Blog in 10 2014.
Despair mingled with hopelessness. That’s what I usually feel when someone fires up a PowerPoint presentation. Lists of bullet points, flow charts, process diagrams, more bullet points, graphs, and did I mention the bullet points?
But as I was leafing through the pretty pictures and wonderful words of one of my graphic novels, I realised something. A comic book is a template for a great PowerPoint presentation. Panels are just slides, each one advancing the story and telling the reader something new. The only difference is that comics are interesting. And I think it’s because they do four things that most presentations don’t.
Comics focus on the little things
The faster something happens, the more images you need. If your story involves a dramatic gunshot, you spread it across a lot of panels so it’s easier for the reader to digest. The finger squeezing the trigger. The hammer pulling back. The bullet leaving the barrel. So if you have a graph, for example, don’t show it all at once. Plot each point you’re talking about separately. Build it up. Spread it out. So your readers have a chance to take everything in.
Comics cherish the turn of the page
Flicking over a page creates natural suspense. It gives you pace and rhythm. And it’s a beautiful moment to have something suddenly revealed, whether it’s the punch line to a joke, something unexpected or a tah-dah moment. Don’t be afraid to do the same in a presentation as you switch between slides.
Comics use words lightly
The narrator in a comic will usually only have a few words for each panel. Sometimes none. Each panel is essentially just one idea that moves the story on. The same should be true of a slide; each one should make a single point.
Comics are illustrations
Pictures are what make a comic, well, a comic. True, with a presentation you might not always have a literal picture. You might just illustrate your point, maybe with a single word or a quote. Just pick something that shows what you want to say, then narrate over the top. When you use your slides to symbolise your point, instead of parroting the words on the screen, people will listen to you rather than read what’s going on behind your head.
Hungry for more presentation tips? Take a look at our PowerPoint course.
‘Talk about benefits, not features.’ It’s one of the golden rules of copywriting. Because people don’t care about the details, they care about what your product/service/widget can do for them.
So, if you’re selling broadband, don’t bang on about ‘20 meg download speeds’, just explain that ‘you’ll be able to watch Netflix without any buffering problems’.
It’s fine as a rule of thumb, but it ignores the fact that actually, most benefits, no matter what you’re talking about, are pretty much the same: this product/service/widget will make you smarter/save you time/make you more attractive/give you more enjoyment. That pretty much covers it, doesn’t it?
The most interesting writing tends to sit in the blurry bit between features and benefits – when the features imply the benefits. Here’s an example.
There’s a café near where I live that serves the ‘three-mile breakfast’. It’s called the three-mile breakfast because all the ingredients used in it are sourced within a three-mile radius of the café.
Technically, it’s a ‘feature’ – it just tells you a fact about the breakfast. But it’s a feature that implies a whole host of benefits.
* Your fry-up is likely to be fresher and tastier because the ingredients haven’t had to travel so far.
* You can eat with a clear eco-conscience because the food miles are low (and the ingredients are likely to be organic).
* Eating here might well be fun/cool/interesting because the people who work here haven’t just gone for the standard ‘full English breakfast’.
The quirky ‘three-mile’ detail is a feature that works much harder than any generic benefit ever could.
I suppose ‘talk about benefits, not features, except when your reader will understand the benefit implicitly and the feature is more interesting’ isn’t such a snappy rule of thumb, though.