Posts Tagged ‘writing’

Secrets to Writing Great Headlines and Brief Bullets

Secrets to Writing Great Headlines and Brief Bullets in PowerPoint

Secrets to Writing Great Headlines and Brief Bullets

PowerPoint Users: Discover how to write headlines beyond flat fragments of fluff and boring bullets of blah for maximum presentation impact and authority.

Ha! You’re looking at this article!  Chances are it was because of a compelling headline.  Our eyes are naturally drawn to words of intrigue and curiosity.  A title of “PowerPoint headline and bullet writing” might not have been as compelling.  Headlines and bullets- whether in PowerPoint, Keynote, or Prezi- should hold that same eye-catching intrigue if you’re looking for you and your presentations to stand-out and be remembered.  


Listen & Look

Listen and Look

There are great examples of headlines all around us in all mediums; succulent enticing text that compel us to tune-in, read-on, or click here.  Pay attention to the topics that grab you…and aim for the same attention-getting power in your presentation headlines.  It may seem corny at first, but you’ll soon see more heads looking at you and the screen, than down looking at their cell phone or clock.


Think like a Tweeter

Think Like a Tweeter

Twitter is a great tool to gain insights into headline writing; short simple statements of intrigue in under 160 characters.  Adopt a similar strategy, aiming for fewer than 10 words in your presentation headlines.


A Head-Turning Headline:Catchy, Curious, & Compelling

A Head Turning Headline

When building a presentation, it maybe helpful to write-out a title that’s a simple basic fragmented sentence, or just a few words.  But head-turning titles are Catchy, Curious and Compelling.  They catch your eye, making you think and compelling you to want to know more.

Ask a question.  Write a provocative statement.  Tell them why they should listen or read-on.  Short conversational words are best, eliminating any jargon or ambiguity.  The headline can either stand-alone, or be supported by bullets and/or graphics.


Write Like an SEO Guru

Write Like an SEO Guru

Presentation headlines should be written similar to how a website blog headline would be written:  a short, compelling statement aimed at generating clicks and readership.  For presentations, aim to answer the viewer’s underlying interest in solving a problem or getting more information. Or – as in the case above- work to consolidate the top-level bullet with the headline.

Ask yourself:  “If someone in my audience was searching for this slide, what would they search for?”  Write your headline with that search concept in mind with fundamental keywords in the title.

This is especially helpful if you’re creating a presentation for an external audience, and placing the presentation online.  Your presentation will have a good chance of appearing in Google if the headline and presentation titles are reflective of what your audience is searching for.


Headlines summarize the slide

Headlines Summarize the Slide

Headlines are the high-level story of the presentation. In business presentations, executives often scan the presentation for keywords and takeaway points.  Well-written headlines should guide the reader along through the presentation summarizing each page, distilling the supporting bullets or detail, and weaving a compelling story.  This is especially important if there’s no presenter, or if the presentation is a standalone or printed deck.

In the example above the first version (Before) has a neutral headline “Safety Record.” The updated headline is more active and summarizes the charted data and information.

Fragmented sentence headlines (“Introduction”), while easy to write, do little to hook the audience and tell the story.  But it’s best to aim for full-sentences of summation in the headlines of your presentation. You may, however, wish to use fragments or key words “Intro, example 1, etc.” for presentation sections or topic slides.

Some business presentations use takeaway messages, summarizing messages usually at the bottom of a page.  Try to merge the title and takeaway points; you’ll have a cleaner, more open-spacious presentation with a more focused message.  Less is more.

Don’t repeat the headline in the body of your slide.

The text or bullets of the presentation should support the slide headline…not duplicate it!  Aim to keep your bullets brief and supportive of the slide’s headline, using similar- but not identical- words.


Fragment your bullets

Fragment Your Bullets

Just as we aim to write short simple sentences for our headlines, we should aim to keep our bullets simple and concise also.  But, unlike the titles where a short sentence is our goal, our goal in a solid bullet is a concise sentence fragment. There’s no need for a full in-depth sentence, especially if the presentation will be delivered by a speaker.

Aim to ditch most modifiers including extra adjectives, adverbs and action words.  But look for ways to say the same message in fewer words.  


Avoid all unnecessary words that you can find to help make the page more appealing and easier to understand*.

(Avoid All Unnecessary Words)

*This headline above can be edited to three words:  “Avoid unnecessary words.”

Repeatedly read through the presentation with a critical eye.  What can be eliminated?  Merged?  Restated more simply? Call on a friend or collague for assistance; eventually you’ll start writing short potent headlines perfectly.

No Orphans

No Orphans

Whenever you see one lovebird, you usually see another; these friends of a feather always flock together.  Similarly, aim to avoid single-item bullets.  Called “orphans” these one bullet items usually indicate another bullet is nearby.  Indeed, one bullet demands a second bullet (that’s why they’re called bullets). 

On single-item points, aim to combine the item with the topic/headline. Or remove the bullet symbol and keep the text as a subpoint of the main point.

“The Presentation” should not be viewed as document, but rather a graphical medium to help underscore key messages.  Through regular practice of reviewing your presentation, you’ll find opportunities to trim the text and say more with less…leaving the text to the paper.

Presentation Storyboard

Presentation Storyboarding

Tips and strategies for Presentation Storyboarding to create PowerPoint presentations more efficiently and powerfully.

Storyboarding – An Introduction

Paper Or Screen?
Paper Alternatives

Screen Alternatives

The Flow

Storyboard Elements

Specialized Requirements

From Storyboard To Finality

Storyboarding – An Introduction

Presentation Storyboard

A presentation without a storyboard is like a cart without a horse. You have no idea which direction whomsoever is going to pull the cart. And when you realize your mistake, it may be too late. And it is at this note that our storyboarding story unfolds…

Storyboarding is never the beginning of any creative project, because you cannot get to this stage unless your concept and vision are completely clear. If you are undertaking a project for yourself or for a client, there would be little to be gained in undertaking a storyboarding session without ideas – the storyboard is an element to capture and refine ideas, not to create them.

What exactly is a storyboard? Is it a piece of paper or a part of your computer screen? Is it that part of your mind where you store the sequence of your creativity? Actually, its all of them – the ‘storyboard’ is both abstract and physical – in our thoughts and on papyrus. The abstract is its very existence, but it’s the physical one which is a retrievable record of its brilliance.

The abstract storyboard has got more to do with our imagination and visualization – it is also the source, inspiration and the very existence that channels the physical storyboard.


Paper Or Screen?

If you’re creating your first formal storyboard, you’ll have to decide if you require a paper or screen board. Both of them have their advantages and disadvantages – and both come in so many types that you can have a great time deciding which works best for you.

A paper storyboard is something that’s more akin to our psychology – it’s no wonder so many screen alternatives try to emulate paper. There could be nothing easier than putting a pencil or pen onto paper and scribbling notes, drawing a prototype or creating a flow chart. You can also manage your schedule, ascertain your priorities and do more. It’s no secret that paper is more close to a human being’s comfort level – lots of people are still wary of digital storyboards, after all the mouse or keyboard is not something with which you can cut and write or write between the lines. Things are however changing, or have already changed, as we shall soon examine.

New technologies are in the fore today – a tablet or pen emulates a regular pen, and it comes with a convenient electronic eraser to boot, imagine doing that the conventional way. And you could use a speech recognition program to input ideas straight into your electronic storyboard.

Handwriting recognition and OCR programs can port all your existing paper storyboards onto the screen level as well.

Screen storyboards have other advantages too – you can share them over your network or the Internet, also you can store them on a floppy, an Iomega® Zip cartridge ,a CD-Rewritable or a shared Internet virtual drive. By sharing in myriad ways, your storyboards become more collaborative, and consequently your content is richer, your ideas are originated from a higher base level. This does not mean that paper storyboards are without benefits – not everybody carries a palmtop or laptop everywhere – paper is everywhere: on newspapers, napkins and notes – just find an area to write, and scribble your thoughts away. It is necessary to mention here that it is better to carry a small paper notepad to capture your sudden or planned spurts of inspirations – all loose papers can be lost very easily: they could fly away from your car window!


Paper Alternatives

What’s a paper storyboard? Any piece of paper is technically fit enough to be a storyboard. But paper in many ways belies the very function of a storyboard – ‘permanence’. Granted, there is no such thing called ‘permanent’ on earth – but paper’s permanence levels are directly related to its form. A thick bound register is more permanent than a loose sheet. In fact the register could be more permanent than a floppy or a CD. However, your computer’s hard disk or storing it on the Internet is even more permanent than that.

The single biggest advantage of a screen (also called digital and electronic throughout this article) storyboard is duplication. That’s why I don’t advise you to use paper. For that matter, I don’t think that the screen alternative on its own is a good idea too. So, what do we use? Simple, we use a combination – by all means use paper, but convert it to electronic format as soon as possible.

We just saw how we can use paper to create a better screen storyboard – in the same way we can use screen to create a better paper storyboard. You can create a template in your word processor, which you can then print out in certain quantities. These papers can be stapled or spiralled to form a nice notepad. Use this as your storyboard – just remember to put it all back in the electronic format at due intervals.


Screen Alternatives

I could write pages galore on screen alternatives, but we’ll stick to the basic alternatives presently. In it’s easiest form, your storyboard could be a text editor – in it’s most advanced incarnation it could be your own custom application suite comprising of a storyboard program, a word processor and programs for speech recognition, email, project collaboration and OCR (optical character recognition).

If you would like to use a basic text editor, then you could use Notepad that comes with Microsoft® Windows®. Also, there is an excellent Notepad replacement called EditPad.

Next in the hierarchy tier are word processors – you could use them as they are, or you could use them with a specialized storyboarding template. Such templates can also be printed to paper. If you want to create a template in your particular word processor, you can download a template in Adobe®’s PDF format here – this is very basic and you could emulate it in any word processor which is worth its existence. Needless to say, you will need to download Adobe®’s Acrobat® Reader to view and print this template.

However, let’s face it – word processors can be boring. For routine in-house presentations, word processor software like Microsoft® Word®, Corel® WordPerfect®, Lotus® WordPro® or a dozen more alternatives will do the job – what’s more your good old presentation program will import the entire storyboard as an outline and will even decide how many slides you need and where to place what information – the wonders of computers! All this is boring, safe and predictable – like typists with thick glassed spectacles! We want our presentations to sing, dance, play and maybe even get to the movies. You want sighs and wows, with a few drop-dead responses thrown in for good measure – yes, you need a specialized storyboarding program.

The answer is a little disappointing – I haven’t found any great storyboarding program as yet. There are programs which allow you to draw onscreen, others allow you to input text and create links, but you need more. So, we’ll do the next best thing: we’ll look at a combination of programs and hardware.

The best hardware you can get for yourself is a tablet – pen, preferably pressure sensitive. This will allow you to draw onscreen – my Wacom® tablet even comes with a specialized software called Paragraph® PenOffice® that allows me to draw right inside Microsoft® Word® – what’s more, others who don’t have the tablet or the software can still view all the files and even edit the text. There are such draw-into-your-program programs for other word processors too.

Once you have a tablet, you can try out a great free storyboarding program called Springboard – the reason I never mentioned about this above is that this program is almost useless without a pen-tablet. Still, you may want to take Springboard® for a spin.

Want me to share a secret with you? If you have a pen-tablet, Macromedia® Flash® makes a great storyboarding program! You can draw on its screen, you can even write editable text and you can add and remove pages (or screens, to use Flash’s terminology). Just remember to hide the timeline. What’s more, if you fancy, your storyboard may spring roots in Flash to create a presentation within that program. Flash can become a great presentation program too!


The Flow

Now that you have the software sorted out, let’s talk about ‘the flow’ – this is the unrestrained stream of thoughts originating from your creativity which forms a major part of your storyboard. In fact this is the only link between your abstract and physical storyboards.

You can use sticky notes, both paper and electronic to keep track of your inspirational bouts – for a free electronic version of sticky notes, try ATnotes.

Keep yourself suitably involved with your ideas to prevent your flow being hampered with. Nevertheless, if the dreaded ‘creativity block’ strikes you, there are a few ideas here which could help you. Visit our Creativity Un-Block page.


Storyboard Elements

Every storyboard has elements – representation of actual elements of a finished presentation. These are in the form of text, video, sound, images and more…

It’s just that you don’t put everything that’s going to be a part of your finished presentation into your storyboard – the storyboard is an intermediate stage – what’s more it’s a link to preserve your ideas for use in the actual finished product.

If the text part is longer, just put in the beginning lines to suggest which text you would be using correspondingly in the presentation. In the same way images and videos are represented as placeholders – and sound could be identified by some scribbled notes.

Scribbled notes – that’s one element in a storyboard that does not finish it’s journey to the final presentation. It’s just there to correct and add ideas – it’s the heart of a storyboard.


Specialized Requirements

All we have discussed may have not met your requirements – maybe your needs are specialized – maybe you need to do more.

This need not disappoint – the main thing to remember is that your ideas are important – with a little tweaking here and there, you can adapt solutions to suit you. We are presently discussing only general mainstream requirements, but there’s no reason why you cannot adapt it for yourself.


From Storyboard to Finality

We have to remember that the storyboard is an intermediate stage – concept and visualization are the beginning stages – completion and delivery are the final stages.

To finish a presentation, you don’t need a finished storyboard. In fact a good storyboard will never get completed. As soon as your storyboard has a fixed direction, you should begin work on your presentation, maybe even before that.

And some day, when your presentation is over, and you have won accolades, and some years after that, you may just see your old storyboard. And that storyboard will inspire you again, once more…

Help Me Present!


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  • ADT
  • Accenture
  • American-Express
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  • Carvel
  • Comcast
  • Costa
  • Cox
  • DAI
  • GE-Healthcare
  • GTE-Financial
  • Gtt
  • Johnson-and-Johnson
  • Markem-Imaje
  • Motorola
  • NASA
  • Office-Depot
  • Oracle
  • Polo
  • Republic-Services
  • Ryder
  • Siemens
  • Singlehop
  • Software-AG
  • TD-Waterhouse
  • UBS
  • VTiDirect
  • Venn-Strategies
  • Verizon
  • Whirlpool
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