5 questions to ask yourself when writing for PowerPoint slides

Do you need full sentences? Do you need words at all? A guest blog post by Dan Brotzel, Content Director at Sticky Content…  

You might wonder what a copywriting agency has to say about writing for a medium where words are frowned upon and a striking image is king. But concise clear copy is what we're all about at Sticky Content and exactly what PowerPoint text should be as well.

Writing for PowerPoint can be tough. Some say you should try to trim your content down to no more than 9 words per slide. But is that always possible? Or even desirable? Here are 5 questions to ask yourself before embarking upon a new PowerPoint presentation…

Do you need words at all?

Let get right to the crux of the matter. Does that slide you've just put up - explaining how successful your company is - actually need words? A picture's worth a thousand words and often the right image can get across the sense of what you’re saying much more powerfully on its own. Remember, you'll be talking as well, so instead of doubling up with text use well-chosen imagery to illustrate and complement your script.

How many words do you really need?

Does your audience need to see the words?

Is the copy you've just brought up on screen for your benefit or the audience's? Does it reinforce what you're saying or is it just a reminder for you? PowerPoint shouldn't really be used as a prompt for you as a speaker. It should be used as a way to complement and cement what you're saying.

Do you need full sentences?

If you need bullets, write them in note form. Put down key phrases that you'll expand on. People don't need full sentences – just key points. Again, use each bullet as a jumping-off point for what you want to say, not as a script. Make sure your copy is scannable and makes sense out of context.

Always write fast, but edit slowly. Get rid of anything needless or showy and think hard about what it is you want the audience to take away from the slide.

Do you need the whole quotation?

A good quotation can add a punch to your slide deck. Whether it's a testimonial from a happy customer or an inspirational quote from a well-known figure, it gives your presentation extra gravitas and social proof.

Mark Twain Quote

But do you really need the full quote in there? Or can you strip it back to its essence? Put in just enough to grab people, and be ready to expand the quote or its context when you present. If it's too long, people either won't read it or they won’t hear what you're saying because they're trying to get to the end.

Are you writing for your leave-behind?

After you've given a top-notch presentation, one of the first questions you'll no doubt be asked is, 'Can I have a copy of your slide deck?'. Which is fine but, if you've been following our tips, your slides probably won’t have all the information in that you've just put across in your presentation.

You should, ideally, be creating 2 decks – a concise version for your usage during the presentation and another to leave behind. The leave-behind can have lots more words in of course – especially as it may be looked at out of context, by people who missed the original presentation.

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