smart ideas for better town hall presentations

It’s time for a tough talk about PowerPoint.

Whether you love PowerPoint or hate it, you can seldom organize a virtual meeting without it—especially a town hall, leadership summit or another large-group session.

So while I often advocate big changes to town halls, today I’d like to encourage you to start with a small improvement: Make every PowerPoint slide count.

That means saying no to:

  • Complex charts, tables and data
  • An endless line of bulleted lists
  • Any slide that stays on the screen more than one minute

Why does PowerPoint matter so much? Because you’re in a tough fight for employees’ attention. During a virtual town hall, people can choose to focus on content being shared . . . or they can skim their email, pet the dog or even leave their desk to grab a snack.

That means every town hall presentation needs to be compelling. And since you’re the communication expert, you get to establish guidelines for effective PowerPoint slides, including:

Strong structure/navigation. Each presentation needs an agenda slide and navigation devices such as numbering (“5 ways we’ve improved quality”) and a summation slide (“Action steps we’re taking this quarter”).

All about visuals. At least 65% of adults are visual learners, according to the Social Science Research Network. So use every visual available: photos, cartoons, icons, shapes, colors, even drawings (like my doodle above).

One idea/concept per slide. Brain science proves that there’s an inverse ratio: The more facts or concepts are stuffed into a slide, the less employees will remember. I always give this advice: “What’s the one thing you need employees to remember after you’ve shared this slide? Show that.”

More slides. The best presenters use PowerPoint to propel their content forward, using each slide to create momentum. And since slides are free, you should use a lot of them . . . with just a little content on each, of course.

The best part: Just by improving slides, your town hall will be more meaningful and memorable. How cool is that?

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