and from appointments, or making dinner, or brushing their teeth. A good story distils a narrative into its most essential components, and a presentation should do likewise. 

One of the advantages of having outside help from PowerPoint experts or a presentation agency is that a second set of eyes can often see more clearly which information is really important. After all, someone who has been working on a project for weeks is much closer to the details, and may have a harder time determining what is actually central to the narrative. 

The best presentations are masterpieces of economy, providing the audience with a clear and streamlined introduction to a complex topic. The best way to do this is by identifying the key characters, conflicts, and events behind the issue at hand. 

By finding a hook, telling as well as showing, and cutting out anything that will bog the narrative down, you can ensure that your next presentation doesn’t just communicate, but inspires. 

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