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I create presentations at Microsoft. Here’s how I avoid “Death by PowerPoint”

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29.05.2019

I never expected to make a career out of building executive presentations. When I went to college in the mid-1990s, I was a fine art major, much to my parents’ concern. But it was that same love for visual storytelling that led to what I do today. For the more than ten years, I have worked on the Experience Design Team at Microsoft, supporting executives across the company, from product leaders to CEO Satya Nadella—and I live in PowerPoint.

At this level, sometimes delivering a slide deck is like being part of a live television broadcast. The events can play out on a global stage with high stakes. There are often hundreds in attendance and thousands more watching via webcast. The production crew are wearing headsets and calling the action. The music comes up, the lights come on, and your presenter takes the stage. It’s always a thrill to see the audience respond.

But behind the scenes, what really captivates me about this work is the strategy and storytelling that goes into it. When you’re writing a presentation, it’s not just about how the slide looks, but the story behind it. To fly at such a high altitude, you’ve got to be concise. The message must be understood by a wide variety of people.

Over the years so much has changed, both with executive communications and with the software itself. But after years of experience and thousands of projects, here are a few principles I like to keep in mind—-useful advice whether you’re presenting to five people or 500.

For any project, this is my first line of questioning. Where’s the event, how many people will be attending, and who makes up the audience? The story will be different if it’s a speech for technical experts versus one for students or a sales team. And the deck should look different for a conference room than it will for an auditorium. It isn’t uncommon for us to tweak the graphics or font size in a deck once we get onsite at a venue and see how the deck looks from the back of the room during practice runs.

This may seem obvious, but the goal is to be really thoughtful about tuning your presentation to the audience. The most important thing is to understand who you’re presenting to, the purpose of the information to them, and what the outcome should be. This is your North Star. For example: Is your boss going to be in the room? Is she someone who cares as much about the process and what you learned........

© Fast Company