Workshop: Storytelling techniques for PowerPoint presentations

Using storytelling techniques to create high-impact PowerPoint presentations

This hands-on workshop will provide participants with a highly-adaptable and scalable approach to writing compelling PowerPoint presentations designed to capture the audience’s attention and get results. It is important to highlight that the workshop provides an approach — a new way of thinking about and using PowerPoint — and is therefore suitable for anyone who uses PowerPoint to communicate. The workshop focuses on the writing of PowerPoint presentations only, not delivery. Although the workshop includes tips and tricks for using PowerPoint, it is not software training and computers will not be used during the workshop. Participants are assumed to understand the basic functions of PowerPoint and will receive written procedures for the new software tips introduced.

Developer/Facilitator: Sara Freitas-Maltaverne

Purpose: Participants will learn how to optimize their use of PowerPoint and other software to create effective, appropriate communications; create the right kind of document (slides, notes, handouts) for the right purpose; identify and eliminate ineffective practices; create professional-looking slides; and personalize the approach to suit their different audiences.

Description/Structure: The workshop will alternate trainer talk with hands on application of several of the steps in the approach. Due to time and technical constraints, users will not leave the workshop with an entire completed presentation. However, they will leave with a completed introduction and high-level overview and take away the tools they need to build their presentation from end-to-end using the approach.

  • First hour: Trainer introduces topic. Based on several sample slides, participants come up with a list of ineffective and effective slide-design practices and discuss why they are effective/ineffective. Trainer introduces step 1 of the approach: questions to ask before you write. Participants brainstorm a checklist of questions to ask themselves before starting to write their presentations.
  • Second hour: Trainer introduces the story telling template and explains how it is used to guide the narrative structure of the presentation. Participants complete the introduction, high-level overview, and, time permitting, conclusion. Pairwork and whole-group debriefing. Trainer explains export procedure and introduces the storyboard.
  • Third hour: Trainer introduces basic slide design concepts. Participants discuss types of visuals and, time permitting, select/sketch a few types for several of their storyboard frames. Tips for designing attractive, professional slides even with low graphic design skills. Wrap-up with final tips and hazards (the right type of document for the right use, corporate templates, etc.). Final debriefing: participants share their personal take-aways from the workshop and their personal next steps.

Who should attend? Anyone who uses PowerPoint to communicate or trains people who use PowerPoint to communicate.

Outcome skills: Participants will be able to

  • convey a positive, professional image individually and on behalf of their organization
  • assess the needs and biases of their audience and adjust presentation content and style accordingly
  • identify ineffective presentation practices and eliminate them
  • "tell a story" that will captivate their audience
  • implify their visuals for maximum impact
  • use slides, notes, and handouts appropriately

Pre-meeting information:

What to bring

Participants should bring notes or an idea for a presentation they have in progress (or a printout of an existing presentation). To maximize benefits and interaction between the participants and the participants and the trainer, the workshop will be hands-on and “low-tech,” i.e. no computers will be used.

Background reading

  • Atkinson, Cliff. Beyond Bullet Points. ISBN-10: 0-7356-2052-0. Author’s website: Comments: The principles and the procedures for using PowerPoint to tell your story. Newer edition exists. Also exists in French (PowerPoint pour les cadres). Microsoft press.
  • Mayer, Richard E. Multimedia Learning. ISBN 0-521-78-239-2 Comments: The cognitive theories behind multi-media learning.
  • Minto, Barbara. The Pyramid Principle. ISBN-10: 0 273 65903 0. Author’s website: Comments: The basics on how to organize information in virtually any format (reports, letters, presentations, etc.).
  • Peters, Tom. Design: Innovate, Differentiate, Communicate. ISBN: 1 4053 0258 5. Author’s website: Comments: Making design part of how you tell your story.
  • Reynolds, Garr. Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery. ISBN-10: 0-321-52565-5. Author’s website: Comments: The popular blog is now a book!
  • Strunk, William Jr. and E. B. White. The Elements of Style. ISBN: 1-59420-069-6. Comments: ISBN is for hardcover illustrated version (2005). Having trouble getting back to simple subject-verb-object sentences for your presentation slides? This book is always a welcome refresher.
  • Zelazny, Gene. Say it with Presentations: How to Design and Deliver Successful Business Presentations. Author’s website: Comments: Practical tips for avoiding classic presentation pitfalls.

About the facilitator: I was born and raised in the US, where I completed my undergraduate and graduate education in French and Linguistics. I have served a number of schools, training organizations, and businesses in the United States, Turkey, and in Grenoble, France, where I have lived since 2001. I founded SFM Traduction in 2003 and today provide businesses in France with French-to-English translation services, English copywriting services, and training in written communication skills in English. I work in the fields of marketing and communication, finance, and human resources. I am a member of the Société Françiaise des Traducteurs and the American Translators Association. Email: Sara Freitas Maltaverne. Website: