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How to Set the Tone for Your PowerPoint Presentation

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  • 0:03 Tone of a Presentation
  • 2:08 Prepare, Prepare, Prepare!
  • 4:59 The Introduction
  • 8:14 Slide Content
  • 10:36 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Karen Sorensen

Karen has a Bachelors in Communications. She has 25 years of experience in Information Systems, Adult Learning and Virtual Training.

The tone of a speech has a lot to do with how the audience feels when you speak. In this lesson, we will discuss best practices when creating your slides and setting the tone for your presentation.

Tone of a Presentation

So what does it mean, 'tone' of a presentation? Well, tone is the overall mood or feeling of your audience, and the presenter is usually the one who sets that tone. When determining how to set the tone for a presentation, you should think about questions like 'Who is your audience?' and 'What are you trying to accomplish?' For example, is this a room of students, and the purpose is to teach? Is the goal to inform, persuade or even entertain? Or, maybe it's all three?

As you watch this next video clip, think about the different factors that helped the speaker create a certain tone (please see the video starting at 0:51 to view the clip). Do you think he had his audience in mind? What was he trying to accomplish? And did he meet his goal?

I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.'

So, Martin Luther King definitely had a message to share, and his goal was to make sure everyone was listening. Although he did not have PowerPoint slides to inform and persuade, a definite tone was set. So what was the mood of his audience? Were they hopeful? Were they wanting equality and justice?

How do you set the right tone for your next presentation? I believe there are three key factors that help to set the tone (good or bad) for your audience:

  1. How you prepare
  2. Your introduction
  3. The design of your slides

In this lesson, we will discuss each of these areas and learn how to set the desired tone of your presentation or mood of your audience.

Prepare, Prepare, Prepare!

The mood of your audience can be affected from the moment you walk into the room. There is nothing more confusing and irritating than a presenter stumbling over their thoughts. Preparing for your presentation means more than just creating the slides. The audience will take notice if you're not prepared, which could set a tone of mistrust, or they could simply just tune out before you even begin. The last thing you want is for your audience to have doubts in your presentation. So let's take a look at an example of a high school graduation speech, notice how well he prepared and think about what else he uses to set the tone (please see the video starting at 02:53).

You know, the only thing better than completing high school is the chance to convey the entire experience to a captive audience through a lengthy speech comprised of highly personal anecdotes, a chance which I now plan to take full advantage of. Now, I realize that some of you may be less than excited for what is about to pass, so in an attempt to fix this problem, I've invited my friend Jeff up here to accompany me in some mood-setting music that I hope will enhance the speech greatly.

Relaxing, isn't it? Now, this speech is designed to cater to exactly what you want to hear, and if you just relax and let this experience move you, you'll find that, as soon as you're not interested in what I'm saying, your subconscious will automatically fade my voice gently out of your senses. So now, if everyone's ready, I would like to begin our mystical journey through the high school experience. Our adventure begins one freshman year...

Making sure you are prepared and letting the audience see you are prepared will help set the 'I want to listen to this presentation's tone,' and this is ultimately your goal, regardless of your audience or subject. Let's review some good practices for preparation:

  • First, make sure you rehearse and write a script if you need to.
  • Second, practice your presentation with your slides.
  • Third, do your research and know your content.
  • Fourth, arrive early.
  • And finally, get a good night's sleep the night before.

There will always be a tone to your presentation, even if you do not plan on it. This will likely reflect your emotions, which carry out to your audience. If you are tired, your audience will feel bored, and if you are not prepared, your audience will not be engaged. How you feel is likely the way your audience will feel.

The Introduction

A good presenter has the ability to engage his or her listeners from beginning to end and compel them to take action. Setting an engaging and captivating tone during the introduction, or what I like to refer to as developing the hook, is key to grabbing the attention of your audience right from the start.

Let me give you a couple of examples. This first introduction is pretty typical:

'Welcome. Today we are going to learn about the use of color and fonts when creating slides for our PowerPoint presentation.'

Now let me introduce the same subject, just with a little bit more of a hook:

'Hello everyone. I am so glad you could join me today. I'm very excited about today's topic. Did you know that different colors and fonts actually emit certain emotions with your audience? For example, did you know that Calibri is one of the friendly fonts and Stencil is considered cold and forceful?'

So, listening to those two introductions, what is the tone of the first introduction compared to the second? And which one is more likely to grab your attention and create enough interest for you to continue listening?

Let's take a look at another video clip. This is a presentation about leadership, and the clip you are going to see is the first couple of minutes of the presentation. What tone does he set? And does he have a hook (please see the video starting at 06:30)?

When you think of leadership and life lessons, your thoughts don't normally go to where I'm from, and I think you'd be surprised. Where I'm from is the boonies. Webster defines the boonies as 'a location so far outside of the city limits even animals question your presence,' and I've lived there most of my life. Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas, it did not matter - my parents, nomadic southern Baptists that they were, always seemed to find the boonies in every state. But for the purposes of this presentation, the boonies were in Texas.

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