Powerpoint, and other similar slide-based software platforms, are nearly ubiquitous in the world of sales presentations these days. The ease with which Powerpoint allows sales teams to structure a pitch, add visuals and multimedia makes it an indispensable tool for planning and presenting.

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However, simply using Powerpoint is no guarantee of making a presentation engaging, memorable and persuasive. Many sales teams asking why their pitches seem to be lacking impact would do well to go back and look at the Powerpoint slides they delivered - generic template layouts, little thought for overall structure and sales messaging, a lack of creative flair or imagination all detract from the overall effect.

Powerpoint is an incredibly useful tool, but all tools require skilled hands to craft the best work. Here are five straightforward rules to follow to start shaping the best sales powerpoint presentations. 

1.      Start at the end

There is an approach to business strategy known as ‘backwards planning’ which says you should always start with your end goals and then plan how to achieve them. This applies to sales presentations - decide what you want the final outcome to be, what the ‘big message’ is for your presentation, what do you want your audience to do at the end of the presentation? This will give your presentation a cohesive structure focused on a specific outcome.

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2.      Storyboard before you open Powerpoint

Very few great writers start bestselling novels by opening their laptop and simply starting to type. And like writing a novel, creating an effective presentation is all about telling a compelling story - a story which ends with your audience agreeing to move forward with your sales process. Once you have the germ of an idea, do the rest of the planning on pen and paper, whiteboards or similar - this makes it much easier to brainstorm, to alter or reject ideas. It means you can chop and change the structure without having to delete entire slides, and when it comes to style and visual impact, you are thinking about the overall effect, not the Powerpoint tools in front of you. 

3.      Keep things brief

Your Powerpoint slides are a visual aid to help engage your audience, to help them recall your message, to complement the real centrepiece of your pitch - your sales messaging. Presentations which are too long (beyond your audience attention span) or have too much detail on each slide risk the audience switching off. Those which are over designed and cause a visual bombardment on the audience risk becoming a distraction. If you plan with the maxim ‘less is more’ in mind, it will help focus your mind on impact.

4.      Maintain visibility

One of the temptations of any digital presentation is to really go to town with visual effects in an attempt to try to wow your audience. This is a risky strategy not only because it could, as mentioned above, lead to your slides becoming a distraction rather than an aid, but also because it can confuse the main purpose. Clarity is essential, both literally and figuratively speaking - you want the audience to maintain focus on the ‘big idea’, on the story you are trying to sell, and you want them to be able to actually see the main content clearly, too.

5.      Brand identity

When you create a sales pitch, you are trying to get your audience to buy into two things - the ‘story’ you are telling about why they should buy your products or services, and the identity of the brand itself. That brand identity should be communicated in every aspect of the presentation you create, from the words and slogans you choose to the colour palette and fonts. Presentations which lack consistency in this regard can leave an audience feeling confused. People want to buy into something which is both unique and fully formed, and which appeals to them on emotional, rational and aesthetic levels.

Written by Richard Newman May of 2017