The Power of PowerPoint as a PR Tool

Image: Mike Licht,
Image: Mike Licht,

"Talk about SlideShare all you want," said Greg Swan, SVP of digital and interactive at Weber Shandwick during a presentation today at the PR News Next Practices Conference in San Francisco. "But PowerPoint is the most important communications tool conceivable to modern man." Yet, for some reason, many communication professionals still don't know their way around presenting a basic deck, let alone putting one together.

Swan provided three elements that every effective PowerPoint presentation should have. Print them out and blow away the C-Suite at your next quarterly meeting.

1. Story arc. Even if you're presenting on the latest social-media metrics, give your deck a narrative flow. Anecdotes work; straight analytics will bore your colleagues.

2. BIG visuals. Time and again, it's been proven that people engage with visuals far more than with text. Employ infographics to show off impressive numbers: They will resonate much more effectively than a string of numerals on a screen.

3. Context, not content. When putting together your PowerPoint, focus on why this information matters to your audience, whether it’s your interns or the executive board. Nothing makes people's eyes glaze over faster than being inundated with seemingly irrelevant information.

Follow Lucia Davis: @LKCDavis.

  • Steven Spenser

    Wow—at first, when I read Greg Swan’s opinion about PowerPoint, I was sure
    he was joking. But, when I read on and realized he was serious, I became

    IMO, unless your PowerPoint slides are restricted to strong, affecting fotos
    that visually enhance the impact of your speech, then using any other kind of
    slides actually *detracts* from the desired goals of your speech.

    The success of any speech given to hearing audiences depends on listener
    engagement. Audiences (of sighted individuals) who are *reading* your slides
    while you are talking are not giving you their full attention–and that is the
    primary definition of an unsuccessful speech. (This presumes that you are not
    making the horrible mistake of reading aloud the full text of your slides.)

    PowerPoint is a crutch. In
    my experience, practitioners (without speech impairments) who address audiences
    (of individuals without hearing impairment) and who cannot make their point(s),
    when necessary, orally–without relying on visual aids other than a few
    dramatic fotos–are poor and ineffective speakers, and they probably shouldn’t
    be in PR.

    Steven Spenser
    Principal, Praxis Communication
    LinkedIn Group Manager, Network of PR Professionals