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8 Ways for EHS Managers to Give Effective PowerPoint Presentations

Giving effective PowerPoint (PPT) presentations is a must for most EHS managers. Here are 8 top tips for making and giving a good EHS PPT presentation.

By Cory Sander

Giving effective PowerPoint (PPT) presentations is a must for most EHS managers. You might find yourself training staff on the latest hazardous waste regulations. Or making the case to your management team to invest in EHS management software. Both require a good deck and even better presenting skills.

As a previous industry EHS professional and a current consultant, I have given numerous presentations. Over the years, I’ve picked up some techniques to help make them more effective. Here are my 8 top tips for creating and delivering a good PPT presentation.

1. Tell stories to drive your point home.

People love stories. We’re naturally drawn to them much more than bullet-point lists or standalone statistics. Try using real-world examples–from your company or another–to help staff understand why those hazardous waste regulations are so important. Or share a personal experience to help the audience put themselves in your shoes. Remember your first notable experience managing hazardous waste? Share that story.

2. Images are worth a thousand words.

We’re all busy and thanks to the Internet, our attention spans are shorter than ever. You need to communicate more with less, and images are one of the easiest way to do it. Turn those compliance statistics into a colorful chart. Replace your bulleted list into a photo that communicates efficiency or saving money. A piggy bank with dollar bills sticking out the top or a tree with dollar bills for leaves. Use images and fill in with words.

3. Ask questions and engage the audience.

It’s all too easy for your audience to tune you out and start thinking about what else they need to accomplish today. Engage them by creating moments where you ask questions and connect directly with the people you’re trying to influence and educate. Try stopping and asking your audience questions. They may not know the answer, but it makes them stop and consider the question much more than if you skipped straight to the answer on a PowerPoint slide.

4. Give your audience plenty of breaks.

Put yourself in the audience’s shoes: Most of us start to zone out after about 20 minutes. Make this knowledge work for you by scheduling breaks every 30 minutes during that half-day stormwater protection training session. Ten minute breaks for bathroom trips, water and email are great. But try using 5-minute breaks for group work, too. Ask people to gather into groups of three or four and discuss their own daily experiences and challenges with the topic at hand.

5. Feature a brain teaser in your presentation.

Humor is great, but a brain teaser gives your audience a puzzle to solve and gets their brains warmed up. You can also use some to drive home a point. In a recent presentation of mine, I showed a picture of a specific school bus and asked the audience which direction it’s about to go (left or right). After they answered, I shared the correct answer (left). I pointed out that while only 50% of adults get the answer right (they’re basically guessing), about 75% of kids get the answer correct. Why? Kids have more recent experience with buses. And I used the importance of experience to drive home a point later in my presentation.

6. Tell your audience why they should care.

You’re about to give a full-day training on hazardous waste, but before you start listing regulations and requirements, tell your audience why they should care. Why do all these rules and facts matter to their lives? Make it personal. Explain how complying with regulations protects the communities they live in. If these materials were to make their way into local  ponds or lakes, you might not be able to go fishing, or it could have a negative impact on drinking water.

7. Tailor the content to your audience.

One presentation does NOT fit all. If you’re talking to beginners, you’ll need to tailor that hazardous waste training to make sure you cover basic terms and concepts. An advanced audience needs the exact opposite. They’re looking for new regulations, methods or tips that add to their current knowledge base. Trying to give one presentation to both audiences will leave half your attendees either bored or confused. Neither is conducive to quality learning.

8. Have realistic expectations for what your audience can retain. 

No matter how good your presentation is, the audience is only going to retain a few high level points. Make sure you know what you want those key points to be. Repeat them several times throughout the presentation to make them memorable. End each section of your presentation by recapping the most important takeaways. Most people need to hear the same message four or five times before remembering it.