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A Secret Weapon for Business Presentations

3 min read

It’s not PowerPoint’s job to tell our story well—it’s ours, as businesses and individuals.

Did you ever read a text in school that was a little long or confusing? You may have reached for a shortcut to help you understand the gist of the story. “So tell me, SparkNotes—what was important about Moby Dick besides that white whale?”

Wouldn’t such a guide be useful for the presentations you sit through? How about the ones you deliver?

Much ado about presentations

We’ve all been victims (and some of us perpetrators) of bad PowerPoint presentations. The list of gripes against the medium is as long as some of the slideshows we’ve witnessed. Boring. Long. Confusing. Too many bullets.

In our business writing consulting, we’ve seen all the pitfalls: overloaded slides, disorganized decks, unclear key points. Many companies default to decks for almost every report or deliverable. None of these things help people achieve their presentation goals.

But don’t shoot the messenger. It’s not PowerPoint’s job to tell our story well—it’s ours, as businesses and individuals. It’s on us to ensure our “bottom line” doesn’t get lost in a barrage of bullet points or visual clutter. We control whether our audiences care about our content.

A powerful tool for business presentations: an executive summary

So make sure your audience does care. Make sure they get the gist. Give them the show and the shortcut.

To highlight your bottom line and show the critical thinking that slide decks can obscure, write an executive summary. It concisely sums up the main points of your presentation. And using one will ensure your busy readers don’t miss the “so what” of your message.

Keep your executive summary sharp

To ensure your executive summary is effective, keep it

  1. brief: present it through either a 1–2 page handout or a few slides. Think big picture overview, not transcript.
  2. strategic: distill the vital points of your presentation—what you want the audience to take away. So write it after you compose your deck.
  3. self-contained: it should be a document that stands alone. You want your message to stick after you or your slides are no longer front and center.

Keep it purposeful

Focus your readers on the vitals—only what they need to know—to buy into your ideas, product, or proposed solution.

Executive summaries typically include

  • a concise statement of the purpose or challenge
  • recommendations and action requests
  • benefits and conclusions
  • next steps
  • a brief overview of the background or context needed to understand conclusions.

How do you write one? Good question! To learn best practices for writing an executive summary, read Executive Summaries: How to Say It All in One or Two Pages.

How executive summaries can be a safety precaution

An executive summary could be your only impression. It might be your first impression. And it should be your lasting impression on busy clients or colleagues. Some may never read more.

You control your message. (Even if you can’t control the “what ifs.”) If your key decision maker doesn’t show up or leaves early, or you prepped for an hour-long presentation and only get ten minutes, executive summary to the rescue! You’ve got your vital message ready to share.

You be the buzz. You may choose to create excitement or preview your ideas before a presentation. Or you may want people to complete action items before you meet. Send your executive summary in advance!

Your voice will endure. Your executive summary will support the ideas from your presentation and reinforce the value you bring. It’s a strategic presentation door prize! And it will remind your busy audience of why they should care long after you stop talking.

This blog originally appeared on this site.


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