An Interview With Janet Jarnagin
As a PowerPoint expert, Janet Jarnagin knows a few things about winning over a tough crowd. After all, she’s done hundreds of presentations for C-Suite business executives throughout her career. Naturally, to create her presentations, she uses the hard-core data she gets from the financial sheets she so often peruses during the course of her work.
However, she also has a secret weapon that makes even a 5:00 p.m. PowerPoint presentation in the C-Suite boardroom take on the liveliness of a 5:00 a.m. jog in Central Park: storytelling.
Why Janet Jarnagin Thinks Storytelling Makes a Presentation
Attention spans in the 21st century run short. Generous conservative estimates put modern attention spans at just under a minute-and-a-half, according to CNN.
However, some experts say it’s even lower than that. Presenters have about 47 seconds to capture the audience’s attention before the members of said audience begin to check out.
Anything the presenter can do to capture the audience’s limited attention deserves consideration. According to recent research, storytelling does that. Effective stories not only capture attention but also “transport” readers into a character’s world.
However, the characters and settings don’t have to be fictional. In the boardroom, the facts and figures that corporate executives need to make decisions can be embedded into real-life stories to create maximum impact.
As Janet Jarnagin points out, “When you use narrative in your presentations, listeners can see a clearer picture of your objectives, which leads to more positive results.”
What Other Elements Make Presentations Powerful?
While she agrees that storytelling plays a key role in creating an effective PowerPoint presentation, Jarnagin also points out that presenters should use a handful of techniques that enhance the effectiveness of storytelling in a PowerPoint presentation.
Go With the 10, 20, 30 Rule
As a veteran PowerPoint presenter, Janet Jarnagin uses what she calls the 10, 20, 30 Rule of slide presentations. This rule prevents the PowerPoint speaker from taxing already overtaxed attention spans.
- In a good presentation, there should be no more than 10 slides. This allows the presenter enough slides to thoroughly convey the ideas in the presentation without overwhelming the audience.
- Effective presentations last no more than 20 minutes. This amount of time is short enough to hold people’s attention and long enough to cover most of the major points in the presentation.
- Work with a 30-point font. Good design plays a role in keeping people’s attention focused. If a font is too difficult to read, whether it has too much decorative flourish or is too small, it taxes a person’s cognitive load.
In this case, if people have to try too hard to read what’s on the PowerPoint slice, they’ll mentally check out because reading the presentation requires too much work. This is particularly true for late-in-the-day presentations. In light of that, Janet Jarnagin recommends making the font big enough and clear enough to read easily.
Switch Up the Slide Design in the PowerPoint Presentation
The human brain is wired for visual stimuli. A University of Rochester article suggests that about 50% of the brain’s cerebral cortex is dedicated to the processing of visual information.
Additionally, the brain processes a picture in about 13 milliseconds. On a practical level, this means that the consumers of a PowerPoint presentation will be better engaged if the slides contain some visual variation.
Although Janet Jarnagin doesn’t recommend mixing completely different color schemes and design themes in a slide presentation, she does embrace using variations within the same theme.
Most slide presentations in PowerPoint offer variations within each visual theme. When creating a presentation, it’s important to use a variety of designs within that theme to keep participants’ attention.
Final Thoughts on Creating Powerful PowerPoints
As someone who has presented numerous PowerPoint slideshows throughout the course of her career, Janet Jarnagin has learned that the presentations that immediately capture the listeners’ attention have the most chance of success.
To cut through the noise of modern life as well as to combat shortening attention spans, Jarnagin says that few presentation techniques have the attention-grabbing power that stories do.
Finally, Jarnagin combines storytelling with some practical techniques, like great slide design curation and the 10, 20, 30 Rule, to create clear PowerPoint presentations that make a powerful impression.