How to write for presentations
At Ideaseed we are crazy for presentations. They are Just. So. Effective.
Unless the writing is … terrible. If the writing in a presentation is terrible, it can be more useless than the second capital P in PowerPoint.
These presentations might actually turn people OFF your product or service, or equally bad, give you a reputation for being boring.
As designers, we love nothing more than a sleek, beautifully branded presentation but *as designers* we also appreciate the power of a bit of wordsmith magic. Even the most visually plain slide decks can be salvaged if the storytelling within the presentation is on point.
So, how do you write an effective presentation? Read on.
WHERE MOST PEOPLE GO WRONG
The thing with presentations is that they shouldn’t *actually* be written at all – your presentation should have a script outline that you follow, but this should definitely not be shown on screen. On screen we want to see key words and messages backed up by awesome visuals. If you feel like you need written words to convey your message, use leave-behind documents given after the presentation to support your slides and let your writing shine.
START WITH A HOOK
Watch any of the most popular TED Talks and you will notice that they start with an intriguing opening line. Often it’s a question; sometimes it’s an unexpected statement but whether the presenter is being provocative or using humour, they make you curious to hear more.
Following this, you could acknowledge the time your audience has taken to be there and say how excited you are about what you’re going to share with them.
For your slides, we suggest a bold introduction, with large font and very few words – a one-word intro slide is great for grabbing attention.
Here’s a truth bomb: If someone is reading your slide, they are not listening to you. And if they’re not listening to you, there is no point in you even giving a presentation. You could just package that thing up into a PDF and save everyone some time! So when it comes to the words that appear on your slides, less is definitely best.
Your slides should convey ideas, not words. Wherever you can, don’t have any words at all, and if you must write lists of information, consider 1-word bullet points or, even better, static or animated icons that convey your point in a simple yet powerful way.
APPEAL TO THEIR EMOTIONS
People will remember how you made them feel so whenever possible, bring emotions, both negative and positive, into the writing of your presentation.
And if you’re struggling for words, images can do this nicely instead. For example, if you are reporting on your company’s efforts around parental leave, an image around this will be way more effective than a slide with bullet points. And don’t forget to use humour if it suits your audience. You don’t have to be a standup comedian, but people will always be grateful if you can lighten the mood.
TELL A STORY
Is your subject matter a bit … dry? Then you’re going to need to tell a story to keep your audience awake! Stories are evocative and appeal to our imagination, in fact our brains are hardwired to absorb them.
What are they key elements of a story? A beginning, middle and end. Throw in a bit of conflict, a 3-dimensional hero or two, a climax and resolution and you’ve got yourself a compelling presentation.
USE YOUR OWN WORDS
When it comes to the language you use in your presentation, keep it conversational. Just talk how you speak – people want the real you. Avoiding jargon and corporate language can make your presentation accessible to way more people, and even if your audience is a small group of industry experts, they’re not going to be impressed by how many acronyms you can fit into a sentence.
WRITE A SCRIPT
We’ve had great success with writing presentation scripts for clients who want to deliver their message in an engaging way. A common problem is they’re great in front of a crowd, they can speak without prompts, but they struggle with crafting a compelling message that also encourages a call to action. They want to sell but don’t want to sound ‘salesy’. That’s where a script comes in.
We will say though, that if you’re going to outsource the writing of your presentation script, make sure you find a copywriter who is a gun at mimicking ‘voice’, because you definitely don’t want to sound like someone else when you’re delivering your lines. We always make sure our copywriters either talk to clients directly or have access to past videos of them presenting.
INCLUDE A CALL TO ACTION
Make it clear what you want your audience to do after your presentation. Can they sign up to a program? Come and meet you at a conference booth? Follow you on social media? Even if your presentation is just a delivery of information with no intention other than to educate, you can still encourage action from your audience in the form of feedback and input.
GET IN TOUCH
If you have an upcoming presentation that can’t afford to be anything less than amazing, get in touch to talk about our services.
And if you want to learn more about working with a copywriter, download our list of Essential Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Copywriter.