Which of these PowerPoint approaches suits your speaking style?

Your slides might be clever, your voice and tone sublime, but if those elements clash in tempo and complexity, your presentation could be a big dud. Try these three techniques on for size.

Untitled Document Ever sat through a boring presentation? You’re not alone.

Although most business pitches are the opportunity of a lifetime, some presenters bore their audiences with poorly designed, text-heavy decks. Conversely, there are speakers who show up with decks packed with style, yet lean on substance.

When you prepare your pitch, decide whether you’ll use a fast-paced approach or spend more time discussing your main points. This decision will help you organize your ideas and determine how you will translate these ideas into your slides.

There are several presentation styles, one for almost every type of speaker. Here are a few tried and true design methods you can use to optimize your PowerPoint slides:

1. The Takahashi method

Takahashi’s approach relies heavily on displaying large keywords with one main point per slide, resulting in a minimalist presentation deck. A computer programmer by trade, Masayoshi Takahashi based this method on how the Japanese write their newspaper headlines, which feature both logographic and syllabic characters.

Instead of using images, bullet points or other visual elements, you will based your deck on the presentation’s key words—anything from a short phrase to a single word per slide.

Depending on the amount of content, this strategy requires many slides and uses a fast-paced, properly timed approach so that your speaking will match the transitions per slide.

Here are some important pointers when using the Takahashi Method:

Tip 1: Break down your presentation into only the most important points. This will help you identify the most significant words you need to get your message across.

Tip 2: Extract only the keywords and phrases from your resulting outline. These words don’t have to be said aloud during your presentation; instead they can guide and order lists and bullet points.

Tip 3: Make your words look big to optimize readability. Use a simple font like Arial or Calibri, and font sizes higher than 100 points. ​Related: Show off your work and get the recognition you deserve! Enter one of our 12 Awards programs.

Applying these steps better organizes your thoughts, highlights memorable words and keeps you from adding distracting elements. This puts more focus on active listening, encouraging your audience to pay more attention to you as the speaker.

Here an example of what a slide would look like using Takahashi’s method:

2. The Lessig method

A slide deck that’s lean on text may not be suitable for more technical fields and complicated topics, with key concepts needing detailed explanation.

If you’re going for a minimalist approach but need more words to back you up, then the Lessig method is for you. This presentation style was created by Lawrence Lessig, a law professor at Stanford University. It’s a fast-paced method that uses images sparingly, while displaying a few words per slide.

Unlike Takahashi’s style, which uses extra-large text as the slides’ sole visuals, the Lessig method relies more on syncing the words on each slide with what the presenter is saying. Each slide changes to follow the pace of the speech, resulting in a deck that progresses so quickly that your audience will be fixated on your narrative, anticipating what comes next.

Done properly, it can make for a dramatic presentation that transfixes and engages.

How do you create a presentation using the Lessig method?

  1. Construct sentences, phrases or words to include in your slides. Choose only what is relevant to emphasize the words you’ll say.
  2. Limit the use of visuals by selecting only the most appropriate images that will support your idea. These pictures will help you describe and illustrate any abstract concepts your audience may have trouble visualizing.
  3. Incorporate words or phrases that match your actual script to what will be projected on the screen. The resulting quick timing engages your audience in a dynamic, active way.

This focuses on injecting a synchronized approach, generating interest and persuading audiences to be more attentive, because they must keep up with the pace. The challenge lies in making sure you don’t speak too quickly, or else your audience may lose track of the discussion.

Your Lessig-inspired slides would look something like this:

3. The Godin method

Seth Godin, an experienced public speaker and marketer, uses a combination of text and images in each slide, often using striking photos and letting the pictures speak for themselves. This technique plays with visual storytelling, using emotional appeal to engage an audience.

This approach gives the presenter an avenue to explain what he’s trying to highlight and reiterate his main ideas through images, which help audiences retain information. Combined with audio, this engages audiences better than words alone would.

This approach differs from Takahashi’s and Lessig’s, which focus on conveying their message with text. This approach centers on displaying visuals with minimal text, giving the audience a visual peg to envision the scenario, but still having them rely on the speaker to fill in the gaps of the story.

Here’s how to apply Godin’s graphics-based method:

  1. Write simple words or phrases without overcrowding each slide.
  2. Find and choose professional-looking and topic-related images that complement your message or tone.
  3. Make each slide transition neat and simple to let the audience follow what you say. Avoid playful transitions, as those tend to distract audiences and make them fixate on the flashy effects rather than the message you’re trying to say.

The advantage? Think of it like a storybook. Using images gives your audience a visual guide to keep them all on the same page while you tell them a story, which engages audiences.

Your Godin-inspired slide would look like:

Rick Enrico is CEO and founder of SlideGenius. He regularly publishes expert presentation tips on the SlideGenius blog. You can connect with him onLinkedIn andTwitter.


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