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.