Delivering Powerpoint

In our series Good to Great, we highlight simple tips and tools for advanced speakers looking to bring their communications from a 9 to a 10. This week’s tip comes from PowerPoint expert Dave Paradi, who has advice on how to avoid feeling overwhelmed when trying to refine and improve a presentation. The trick: focus on raising the bar two slides at a time.

We all know the feeling of staring blankly at a draft unsure of where to start refining. It’s reminiscent of writer’s block–where the prospect of filling a blank page leaves us paralyzed and unsure where to begin. Similarly, with a complete, albeit perhaps imperfect, draft of a document or presentation, the process of editing and refining can be as daunting as starting from scratch. Paradi suggests getting around this mental barrier by focusing on the two weakest slides only:

Chances are that there are a few slides, I use two as a typical number, that are the worst slides in your presentation. You don’t really like them, they are hard to present, and the audience doesn’t connect with them. What I suggest is that you work on just those two worst slides and improve them for your next presentation. Working on only two slides is a manageable amount and almost everyone says they could certainly redo two slides.

This trick relies on the fact that our brains are very good at getting us motivated to finish a task when we limit the scope from a complex, ambiguous problem to smaller, bite-sized ones. We are good at being self-critical–sometimes too good–which can lead us to see only a fog of haze and negativity when we examine a project in its totality. By picking two of the weaker slides in your presentation, you limit the scope enough to where your brain can shift to focusing on solving for particular weaknesses of the presentation instead of trying to fix all of them at once (and thus fixing none of them at all).

You can read more about Paradi’s approach on his blog. Whether your presentation is still in draft form or has been delivered to many audiences, focusing on bringing up the average “two slides at a time” is a great way to unlock additional potential without feeling overwhelmed. Try it before you deliver your next presentation, and see if you can move the needle from Good to Great.