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Made To Stick: Presentations That Stick

How do you avoid that bullet-riddled PowerPoint presentation that everybody loves to hate? Here are three ways (presented without bullet points).

[transcript of video]

Maybe you’ve seen a PowerPoint presentation that looks something like this [visual: heinous PPT template]. Maybe you were the author of a PowerPoint like that. This is a little unfair—usually people will throw in some clip art to jazz it up a little [visual: ridiculous smiley-face clip art]. How do you avoid the dreaded bullet-drenched PPT? Here are 3 tips.

1. Be simple. I know, you’ve heard it before. But it’s worth hearing again. There’s a trial lawyer who holds a focus group with the jury after every major case. His one overriding conclusion: If you make 10 arguments to the jury, no matter how good each argument is, by the time they get back to the jury room, they’ll remember nothing. If you say 10 things, you say nothing. Well, your colleagues are your jury. I know it hurts to cut but if your main points are going to shine through, you’ve got to be ruthless.

2. Show something. To be clear, that’s not the same thing as using clip art. You don’t need to decorate, you need to communicate. What you show doesn’t even need to be on the screen. I got an email from the president of a power tools company who was on the way to a sales meeting. He’d prepped a long presentation about how great his tools were. At the last minute, he decided to toss it out and instead, he put two drills on the table in front of the customer—his and his competitor’s. He disassembled both of them side-by-side to show the durability of his drills. The customer loved it. The best presentations are like this—they bring a little reality into the room.

3. Tease before you tell. For your audience to value the information you’re giving them, they’ve got to want it. So get people curious. There’s a great example you can find online called "The Girl Effect" video. It starts by recounting a list of big global problems: AIDS. Hunger. Poverty. War. Then, it asks, What if there was an unexpected solution to this mess? Would you even know it if you saw it? The solution isn’t the internet. It’s not science. It’s not government. If you find yourself curious about the answer, it means they’ve succeeded in teasing before telling. (Go to for the answer.)

There’s plenty more to say on the topic of sticky presentations—to get more resources, check out the links below.

Chip and I devoted a Fast Company column to making presentations stick—we discuss similar themes as the video but in more detail. You can also check out a longer 4-page document we wrote called "Making Presentations that Stick"—just register on our Resources page to get free access. There are many books that deal with presentations specifically—two of my favorites were written by Jerry Weissman and Garr Reynolds. And I love this Guy Kawasaki blog post explaining his 10/20/30 rule—I'll leave you in suspense about what that means.

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  • ClaaireMichaels

    Nice post, Dan. If i may add, incorporating graphics and visuals to your PowerPoint can make a presentation sell in a very powerful way.

    Compare to aural and textual form, visuals stick in long-term memory thus, increasing better content recall. Indeed, business professionals could engage their audience and boost their sales through visual storytelling and SlideGenius can help you with that.

    So, before you head on to another client meeting, let us help you get started in giving your presentation the selling edge it needs. Talk to us at 8582175144 or visit

  • Warwick John Fahy

    I thoughts the girleffect video was very powerful - if not a little too fast. Great use of text based presenting.

    I liked your idea of "Tease before you tell" - that's a good technique to catch the audience's attention and ensure they are more ready to catch the main message.

    Warwick John Fahy
    Author, The One Minute Presenter

  • Chris Reich

    I teach this very concept but express it differently.

    ALL presentations need to be GOAL focused, NOT subject/topic focused. That means you are making a presentation with a goal rather than trying cover a topic. This sounds subtle but makes a huge difference in the outcome.

    When the earth shifts an inch, you get a 9 magnitude earthquake that knocks down buildings. Being goal focused may seem only semantically different from delivering a topic but it's very different.

    Chris Reich