The Language of PowerPoint®

If your company’s objective is to thrive through business-to- business (B2B) transactions, then it seems inevitable that you need to create slide decks at some point. Whether reporting on business results or seeking to solicit new work, or introducing a new product or service, fluency in Microsoft PowerPoint® seems increasingly important.

Although not news to veteran executives, PowerPoint is today’s predominant language of business reporting and selling. In the late 1980s and 1990s, reports were written in thorough narrative, either on the typewriter or with a word processor. Over the past 2 decades, we’ve moved from complete reporting and comprehensive chronicle towards a preferred form of cryptic text, with graphically heavy messaging that B2B executives are used to seeing today. In other words, everything is written with an executive summary mindset. This means bullet points rather than sentences, graphs rather than explanation, and the ubiquitous shorthand of messages and recommendations in a form that is easy to swallow quickly and comprehend.

From the tone of my description, readers might be led to believe that I’m not in favor of this development. PowerPoint is extraordinarily useful for many scenarios, including the reporting of study results and the presentation of your business or products to the uninitiated. PowerPoint is also a wonderful vehicle for use on websites end and exhibit hall displays. I work with several organizations that rely heavily on slide decks to communicate with their customers. This is neither inappropriate or inefficient. Rather, my point is that the writing and development of PowerPoint slide decks require a different mindset than completing a fuller narrative description of the reporting. This mix of text, statistics, and graphics must be composed in a manner that emphasizes brevity, comprehension, and engagement.

It has taken me many years to develop a fuller appreciation of these elements in their correct proportion to optimize the power and effectiveness of the PowerPoint-generated slide deck. And I have not even touched upon the graphic design skill necessary to properly bring all the elements together. In fact, I regularly employ a graphic artist to achieve what I cannot; these skills cannot be underemphasized. In addition, I do not claim to have great mastery over the capabilities of PowerPoint, as this is rather unnecessary: With all messaging vehicles today—not including emoji-only transmissions—the concept starts with words and how the ideas they relate are gleaned by the reader or viewer.

In the last 20 years, I’ve probably helped develop a hundred slide decks for a slew of uses, including video scripts, B2B presentations, business and financial planning, and study result summaries. It’s not all that difficult, but it does require broad experience to identify the optimal balance of text and images, brevity of language, and identification of key takeaways that drive the benefits of Powerpoint.  

Contact me at to learn more or for help in creating your own presentation in the language of Powerpoint.

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